Françoise Frenkel’s powerful memoir of the second world war

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No Place to Lay One’s Head. By Françoise Frenkel. Translated by Stephanie Smee. Pushkin Press; 299 pages; £16.99.

IN 1921 Françoise Frenkel, a young Polish woman of Jewish faith, opened the first French-language bookshop in Berlin. She described it as a “calling”. A friend termed it a “crusade”. The venture drew authors, artists, diplomats and celebrities. For many at the beginning, the bookshop was a vibrant hub for the exchange of ideas. For others during the darker years of eroded liberties and stifled thought, it became a haven, a place to rest the mind and breathe easy. In July 1939 Frenkel finally realised that, whereas blacklisted authors and confiscated newspapers once jeopardised her livelihood, escalating persecution and violence now threatened her life.

Frenkel shut up shop, fled the country and spent four years in occupied France. Miraculously she lived to tell her tale. “No Place to Lay One’s Head” was written and…Continue reading

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