It All Began in Nuremberg is a translation of Rita Thalmann’s moving memoir, Tout Commença à Nuremberg, originally published in France in 2004. Thalmann’s memoir represents one of the last voices to witness personally the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. The author, a scholar of significance in France, died on August 18, 2013.
Rita Thalmann was born in Nuremberg in 1926 and lived there until 1933, when anti-Semitic events made life intolerable. Her father abandoned his successful business and moved the family to Switzerland, where they were unwelcome, and then to France. After settling in Dijon, Rita attended public school until Jews were no longer allowed to pursue an education. At age fourteen, she took private lessons in English at the home of her teacher, Henriette Connes, who saved Rita from deportation and death by providing her with false identification papers and passing her to the Free Zone with a group of students going on a field trip. Although Rita and her brother managed to escape to Switzerland during the war, most of her family died in the Holocaust.
After the war, Rita Thalmann was determined to continue her education and participate in the struggle against anti-Semitism and discrimination of all types. She achieved the highest level of university teaching in France while publishing seven books. This memoir relates her personal experience of the historical events she spent most of her adult life researching.
Rita Thalmann was Professor Emeritus of History and Germanic civilization at the University Paris VII-Denis Diderot, an officer of the Légion d’honneur, a member of the honorary committee of Lycra (NGO delegate to UNESCO), and founder of the Centre for Studies in International Community Research (CERIC). Her many books include La Nuit de cristal (avec Emmanuel Feinemann), (Laffont, 1972); Dix leçons sur le nazisme (sous la dir. d'Alfred Grosser); Être femme sous le IIIe Reich (Laffont, 1982); La Mise au pas de la France, 1940-1944, (Fayard, 1991); Naissance des cités, (Nathan, 1991); La République de Weimar, « Que sais-je ? », (PUF, 1995); Protestantisme et nationalisme en Allemagne de 1900 à 1945 (Klincksieck, 2000), and Tout commença à Nuremberg (autobiographie), (Berg International, 2004).
Mary-Claire Connes Wrage is the daughter of Henriette Connes (the English instructor who passed Rita to the Free Zone). Connes Wrage also co-translated A POW’s Memoir of the First World War (Bloomsbury, 2004).
Lois Vines is Professor of French at Ohio University. Her books include Valéry and Poe, A Literary Legacy (NYU, 1992), Poe Abroad: Influence, Reputation, Affinities (Iowa, 1999), and A POW’s Memoir of the First World War (Bloomsbury, 2004).