1.8 Nora Pester

A Jewish publishing house moves to Saxony

Our publishing house moved from Berlin to Leipzig in late August 2018, right in the middle of the unrest in Chemnitz. Overnight, our press release, “Hentrich & Hentrich Verlag Berlin moves to Leipzig,” went from being a simple change of address communication to a political statement, triggering a wave of public attention that completely overwhelmed us. A publisher specializing in Jewish culture and contemporary history moves to Saxony, a hotbed of right-wing and neo-Nazi activity, albeit in the left-leaning island of Leipzig. So was it an act of courage, or simple naïveté? Although Leipzig is recognized for its longstanding traditions around books, culture, and trade fairs, we faced plenty of skepticism, or at least curiosity, about how a Jewish publisher would be received in Saxony. We went on the offensive. One of our very first acts was to send a German-Israeli-Persian author out on a reading tour of Saxony. One of his first stops: Chemnitz. His success recipe became the unofficial credo for our organization: With his own life story as background, he talked straightforwardly while also taking his listeners’ experiences seriously.

This publishing house is an exercise in democracy and isn’t tied to a specific location, but is rooted in functional democracy. To quote Friedrich Ebert: “Democracy requires democrats.” More than ever, our topics and projects are aimed not at some amorphous readership, but at democrats who are aware of history and the present day.

How has being in Saxony changed our work? We are closer to social debates that are conducted here more directly and not through the “filter bubble” of the Berlin Republic that neutralizes every discourse. We are forced to take a stand, and we are better known. We have become more political and also more diplomatic. We take a position, but not on our own, instead in alliances. We think and are involved, now more than ever, beyond any specific book.

Have we changed Saxony? At any rate, so far the state has been tolerating our self-confident Jewish voices and uncomfortable historical realities with remarkable calm.

Photo: Hentrich & Hentrich

Dr. Nora Pester, born in Leipzig in 1977. Studies of Spanish language and literature, political science, and economics in Leipzig and Vienna, doctorate in political science. Past positions have included work at Passagen Verlag, Vienna; the MuseumsQuartier Vienna (ZOOM Children’s Museum) and Matthes & Seitz, Berlin. Owner and editor, Hentrich & Hentrich Verlag, since 2010.