A guided group tour to concentration camps in Poland and Germany allows Stahl to confront personal and historical demons with both deep despair and savage humor
"Gonzo meets the Shoah in this wildly irreverent—and brilliant—tour of Holocaust tourism . . . Stahl knows his Holocaust history . . . but he was also prepared to be surprised . . . A vivid, potent, decidedly idiosyncratic addition to the literature of genocide."
—Kirkus Reviews, a Best Nonfiction Book of 2022
"Stahl embarks on Holocaust tourism in this meditative yet humorous account, weaving personal narrative with reflections on current and past global events."
—New York Times Book Review
"[Stahl's] razor-sharp gallows humor will have you howling one moment, breathless the next in the presence of wrenching generational pain, of humanity at its very worst, and goodness at its camouflaged best."
"An audacious, emotional journey."
—The Village Voice
In September 2016, Jerry Stahl was feeling nervous on the eve of a two-week trip across Poland and Germany. But it was not just the stops at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau that gave him anxiety. It was the fact that he would be traveling with two dozen strangers, by bus. In a tour group. And he was not a tour-group kind of guy.
The decision to visit Holocaust-world did not come easy. Stahl’s lifelong depression at an all-time high, his career and personal life at an all-time low, he had the idea to go on a trip where the despair he was feeling—out-of- control sadness, regret, and fear, not just for himself, but for the entire United States—would be appropriate. And where was despair more appropriate than the land of the Six Million?
Seamlessly weaving global and personal history, through the lens of Stahl’s own bent perspective, Nein, Nein, Nein! stands out as a triumph of strange-o reporting, a tale that takes us from gang polkas to tour-rash to the truly disturbing snack bar at Auschwitz. Strap in for a raw, surreal, and redemptively hilarious trip. Get on the bus.
INTRODUCTION: Bus Plunge
CHAPTER 1: The Kramah! The Kramah!
CHAPTER 2: Roadkill
CHAPTER 3: Stalin’s Syringe, Lucky Jews, and a Warsaw Cowboy
CHAPTER 4: Google “Polish Bus Rash”
CHAPTER 5: Empathy Party
CHAPTER 6: Revenge of the Kraków Soup-Cougher
CHAPTER 7: Get Carter
CHAPTER 8: A Brief Digression (“Meet the Jewgina!”)
CHAPTER 9: Comfortable Shoes
CHAPTER 10: The Maw of the Oven
CHAPTER 11: Unworthy
CHAPTER 12: Trauma Nosh
CHAPTER 13: An Annoying and Self-Righteous Ogre
CHAPTER 14: Restaurant Hangman
CHAPTER 15: Munich
CHAPTER 16: Bear Pit
CHAPTER 17: Jedem das Seine
CHAPTER 18: How Can the Dead Respect the Living?
CHAPTER 19: Walking into Glass
CHAPTER 20: In Nazi Times
CHAPTER 21: Judgmental at Nuremberg
CHAPTER 22: Dachau Blues
CHAPTER 23: With Apologies to Ms. Thorne
CHAPTER 24: Stanley Manly
CHAPTER 25: Stepping on the Faces of the Dead
CHAPTER 26: The Mortal Agony
CHAPTER 27: Compassion Portal
Additional praise for Nein, Nein, Nein!
"Mordantly funny . . . Fusing provocative insights with razor-edged wit, this offers a captivating take on a haunting chapter of history."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
“There aren’t many authors today who are willing to revisit the Holocaust and write about it. But then again, most authors aren’t Jerry Stahl, who has the chutzpah to pull it off masterfully . . . The author’s witty prose is appreciated because without levity a trip around the concentration camp horn would make any man or woman beg for mercy. His ability to provide his readers with a seat on the bus to experience the tour is exceptional. There was only one man for this job, and that man is Jerry Stahl.”
—Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“[A]ll his books showcase Stahl’s lacerating humor and his talent for staring straight down the tunnel of humanity’s darkest impulses . . . Stahl’s new memoir is no exception: Call Nein, Nein, Nein! a travelogue through hell, both an account of concentration camp tourism and a personal mediation on its meaning.”
—Orange County Register
"The hallucinatory self-depreciation of Jerry Stahl's memoir allows for a nuanced look at the audacity of the ugly American . . . Stahl is celebrated for his masochistic honesty that is never less than brutal and almost always on the other side of hope, but in Nein, Nein, Nein!, we get something dangerously close to an Anne Frank-level of optimism."
“There’s a laugh on almost every page of Nein, Nein, Nein, but for all his wit and somewhat skewed perspective, Stahl never loses sight of the gravity of the places he visits . . . Stahl’s book shows the thought processes of a man feeling at his lowest soothing his ‘shpilkes’ by experiencing one of the most sobering, draining tours one can possibly imagine. For him, it’s cathartic, and readers might find it to be the same for them.”
"While Nein, Nein, Nein! is darkly confessional, it is also an exploration of how we remember the Holocaust and whether it is even possible to properly mourn and honor the victims of unspeakable tragedy . . . The result is a sort of gonzo travel book about the ways the Holocaust is memorialized, commercialized and trivialized in the countries where it took place.
—Jewish Telegraphic Agency
"Crackling . . . Bizarre, distressing, hilarious and hopeful. Read it immediately."
“Stahl is Jewish, and his dark gallows humor is one that many Jews will recognize as they read this book. He blends personal history with general history, and captures snippets of bigotry and antisemitism in 2016 with the rearview mirror that we have now of what was to come. It’s an unexpectedly insightful book — not an easy read, but worth it.” —Bookriot
"Stahl's talent, one that's central to a rich Jewish legacy, is turning the tragic and cruel, the unjust and infuriating into something funny. With nimble pacing, he wryly reveals humanity's baser instincts—the hypocrisy, the often commercialized, performative morality—exposing what lies (in all senses of the word) beneath."
"Nein, Nein, Nein! is the unbelievable true story of a guided bus tour to Nazi concentration camps, told as only Jerry Stahl can tell it, with an acid wit as deadly serious as it is hilarious, insane, and weirdly life-affirming. The destinations he describes are real, but who else would dare to take us there? Stahl is fearless, gripping, and most unsparing about his own damned soul. I read everything he writes."
—Eric Bogosian, actor/playwright
"There’s dark humor, and then there is Nein, Nein, Nein! Jerry Stahl manages a balancing act here that would put all the trapeze artists of the world to shame."
—Lucy Sante, author of Low Life
"A disturbing, funny, dark travelogue."
“Few have such an eye for life’s perverse absurdity as Jerry Stahl, and his disturbing, hilarious, self- deprecating, and honest voice jumps off the page in Nein, Nein, Nein! There is nobody I’d rather take this gnarly journey with than Stahl, whose gonzo literary madness belies a steady, tender core."
—Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir
“Jerry Stahl, whose manic self-annihilating riffs dance on the volcano-lip of the abyss, is a writer I’ve been quoting compulsively for twenty-five years. His voice is a hell-broth of fascinating contradictions: the king of mordant cool who writhes with anxious terrors, the professed nihilist with a scalding moral vision, the gifted ironist who really bleeds.”
—Christopher Goffard, writer/host of the podcasts Dirty John and Detective Trapp
“Darkly hilarious . . . a tour bus through literal hell. Nein, Nein, Nein! is the manic chronicle of a Jew confronting personal and historical demons at sites of past devastation and modern-day tourist kitsch. The result is a surreal carnival of cringe amid bursts of profound historical clarity and often unsettling emotional resonance."
—Eli Valley, cartoonist, creator of Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel
“Stahl explores the dark side of the dark side.”