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The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust Kindle Edition
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#1 New York Times Bestseller
Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a slave labor camp. When she returned home months later, she knew she would become a hunted woman and went underground. With the help of a Christian friend, she emerged in Munich as Grete Denner. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite Edith's protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity a secret.
In wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells how German officials casually questioned the lineage of her parents; how during childbirth she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal something of her past; and how, after her husband was captured by the Soviets, she was bombed out of her house and had to hide while drunken Russian soldiers raped women on the street.
Despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith created a remarkable record of survival. She saved every document, as well as photographs she took inside labor camps. Now part of the permanent collection at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents, several of which are included in this volume, form the fabric of a gripping new chapter in the history of the Holocaust—complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
Born in Vienna in 1914, Edith Hahn Beep, currently resides in Netanya, Israel. She and Werner Vetter divorced in 1947. Her daughter, Angela, lives in London and is believed to be the only Jew born in a Reich hospital in 1944.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B006ID6NDQ
- Publisher : William Morrow (January 31, 2012)
- Publication date : January 31, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 10614 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 346 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #251,685 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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How one Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust
by Edith Hahn Beer, with Susan Dworkin
This story has been buried for many years. Edith Hahn Beer (January 24, 1914 - March 17, 2009) was reluctant to discuss her life ¡ª as a fugitive from the Gestapo ¡ª living under a false identity. She ¡°preferred to forget as much as possible and not to burden younger generations with sad memories.¡± It was her daughter, Angela, who urged her to provide a written record. As such an archive has been created, with the help of many, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in New York.
When I start to read a new book, I like to inspect the Table of Contents and the Index first. This book has neither. I can¡¯t do much about the Index, but a Table of Contents follows on the next page.
This is a story that has couples to several items in my past:
¡ñ First it reminded me of the story told in ¡°Hedy¡¯s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr (HL). HL was born as Hedwig Kieslir. Her family was Jewish, but never announced it. In prewar Vienna it did not matter what one¡¯s religion was. The city¡¯s legacy of a grand ethnic mix was one of it¡¯s glories. Vienna had importance in many areas, but the only thing that counted was the theater. HL was a magnificent Viennese girl who acted all the time. She copied everyone, which was one of her sources of education. She was soon chased by a very wealthy admirer. It took some time ¡ª many diners, theater sessions and hunting trips ¡ª before she married one of the largest arms manufacturer in the German arena, 13 years her senior. More diners, theater sessions and hunting trips followed, with many German leaders. When their talk turned to such subjects as torpedoes she started to take particular note. Ultimately her breakthrough invention was a radio controlled, jam proof torpedo. Not bad for a woman who never finished highschool.
¡ñ I have written three reports on the Polish-Ukrainian situation, namely: ¡°The Pianist,¡± ¡°Living Longer than Hate, (LLtH)¡± and the ¡°North Star.¡±
¡ª The Pianist covers the terrifying story of an outstanding Polish pianist caught up in the terrors over WWII.
¡ª LLtH reported on the Ukrainian history from the ninth century on. The Ukrainian area covered what was known as the Russian breadbasket, the southwestern part of what was the USSR. Over this time period there were many massacres of Jews, as well as destruction of their property, by both the Russians and the Germans.
¡ª The North Star. This film starts out with much joy. All of the people portrayed show great excitement with life. They also show great joy and tenderness with their family. There is much singing and dancing. Then when four of the Simonov family are sitting at their table, their radio ¡ª which has been on in the background ¡ª ¡°reports on German troop movements on the Polish border, but their nature is unknown. It also reports that 112 Polish children died this morning as a result of excessive blood transfusions to German wounded.¡±
However, as the movie progresses this scene gradually changes. This film is about the resistance of Ukranian villagers. They utilized guerrilla tactics against the German invaders. The North Star describes the terrible brutality, intolerance and insensitivity of Nazi soldiers and officers.
¡ñ Comments on Timing. Dates in this historical report range from 1933 to 1948. In CHAPTER ONE the story occurs around the Fall of 1943 and the site is Brandenburg. In1928, when inflation hit so high, Papa sold his restaurant. Finally, inside the picture section, is a 1947 photo of three year old Angela Vetter.
Table of Contents
Item Title Page
¡ª Preface ¡ª
ONE The Small Voice from Then 1
TWO The Hahns of Vienna 15
THREE Pepi Rosenfalls Good Little Girl 29
FOUR The Trap Set by Love 53
FIVE The Asparagus Plantation at Osterling 79
SIX The Slave Girls of Aschersleben 105
SEVEN Transformation in Vienna 131
EIGHT The White Knight of Munich 159
¡ª Pictures ¡ª
NINE A Quiet Life on Immelmannstrasse 185
TEN A Respectable Aryan Household 211
ELEVEN The Fall of Brandenburg 235
TWELVE Surfacing 265
THIRTEEN I Heard the Fiend Goebbels, Laughing 289
FOURTEEN Pepi¡¯s Last Package 301
Out of the fourteen chapters, four will be reported on in the initial report, namely ONE to FOUR. Chapters FIVE to EIGHT, Chapters NINE to ELEVEN and Chapters TWELVE to FOURTEEN will be added in subsequent reports.
ONE The Small Voice from Then
Typically, the staff at our hospital in Brandenburg stole the food ¡ª meant for the foreign patients ¡ª and saved it for themselves or their families. These nurses were primarily young farm girls from East Prussia. Nursing was one way they could escape the backbreaking labor in the fields and barns. Hence to steel a plate of soup was not a sin. We had over 10,000 foreign patients in Brandenburg. They worked in auto, plane and other factories. Typically they had injured themselves at metal presses or burned themselves in flaming forges. In our cottage hospital each service was housed in it¡¯s own building. Nurses ate in one building, did laundry in a second, attended to orthopedic problems in another and infectious diseases in a fourth. German patients were rigorously separated from foreign patients, no matter what was wrong with them. A whole building was also set aside for foreigners suffering from typhus. I was not really a nurse, but rather a nurse¡¯s aide, trained for rather simple tasks such as feeding those patients who needed help and washing bedpans. Once I was asked to assist at a blood transfusion, but the sight of blood caused me to become nauseated. The word got out that one could not expect much from a cleaning woman. ¡°Let her feed the foreigners who have chopped off their fingers in the machines.¡± I tried to be nice to them. However, one August morning my head nurse told me that I had been observed to be too friendly with the foreigners, so I was being transferred to the maternity service.
There were informers everywhere. That was why a senior nurse had been frightened of me, even me, Margerethe, called Grete for short, an uneducated 20 year old nurse¡¯s aide from Austria. Even I could be working for the SS or the Gestapo. In the fall of 1943, shortly after my transfer, an important industrialist arrived in an ambulance from Berlin. But why the maternity ward? Apparently he had suffered a stroke, so it seemed to his group he would recover more rapidly in Brandenburg. Our maternity staff was not overloaded with emergencies and could give him more attention. Because I was the youngest and least skilled I was taken away from the babies and assigned to care for him. It was not an easy assignment. He was paralyzed, had to be led to the bathroom, had to be fed every meal, massaged, bathed and turned constantly.
I had a fiancee now, Werner Vetter. I did not say much to Werner, because I was concerned he would take advantage of my close association with such an important person. Werner had learned that ¡°advancement in the Reich occurred not because of talent and ability, but because of connections: friends in high places and powerful relatives.¡± Werner, in his youth, had suffered much joblessness and homelessness, even sleeping in the forest. As soon as he could he joined the Nazi party. And because of his background as a painter, became the supervisor of the paint room at the Arado Aircraft factory, in charge of many foreign workers. Soon he would be my husband and an officer in the Wehrmacht. When my patient received flowers, from Albert Speer, I now understood why the other nurses had been eager to give me the job. There were so many possibilities of what could happen to them under anyone¡¯s care. What if he had another stroke? What if he died? However I tried valiantly to do every task just right. So of course this patient thought I was wonderful. ¡°You are an excellent worker Nurse Margarete,¡± he said as I was bathing him. ¡°You must have considerable experience.¡± No sir, I said in my smallest voice. I have just come from school and I only do what I was taught. And you have never taken care of a stroke patient before? ¡°No sir. Amazing.¡±
Every day saw a little more movement in his body. And his voice became less slurred. His spirits became higher everyday. ¡°Tell me Nurse Margarete,¡± ¡ª as I was massaging his feet ¡ª ¡°what do people here in Brandenburg think about the war?¡± You must have heard something. I, as an industrialist, am interested in public opinion. What do people think about the meat ration? Again in my small voice I claimed it was quite satisfactory. Next he asked me what we thought about the news from Italy? ¡°Should I admit I knew nothing about the allied landings?¡± Finally I answered. ¡°We all believe that the British will be defeated in the end, sir.¡± My patient had ¡°warm, humorous eyes and a gentle manner.¡± He reminded me, a bit, about my own grandfather who also had suffered a stroke. Next he asked me: ¡°What could the Fuhrer do to make his people happy, Nurse?¡± Her answer was, perhaps, rather unique: ¡°My fianc¨¦ says: ¡°if you could speak to him sir, you could tell him we would be very, happy, if he could send us some onions.¡± This amused the industrialist very much. You are good medicine for me, Margarete. Then he asked her if her fianc¨¦ was at the front? No, not yet. He is working to produce aircraft for the Luft-waffe. ¡°Ah very good, very good,¡± he said. ¡°My sons are also doing well these days and have risen high in the Nazi party.
¡°I see you are not such a simple girl,¡± he said. ¡°I see you are a very clever woman. Where were you educated?¡± My throat went dry. Next, he asked me a most serious and critical question. When I return to Berlin, would you come to Berlin as my private nurse? I shall speak to your superiors. I would love that sir, but my fiancee and I are planning to be married soon, so I could not leave Brandenburg., but thank you sir. Thank you! I am honored. My shift ended. I bade him a good night and left the room trembling. I was wet with perspiration, because I had almost revealed my disguise. ¡°The smallest indication of a sophisticated wit, a literary reference no ordinary Austrian girl could hope to have, was for me a complete giveaway.¡±
It was 10/43 and I was given a great honor. Brandenburg would have a rally, and every group of workers had to send a representative. My Red Cross group chose me, perhaps, in part, because they had learned how badly Germany¡¯s forces were faring in Russia, North Africa and Italy. How they would have learned about these developments would have been by radio, such as the BBC or Radio Moscow, which was a criminal act akin to treason. I dressed very carefully for this rally: Red Cross uniform, no hair barrettes or curls, no makeup and essentially no jewelry. I was small, not much more than five feet, with a lovely figure. However, I kept this covered by wearing baggy white stockings and a shapeless pinafore. It just was not the time when a person like myself wanted to standout in public. Nice and neat, but most important, plain.
The rally was very different from those to which we were familiar: ¡°no drums or strident marches, no beautiful young people in uniforms, waving flags. Rather this rally was aimed at overcoming the defeatest mood which had begun to fall over Germany. ¡°Speaker after speaker extorted us to work harder, to support our valiant fighting men, ¡°because if we lost the war, the terrible poverty of the days before the Nazi era would return.¡± We were told to do everything we could to keep up productivity. ¡°My God,¡± I thought. They are worried.¡± I prayed that this situation would mean an early end to the war and, for me, release from my prison of pretense. However, I did not dare to share my hopes, even with Werner. ¡°I was a 29 year old Jewish law student, on the Gestapo¡¯s most wanted list, pretending to be an ignorant 20 year old nurses aide."
TWO The Hahn¡¯s of Vienna
¡°When I was a schoolgirl in Vienna, it seemed to me the whole world had come to my city to sit in the sunny cafes and enjoy coffee and cake and matchless conversations.¡± I walked from school past the opera houses. I saw dignified ladies with silk stockings, ¡°gentlemen with walking sticks, workmen plastering and painting our facades.
When I was 10 years old, I learned about radios with earphones on my head. ¡°The box came to life. ¡°Radio, I talked to Professor Spitzer at the Technical University. He was one of my favorite customers and ¡°I told him soon we will be able to hear voices from people everywhere.¡± Next I read the newspapers that Papa kept for his customers. What most interested me were the law columns, with many cases and arguments.
School was my delight, but there were only girls in my class. I loved to study. One day Professor Spitzer asked my father what were his plans for my further education. His answer was that she would finish school and then be apprenticed as a dressmaker. But you have a very bright girl. You must ¡°send her on to high school, perhaps even to university.¡± Since I was a girl Papa did not see much need for formal education. However, since the professor had raised the issue, he would discuss it with his wife. Papa, Leopold Hahn, ¡°had a humorous, outgoing personality well suited for an owner of a restaurant. His education to be a waiter took several years. ¡°People liked Papa and trusted him. ¡°He was an inspired listener.
The restaurant, ¡°in Vienna¡¯s busy center,¡± was my father¡¯s life. Papa knew his customers well. ¡°Papa knew what they wanted to eat before they ordered. ¡°He stocked their favorite newspapers.¡± He provided them services.
We lived in a two bedroom apartment. Since Mama worked in the restaurant, we girls took our meals there. My mother, Klothilde, was short, pretty, buxom, attractive, but not coquettish. I had two sisters, Hansi and Mimi. I lavished all my affections on Hansi, seven years younger. My older sister, Mimi I disliked. ¡°She had weak eyes, thick glasses and a sour personality. She was also mean spirited and jealous of everybody. However, ¡°Mama, intimidated by Mimi¡¯s unhappiness, gave her whatever she wanted. ¡°Mimi could make no friends, and since I was popular, like my father, I had to share my friends with her and take her everywhere with me.¡± Papa shielded us from knowledge of the world¡¯s seamy. He made our decisions and saved for our dowries. He adored ¡°my mother. ¡°They never fought. ¡°I mean it: they never fought. ¡°In the evening she did her sewing and he read his paper and we did our homework and we had what the Israelis call shalon bait, peace in the home.¡±
Mama and Papa each came from a family of Hahns. Mama had two sisters and her brother. Father had three sisters and six brothers. There were more than 30 Hahn cousins in Vienna. Papa expected Jews to be better than anyone else. He demanded our report cards be better, and our social awareness to be highly developed. He expected us to have fine manners, clean clothes and immaculate moral standards. We spent much time with our grandparents, who lived in a bungalow just north of Vienna. Now my grandmothers house was on a Danube tributary where the cousins frequently climbed over a bridge to get to the water for a swim. ¡°One day when I was seven I got up before anyone else, ran down to the bridge and all of a sudden I slipped and went flying down into the water. ¡°I bobbed to the surface howling and hysterical. ¡°A young man leaped in and saved me.¡±
In 1928 when inflation was high in Austria Papa sold his restaurant. Luckily he soon found work with the Kokish family. He had worked for them earlier, on the Riviera. Now they had a new hotel in Badgestein. This was a ski resort, and famous for it¡¯s hot medicinal springs. Papa was named manager of the hotel's restaurant. The Hotel Bristol nestled beneath snowy mountains where springs of healing waters percolated into marble spas.¡± As the only kosher hotel in the area, the Bristol attracted Jewish families from everywhere. The owner of the NY Times came there, as did rabbis from Poland. I believe one of
them saved my life. I was 16, and somewhat impulsive, and stayed too long in one of the baths. This led to a fever and bed with typical home medical remedies. As the night fell, one of these Polish rabbis knocked on our front door and asked if he could say his prayers in our house. Of course Mama and Papa welcomed him. When he was finished with his prayers Mama asked if he could say a blessing for her sick daughter. ¡°He came to my bedside, leaned over, and patted my hand. ¡°His face radiated warmth and good nature. ¡°He said something in Hebrew. ¡°Then he left. ¡°And I got well.¡± In later years when events led me to a point where I thought I was going to die, I remembered that man and his blessing.
There were something¡¯s about working in this paradise that were not so wonderful. One of these was that our grandparents generation usually lived in Vienna¡¯s outlying towns. It was not until our parents reached maturity, that Jews were permitted to reside in Vienna proper. So you see, we had all of the burdens of being Jewish in an anti-Semitic country, but none of the strengths. ¡°What most we had was intellect and style.¡± Our new city was the sophisticated ¡°Queen of the Danube.¡±
THREE Pepi Rosenfelds Good Little Girl
My fathers decision to let me go to high school was huge, because I now had male friends. Boys had always been better educated so now I could really talk about history and society¡¯s ills and how to cure them. However, one of these boys was Catholic. I knew if I told my father I was going to marry a non - Jew, he would lock me in my house and never let me go to university. Soon I met Josef Rosenfeld, alias Pepi. It took sometime, but we finally met at the front of the National Library. We walked. I told Pepi that my paper has to be long and complex. I would cite all the great thinkers such as Marx and Freud. He asked what about Hitler. My answer was no. Hitler was an idiot, and soon will disappear. We stopped for cake and coffee. However, very soon he snuck in a little kiss and then a real kiss. We never did get to the library. Pepi always had a point to make, but soon I was deep in love with him. While he continued to embrace the great thinkers his mother felt that the Nazis were very dangerous. Pepi soon added that Hitler will burn down nations.
My father finally gave in and sent me to university where I studied law, political science and economics. During this period Hitler was accumulating power. From 1933 to 1937 we had endless political turmoil in Austria. Further the Chancellor, determined to preserve us as a Catholic community, outlawed the socialist party. Hence the two forces in Austria ¡ª The Socialists and the Army ¡ª that should be fighting the Nazis were at war fought the socialists. The army even shelled the workers houses, killing hundreds. And on 07/25/34 the Austrian Nazis assassinated the Chancellor.
In June of 1936, my father died. We were helpless for awhile. Mama sat, with her face blurred by a veil of tears. Mimi sat silent and devastated, and Hansi could not stop crying. Pepi came over with his mother and assured me everything would be alright. He held me, then kissed me with passion. Clearly I had Pepi, my rock who had replaced my father. Soon, the golden wedding anniversary of my mothers parents, was upon us. The whole family had planned to go to Stockerau to celebrate. However, no one went, because Germany had just invaded Austria. Unfortunately thousands of our friends and neighbors greeted the Wehrmarcht with joy. Some of us thought seriously about political activism. Pepi said no. He said I had a widowed mother, and young sisters who depended on me. ¡°Like a good litle girl I did what Pepi Rosenfeld said.¡±
FOUR The Trap Set By Love
¡°One of the first thing the Nazis did was to distribute 100,000 free radio sets to the Austrian Christians.¡± Just the opposite was set for the the Jews were required to turn in their radios. The idea the Nazis wanted was to make it impossible for Jews to receive any communication from the rest of the world. The idea was to terrorize and manipulated the Jews.
The Germans appointed Adolf Eichmann to eliminate the Jews from Vienna. One of his techniques was that ¡°he made us pay as much as possible to escape. ¡°The rich had to sign over everything; the less rich had to pay such exorbitant amounts for tickets out, that there families were often forced to chose which of their children should go and which should stay.¡±
Thugs in brown shirts, ruled the streets. They drove around, showing off their swastika armbands and shouting at any girl of interest. ¡°If they wanted to pick you up or beat you up, they did so with impunity. Those who resisted were beaten or killed or taken away to some concentration camp. There the inmates lived in dreadful conditions. And at this time, no one ¡°even imagined there would be, one day, a death camp like Auschwitz. We had lived until yesterday in a rational world. Now everyone around us had gone mad. Many Austrians had a hatred for us which some called ¡°prejudice. Actually ¡°they hated us with a hatred as old as their religion; ¡°they were born hating us; ¡°and now the veneer of civilization which had protected us from their hatred was stripped away.¡±
The Nazi radio blamed us for every evil event in this world. They called us subhuman. ¡°They claimed they had to conquer the world to prevent us from conquering the world.¡± We were paralyzed by fear. Vienna must surely rebel against this insanity. ¡°We waited and waited.¡± Restrictions spread into every corner of our lives. We couldn¡¯t walk on certain streets or go to concerts. Mimi was fired and Hansi waas no longer able to go to school. Everybody talked about leaving. I suggested we go to England, but every Jewish girl was doing the same. My cousin Elli got a job over there. I got the clearing, but no job.
Then one afternoon Hansi did not come home until midnight. We were terrified. She had been kidnapped by the Nazis. She was ordered to sew buttons onto dozens of uniforms. When this task was complete they let her go. She then wandered the streets for many minutes before staggering home.
It was easier to get a ticket out, if you were hitched. So Mimi and her friend decided to tie the knot.¡± I suggested to Pepi that we do the same. He noted that I had promised my father that I would never marry a Christian. He was a Christian now. His mother, in order to avoid the Nuernberg Laws, had taken her 26 year old son to church and had him baptized.
I refused to let the political turmoil to keep me from my university. I had passed both state exams with high grades. I had one more to pass and ¡°I could be a doctor of Law, qualified to serve, both as a lawyer, and as a judge. In 04/38 I went to my school to pick up my final exam papers. However, a clerk told me ¡°You will not be taking the examination, Edith. ¡°You are no longer welcome in our university.¡± My legs buckled. I leaned on her desk for support. This last exam is all I need for my degree!¡± I could sense the clerks triumph, her overall pleasure in destroying my life.
The world had a conference at a resort near Geneva. One of the items on a rather busy agenda was the fate of Austrian Jews. ¡°Eichmann sent representatives of our community to plead with other countries to pay the Nazi ransom and to take us in. ¡°Don¡¯t you want to save the well educated Jews of Austria. ¡°How about $400 a head to the Nazi regime. ¡°Too much? ¡°How about $200.¡± They did not get one penny. No country, with perhaps the exception of the Dominican Republic, wanted to pay for our rescue. They took in a few Jews, hoping they might bring some prosperity to this impoverished country.
On 11/09/38 I did not go to work as my little sister, Hansi, had received a ticket to Palestine. With a feeling of both joy and grief we took her to the railroad station, ¡°Mama and Mimi and I were crying, but Hansi was not. ¡°Come soon she said to us. ¡°Get out of this dammed country; get out as fast as you can.¡± Mama had emptied the bank account to pay for Hansi¡¯s ticket. ¡°There was, Mimi and I knew, virtually nothing left to ransom us. ¡°But you have men to love you. Mama said, holding us close. ¡°They will save you. ¡°Hansi was too young to have a man.¡± Walking home from the train depot, we could hear a very strange noisein the distance. We could see an orange glow, likely from a fire. ¡°Mimi and I, our senses sharpened to danger in these past months, broke into a run, dragging mother along with us.¡± At home we heard the Nazis were on the march. "They've been attacking all Jewish shops and one of the synagogues was burning.
She was sent to a labor camp in the north of Germany to do backbreaking farm work, 12 hours a day, six days a week. The motto of some of the Jewish laborers was, "Life is beautiful, and it begins tomorrow." Her mother was deported to the East while Edith was in Germany, helpless to assist or join her beloved parent. When she finally returned to Vienna, her home and family were gone. Her remaining friends, Jew and Gentile, with few exceptions, were afraid to assist her. Her beloved Pepi, whose Jewish father had married a non-Jew, was a weak man, dominated by his mother. And the mother wanted nothing to do with Edith. A prewar friend, who also happened to be a doctor, and a Nazi Party bureaucrat, assisted Edith, and another gentile friend obtained copies of her own identity papers for her. Edith writes, "Our faces will be imprinted on the hearts of those who are kind to us, like a blessing."
So, she moved to Munich, in 1942, submerging her identity in the wartime Reich. Edith Hahn disappeared from the face of the earth and Grete Denner emerged to replace everything Edith had ever been. Grete was not only a new identity, she was a totally different woman; mild, meek, unassuming and uneducated - hard to pick out of a crowd. Thus began life as a "U-boat," submerged beneath the surface of society in Nazi Germany. She writes, "Now I am like Dante. I walk through hell, but I am not burning." Living in mortal fear, she found work as a nurses aide, and a room with a kind family. She met a handsome Aryan, Werner Vetter, who wooed her persistently. When he pressured her to marry, she finally blurted out her secret. Werner accepted her Jewishness, to the extent that he still wanted to marry and protect her. He wanted to sleep with her and have her take care of him. But her husband never rid himself of Nazi prejudices about "Jewish blood," and resisted having a child with Edith/Grete. She, in turn, became the passive, perfect wife Werner desired, abandoning any remaining sense of self. The ironies of her existence increased as the war progressed, and Germany's doom became obvious to almost all. Then Werner, blind in one eye, was drafted and became an officer in the Wehrmacht. Edith/Grete became pregnant - the Ideal Aryan Wife, with a baby on the way and a husband at the front.
This is a powerful account of a person existing in a schizophrenic life, with constant fear of discovery, and almost no sense of identity. The isolation was devastating. One can only imagine Edith's survivor guilt, which most Holocaust survivors suffer from. Here she was living the "normal" life of a German Hausfrau, while millions of others, like her own mother, went to the camps and crematorium. She discusses this guilt frankly in the book. She was and is an extraordinarily brave woman. We are fortunate that, at great risk to her life, she kept a record of her survival and has chosen to share her inspiring story.
This intimate narrative is simply and intelligently written. Her tale is so gripping that it is almost impossible to put down. At times it does seem that truth is stranger than fiction. I highly recommend this autobiographical account of a woman's life in hell. It is a story like no other.
Top reviews from other countries
It moved me so much that I bought every female member of my family a copy, and I am sure that they will be just as moved as I am.
The story is multi-faceted, not just about Edith being a Nazi Officers wife, but more about what led her to that dark place. What lengths will a human being go to survive?
You get a real sense of what life was like for her and of course for many others in this dark chapter of our history.
It will remain in my top 5 books forever.
Audio was wonderful but stopped working near the end which I was gutted. The audio never synchronized while reading Audio badly flawed.