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The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust Paperback – March 10, 2015
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From Publishers Weekly
Born to a middle-class, nonobservant Jewish family, Beer was a popular teenager and successful law student when the Nazis moved into Austria. In a well-written narrative that reads like a novel, she relates the escalating fear and humiliating indignities she and others endured, as well as the anti-Semitism of friends and neighbors. Using all their resources, her family bribed officials for exit visas for her two sisters, but Edith and her mother remained, due to lack of money and Edith's desire to be near her half-Jewish boyfriend, Pepi. Eventually, Edith was deported to work in a labor camp in Germany. Anxious about her mother, she obtained permission to return to Vienna, only to learn that her mother was gone. In despair, Edith tore off her yellow star and went underground. Pepi, himself a fugitive, distanced himself from her. A Christian friend gave Edith her own identity papers, and Edith fled to Munich, where she met andAdespite her confession to him that she was JewishAmarried Werner Vetter, a Nazi party member. Submerging her Jewish identity at home and at work, Edith lived in constant fear, even refusing anesthetic in labor to avoid inadvertently revealing the truth about her past. She successfully maintained the facade of a loyal German hausfrau until the war ended. Her story is important both as a personal testament and as an inspiring example of perseverance in the face of terrible adversity. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
A well-written, tense, and intimate Holocaust memoir by an author with a remarkable war experience. Young Beer (ne Hahn) was a promising Viennese Jewish law student until the German Anschluss annexing Austria made her circle stop its laughing (``Hitler is a joke. He will soon disappear''). She was a Christmas-tree Jew with a Gentile boyfriend (dreaming of a socialist paradise), but Zionist siblings (who escape to Palestine), and the deadly follow-ups to the Nuremberg Laws send Beer into an underground existence as a ``U-boat'' in Aryan Germany. Beer took on an Austrian friend's documents and identity, got employed with the Munich Red Cross, and dated soldiers for the meals and covermarrying one Nazi, Werner Vetter, with a good job and expertise in art. She admitted her Jewishness to him but lived outwardly as a normal Hausfrau. Beer talked her husband into pregnancy, even though under Nazi rule their baby would be considered Jewish. The baby was a girl, making Werner furious``a Nazi who made a religion of twisted, primitive virility,'' Hahn comments. The losing Reich drafted the one-eyed Werner, made him an officer, and shipped him to Russia. The Nazi officer's wife discovered the Holocaust from forbidden BBC broadcasts and so learned the fate of family and friends. After the Russians conquered and burned her neighborhood, Beer retrieved her old identity papers and diploma, and this illegal fugitive was eventually transformed into a feared judge. Some embittered Jewish survivors cursed her for the way she survived the war, but Beer was still fearful enough to baptize her daughter. A returned Werner rejected the independent Edith who had replaced his servile Grete, so Beer divorced him in 1947, left the oppressive Russians, and emigrated to England, then, in 1987, to Israel. This engaging book goes deeper than psychologizing on the (Patty) Hearst Syndrome in explaining how the survival instinct allows one to sleep with the enemy. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Living through war and its atrocities is mind boggling and bewildering. Being able be a "u-boat" as Edith was in order to survive the war is incredibly amazing and nothing short of a miracle.
During the war Edith marries a Nazi, hiding the fact that she was a Jew. She was a loving wife and mother and subservient to her husband. After the war, she returned to being her true self and takes back her life as a Jew and a Judge. She is a true hero to me.
Thank you for sharing your amazing heroistic survival with the world.
The thing that kept coming through was, no matter how dark and horrible things got, she continued to find moments of joy, moments of peace. And it seemed as if those moments were enough to sustain her and keep her from falling into despair. One example was taking her baby to a park and enjoying the time with her baby, oblivious to fact that the city was being bombed.
I tried to picture myself in such a situation, or any modern-day woman, and I don't think we'd be so calm.
What strikes me as the greatest element of this story, is the fact of the underlining message of grace. Whether others want to attribute it as luck, happenstance, courage or sheer will, I cannot escape the fact that although sorrow marred the young heroine’s life, she was almost crashing into what I calls “Stupid Grace.” Such a fantastic measure of grace from God (the God of the Jews) to whom she prayed to many times, that it leaves you stupefied. Yet, she dispersed this stupid grace without measure as well.
At the closing of this book it reads concerning its author: “EDITH HAHN-BEER escaped probable extermination as a Jew in wartime Germany by assuming a false identity, marrying a German and living out the Second World War in the guise of a dutiful housewife. She later became a judge in postwar Germany before fleeing to Britain in 1948 after coming under pressure from the KGB to become an informer.”
Edith also known as Grete is one of those remarkable human beings in life that inspire you and also frighten you. Inspire, because she endured. Frighten, because the courage she displayed towers over many. And so I thank God, Edith Hahn Beer, Susan Dworkin and the many unsung heroes who risked life and limb (literally) to keep a Jewish girl from Vienna safe.
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