Sunday, January 28, 2007

TBR Challenge - The Nazi Officer's Wife

The Nazi Officer's Wife - Edith Hahn Beer, with Susan Dworkin.

I read this book because a good friend said she'd been inspired by it. People will do anything to survive. Yes, and it often is astonishing to know about them. Astonishing, inspiring - and terrifying.

This book terrified me. Anything about the Holocaust terrifies me. The very word, Kristallnacht, terrifies me. I am a Jewish woman; I would be foolish if it didn't terrify me, or if I were complacent enough to think it never could happen again.

Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass. When I read about the Holocaust (which I rarely do), my brain experiences Kristallnacht. Thoughts break away and shatter. I lose my ability to speak coherently. To think coherently.


Edith Hahn's memoir is coherent and focused. I read it in one sitting because it was impossible to look away. Her story has been dramatized, and it is remarkable.

The world for Viennese Jews came apart very quickly. One day, she was finishing law school, and the next, she was enslaved and forced to work on a farm and in a carton factory. Rather than submit to being taken to Poland, she went underground in Vienna, where kind Viennese women helped her to get false identification papers and saved her life. She moved to a town outside of Dresden, met a Nazi officer, lived with him, married him, had his child, a daughter. He spent time in Siberia, captured in battle, and returned. They divorced. She and her daughter went to England. Both survived. We know this story because her Pepi, the beloved who could not escape his grotesque and hysterical mother, saved all of her letters and papers, and because her daughter read them.

What a person will do to survive -

I can not put my thoughts together for this. Instead, I offer some of my reading notes, in no particular order. Please read the book.

the Nazi officer who demanded a dust-free home
millions turned to dust. millions.
to be able to hold two beliefs

to be considered subhuman and powerful enough to threaten civilization
those who would scapegoat
1984 - do it to her
to know the lie - the citizens knew full well - THEY MAY NOT ESCAPE INTO DENIAL BECAUSE THEY KNEW-
she refused anesthesia - she endured the pain of childbirth to protect her Jewish child- to protect the daughter of a Nazi
Thomas Mann on the radio - the first time she heard the full truth, piles of children's shoes
"I had often heard Werner's views about the power of Jewish blood"
"She turned her back on me. I could feel her sense of triumph, her genuine satisfaction in destroying my life. It had a smell, I tell you - like sweat, like lust."



It's Me, Maven... said...

This book hit home for me. My former (now deceased) mil was from Vienna. She and her parents and her brother escaped first to the US, was turned away, and their ship ended up intentionally capsizing so they could gain entrance to (then) Palestine as refugees.

When I read this book, I longed to find a familiar name, anything familiar, something familiar to my former mil's family or community there in Vienna.

As I read that book, I felt as if she were on the other side, turning each page and narrating it.

Though she's been long gone (close to 20 years at this point), and I've been long divorced from her son (eight years at this point), I still feel a kindredness with her and her story.


Imagine how many millions of these stories exist, and no one survived to share it.

Chris said...

Whoa, what a review! I can see that it really touched you. Congrats for reading it.

Kris said...

What a powerful review, this book was suggested to me by somebody else, and after reading your review I know I'll have to find a copy.

Jenni said...

I can understand being terrified by a book like that. Whenever I am amazed at all the terrible things happening around the globe, I think about the holocaust and figure. Goodness...if that could happen almost any evil is possible. It seems mind boggling.

Frivolitea said...

That sounds like a powerful book. I will find it. I found your blog because, like you, I am a lover of all things camellia sinensis. On my blog I often post pictures featuring tea or tea time, so come on over for a visit. I will be back to visit here.

Nyssaneala said...

Thank you for your wonderful review. I also have a hard time getting through Holocaust books, but I try to pick one up about once a year. My MIL can not go anywhere near them, it is too hard for her. I read Elie Wiesel's Night not that long ago, and have added this book to my TBR pile for a later date.

btw, I am also a rabid tea drinker. :)

Alisia, from over at the TBRChallenge.

d. chedwick bryant said...

another book to search for in the Library system. Thank you

Literary Feline said...

Terrific review! I am considering reading this book for the nonfiction challenge.

Joy said...

Hi! Thanks for posting a comment on my blog! As you know, this is on my NFF Challenge list and I do plan on reading it. Thanks for the encouragement with your review. :) Happy Reading!