Edith Hahn Beer - 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."

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