January 24, 2012

Review: The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

Release Date: October 24, 2000
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 305 pages
Source & Format: Borrowed; Audiobook
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary
Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman in Vienna before the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a labor camp. Months later, she returned home with the realization that her life would never be the same. As a Jew, she would forever be a wanted woman.

With the help of a friend, Edith is able to change her identity. She becomes Grete, and she eventually meets and marries a member of the Nazi party. Edith has become a "U-boat" - a term used during that time to describe Jews hiding in Germany during WWII.

Edith's stories are about survival and, ultimately, triumph.

Thoughts on The Nazi Officer's Wife
A co-worker loaned me an audio recording of this book, praising it as one of the best books she had ever read. I love books set during WWII, particularly stories that deal with the Jewish Holocaust. It is, without a doubt, one of the darkest periods in history. But I also find it fascinating because I love reading stories about the light among the darkness.

Edith Hahn was not a hero in the traditional sense. She did not save many lives or risk her own for the sake of someone else. Instead, she did the only things she knew to do to save her life. Edith's story is about a woman hiding in plain sight. So, while she may not sound like a heroic woman, I found her story to be captivating.

Choosing to live - even when it means living in fear - makes Edith brave. She was, in my mind, courageous. What I loved the most about this book was that it was so different from other Holocaust memoirs or fictional accounts that I've read. Yes, some of the details were similar. Descriptions about life as a Jew during this time matched other accounts I've read. What made this unique was the fact that Edith was not in hiding. In fact, she married a Nazi.

Living in Germany, Edith has to essentially "murder" herself. Her identity and her heritage had to be pushed aside. Her knowledge - from years of schooling - had to be hidden. I said this book wasn't about a woman in hiding, but actually it is. It is just a different kind of hiding. Edith hid everything about herself in order to go unnoticed by her neighbors.

The writing is straightforward and simple. Occasionally, Edith will address you, the reader, with her comments. I found it to be an interesting way to further draw the reader into the story. Since I listened to the audiobook, I will also mention that I found the narrator to be particularly compelling. She was the perfect choice for reading this book!

I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of WWII, and believe it is a great addition to historical Holocaust testimonials.

So Quotable
"I murdered the personality I was born with and transformed myself from a butterfly back into a caterpillar. That night I learned to seek the shadows, to prefer the silence. I thought: Now I am like Dante. I walk through hell, but I am not burning."

"You know, we have moments of passion when we are in pain. And then of course the moment ends, and with it the passion and the pain, and we can forgive and forget. But I think that every time you hurt somebody that you care for, a crack appears in your relationship, a little weakening - and it stays there, dangerous, waiting for the next opportunity to open up and destroy everything."

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