Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Nazi Officer's Wife

The Nazi Officer's Wife is about Edith Hahn Beer's experiences during the Holocaust. When the Nazis came to power in Austria, she was sent to a farm as part of a forced labor program. Upon returning home from the farm, she was supposed to report for relocation out east -- this usually meant transportation to a concentration camp. Her decision was to disappear instead of reporting. She obtained false identity papers and lived in constant fear of being discovered.

I was engrossed by her story. The author did an excellent job describing how difficult and traumatic it was to try to survive this way. She changed her whole personality to ensure her own safety. Before the Nazi takeover, she only needed one more test to receive her degree. Studying to be a judge, she had a group of friends that was highly educated and would discuss many intellectual subjects. In contrast, while trying to hide her identity she rarely voiced her opinion, pretended to have less education, and focused on staying at home to be the perfect house wife that the regime desired.

She married a German man who was later drafted and became an officer. He married her knowing that she was Jewish, and that there could be serious consequences if the truth were discovered. Edith had to depend on him not telling her secret to anyone. This was a real concern as he believed a lot of the Nazi propaganda about Jews. They had spent some time together, so they did have a relationship. But, he liked the idea of tricking people, particularly those that had more power than he did.

I really liked this book. First of all, it was well written. Also, I think it is important to read a variety of accounts of historical events. Reading the author's story about the struggle to survive by hiding in plain sight, gives another perspective to our knowledge about Holocaust survivors. Her recounting of how she obtained false papers provides interesting information about the Nazi government and how supplies were distributed during the war. We also learn about ordinary people, and how they felt about what was happening.

I would recommend this book, and it is a must read if you are interested in World War II or the Holocaust. There is a documentary about her experiences, but I haven't seen it yet. I am curious if it follows the book very closely, or if there is additional information presented.

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