Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

The Nazi Officer's Wife is the true story of how one Jewish woman survived life as a "U-boat", a person living just under the surface of society under an assumed identity. As the title indicates, Edith Hahn eventually became the wife of a German who later was made a Nazi officer.

*Possible spoiler warning*: I don't think anything I've mentioned in this review will truly spoil the reading, but I've revealed a few things that I found surprising. So,if it's on the agenda right away, you might want to skip over the review. Then again, you might not. I can't tell from here.

Back to the review . . .
I enjoy reading about the experiences of people who lived through WWII. This book offered a slightly different perspective. I’d never heard the term “U-boat” in reference to a person living in plain view of Nazis. The time spent living with a German and then marrying him was actually only a small portion of her experience. Prior to acquiring a copy of her friend's papers and moving away from Vienna to work for the Red Cross (the safest place for a person under an assumed identity to work), Hahn lived in a work camp harvesting asparagus and other foods and in a paper factory, cutting boxes. She and her co-workers actually thought that being sent to Poland was the only way they might be reunited with their families and hoped they’d be among the fortunate workers allowed to leave. Knowing what happened in Poland, of course, it’s shocking to read about how clueless people were in regard to what was happening to their friends and family.

It was only when Hahn was led to a woman in the Nazi party - by a friend from the work camp who received packages from this same woman and knew she was trustworthy - that Hahn was able to borrow a friend’s identity, move to Munich to work for the Red Cross, and then later meet and marry an "Aryan". There were some interesting complications, even after Edith Hahn became Grete Denner. Edith's friend, Christl Denner (Margarethe, shortened to "Grete", was one of Christl's middle names), was still living in Vienna and receiving her rations, so there were certain documents and ration cards that Hahn couldn't get her hands on without exposing both herself and her friend.

I found Edith Hahn's story absolutely gripping. It’s unfathomable to me how terrifying it must have been to be a Jew or other person considered an adversary to the Nazis anywhere in Europe during World War II. To live out in the open or to help others in any way obviously required a great deal of courage and cunning. The Nazi Officer's Wife is an excellent read, very clearly written and utterly fascinating.


Also finished: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling - first book completed for the Classics Challenge. I hope to review that one tomorrow. Raking up oak leaves has zapped me of my youthful energy.

Haven't touched in a couple of days: The Chunkster. But I plan to return to it, tonight. And, I've resumed reading Once Upon a Time by Gloria Vanderbilt. I believe I set this one aside in December for lighter reading material. It's been fairly easy picking Once Upon a Time up a third of the way into the book. I remember most of the people in Gloria's childhood circle and the rest are slowly coming back to me.

Just walked in my door, yesterday: A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn. Okay, yes, I helped it walk inside. The postman also helped by sticking it in the mailbox. I sometimes wonder if the friendly local postal worker senses me standing at the window, watching to see if he sticks any book-shaped parcels into the mailbox. Probably. He never has to ring the doorbell for the big boxes.

At this moment: Cat #1, Miss Spooky (who is black with white trim and has owned me for approximately 12 years) is freaking out. She's turned up her nose to every kind of cat food I've offered her, today, both wet and dry. She has just batted a coin across the floor and bolted from the room, after crawling under the futon (where she let out a decisively whiny meow) and running around the house knocking things down, occasionally hesitating long enough to emit one of those pitiful cries that mean, "You don't love me enough to give me shrimp, lightly breaded, with a dab of cream cheese! Or, tuna. I love tuna! Don't I deserve tuna? Look at me, just wasting away before your eyes." Uh-huh. 4 bowls of cat food, 3 bites from each and I'm supposed to feel bad. Can anyone relate to this feline guilt trip?

Best thing that happened, today: The kiddo came out to help me rake. We'll just overlook the bit about him tossing the leaves on me instead of into the bag. At least he came outside. When I say I try to take joy in the little things, sometimes I'm really pushing it.

Got the latter part of the title "Stitch 'n Bitch" down. Need to work on the stitching part.



  1. The Nazi Officer's Wife is one of the books that seems to sit on my shelf forever, patiently waiting its turn to be read. I read reviews like yours and want to jump at the chance of reading it, but then my enthusiasm settles back to the "later" category. Maybe I will put it on my list for the nonfiction challenge. It's one of those books I know I will enjoy once I actually pick it up and start reading.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. This book sounds really good, especially since reading The Book Thief I've been thinking of reading something else set in that time.

    LOL at Miss Spooky!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful book and I'm looking forward to your review of The Jungle Book!


  4. Literary Feline,

    Do you have more trouble picking up the nonfiction reads than the fiction? I used to. I'd buy a lot of them but then they'd just languish on the shelves. In recent years I've been more interested in history and memoirs. I picked The Nazi Officer's Wife up and read a sentence or two and that was all it took to hook me!


    You probably know from B-A-W that I'm interested in that time period. I thought this particular book was more digestible than some; it's nicely written and occasionally the author even defined a word that most wouldn't bother to explain. It's probably a good one to start with.

    Miss Spooky was a nut, last night. I hope she's in better form, today. LOL

  5. Cats can be funny like that. I am owned by a cat named Toulouse who will make you think that he wants food but really just wants to play.

  6. Thanks, Heather.

    I'm moving slowly, today. Hope to get that Jungle Book review done tonight.


    There are times that Miss Spooky has a cat fit and if I just stop her and give her a good head rub it calms her down. She's been really ravenous, lately, so maybe she's predicting cold weather. LOL

  7. That books sounds really good. I may have to see if like a half price book store has it. :) I need books for the non-fiction challenge though I know I have one I have not read. I'll have to go through my books again. lol

  8. Wow, Edith Hahn seems to have had quite a life, you have really piqued my curiosity with that review, bookfool!

    THe Jungle Book is going to be such a treat - can't wait to find out how you enjoyed it!

  9. Angela,

    I think this one's got me on a WWII kick. I just realized The Summer of My German Soldier was on my classics list, so I've started that for my next classic read.


    I got mine at the outlet store that no longer exists, so it seems likely you can find an inexpensive copy.

    What's the nonfiction challenge? You're the second person to mention that one.


    Sneak peek: I really enjoyed The Jungle Book. Rikki-tikki-tavi (sp?) was one of my favorite stories. :)

  10. Having read several books from this time period from different perspectives, this book catches my interest. The whole concept is intriguing. I'm wondering if her husband ever found out. Guess I'll have to read it to find out.

  11. Sounds riveting. I read alot less non-fiction than I should. I'll jot this one down on my books wanted list. ta for the review.

  12. Your parting line is hilarious!

    It does sound intriguing. I read the whole review hoping for details on how she couped with the marriage but hey! what can you do about that.

    Guess I will have to buy it. Once I finish my resolution to not byuy a book this month and only after I have read 10.

  13. Booklogged,

    I won't tell you; I'll just leave that a mystery so you'll have something to look forward to. Tell me if and when you do read, so I can hear your thoughts!


    I may start calling you "A". My fingers get all tangled up when I write out that big old identity. :) I've been trying to mix in more nonfiction in the last couple of years and have really enjoyed what I've read. It makes me feel more well-rounded, I guess. I highly recommend this one and hope you enjoy it. Let me know if and when you get around to reading it, please, so I can hear your thoughts!


    I had to go back to see what my parting line was. Oh, yeah. Just keeping you updated. One day I may actually begin to knit. ;)

    Well, I can't give away everything or that would ruin the book, wouldn't it? I'm behaving very, very well, so far. I turned in almost all of my Discover card bonus points for book cards, so I can still occasionally get something from the wish list without spending. I feel like I should get some kind of medal for trying. LOL

    Do tell me if you grab a copy of The Nazi Officer's Wife. I want to hear everyone else's thoughts!!

  14. I do tend to have more trouble picking up a nonfiction book, Nancy. Once I get started though, I usually quite enjoy my nonfiction selections.

    **side note: I finished my first Chunkster! Yippee!

  15. Hi! When you mentioned that you were reading this in another post, I checked it out and put it on my list to read for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge...which is me! Right now we are voting on a date in which to begin. Come on over and check it out.

  16. I saw The Nazi Officer's Wife all the time when it was first published. Now that I've read your great review, I despise myself for passing it up!

  17. The book sounds intense. Does it have a happy ending? I've read a couple of books set in that time, and they always leave me feeling depressed.

  18. This sounds like one I'll have to read, Nancy. I love reading about that time period. You asked Literary Feline if she has trouble picking up nonfiction versus fiction. I know I do. I have lots of NF books that I want to read, but I gravitate toward the fiction instead. Joy is putting together a NF challenge which should help me in this area!

  19. Anonymous8:05 PM

    Oh wow, that sounds like a powerful book, I'll have to pick it up.

    As for Miss Spooky, that sounds pretty much exactlyt the way Hezekiah is behaving today, only she turned up her nose at tuna as well. And is glaring at me. Oops. I guess I'm not supposed to tell people....

  20. Wendy,

    It looks like a lot of people have trouble getting to the nonfiction. I used to, but I've really been enjoying more, in the last couple of years. Sometimes, though, I do get terribly bogged down in one (if it's too dry) or set them aside.

    Congrats on finishing your first chunkster! I mailed your tote bag on Friday. Hope you like it. :)


    Aha! I wondered where that nonfiction challenge was! Thanks! I'm just now leaving a message at your blog. I was stunned that the comment window opened for me. Most have not, in the past month or so.


    Don't despise yourself - you can still find The Nazi Officer's Wife, although it may take you a bit longer in your location! I hope you do get to read the book, though. :)


    The ending is happier than most. Of course, the author lost friends and relatives as she was Jewish and all Jews experienced some loss (often their entire families), but she made it through the war safely with her daughter and so did many of her friends and relatives. I was surprised how many survived.


    I think you'd enjoy the book. :)

    It's always surprising to me to find out what people hesitate to read and why. Some nonfiction still bores me out of my mind, but I've been reading more each year. I like the idea of Joy's challenge. I'm not sure if I'll join in, but I'll see - depending on the guidelines and when it's held.

  21. Carrie,

    I enjoyed the book immensely. I think just about any story about surviving that time period (as one who was a part of any of the groups of people Hitler blamed for Germany's ills) is powerful in its own way; it required such courage and fortitude. I also found that Edith Hahn was extremely generous with what little she had, so that was quite a testament to the kind of person she was.

    Miss Spooky was a little nutso when we got home from two days' absence for a swim meet, tonight. I don't know what finally got her to calm down, but she eventually crashed on her window seat and now she's all blinky and adorable. LOL Cats are so funny. Oops, you're going to be on Hezekiah's outcast list if you're not careful. ;}

  22. Great review. I'll try to pick this one up.

  23. Bill,

    Thanks. I just went looking for Storm Force, thanks to your review, and it's off the shelves already. Darn. Hope you enjoy The Nazi Officer's Wife. :)

  24. I just finished this book as part of Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books challenge. Thanks for suggesting it via her blog!

  25. Sarah,

    You're very welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)


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