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am 6. Februar 2000
Only those who have survived the holocaust truly know the real horrors of this twentieth century hell on earth. No matter how much the rest of us learn about this living nightmare, we will never fully comprehend what went on because it will always be second hand. To make judgments about how Jewish people chose to survive seems so wrong. Yet, as I continued to read "The Nazi Officer's Wife," I could not keep from uttering some form of audible shock on certain choices Ms. Hahn made along the way. For example, it was impossible for me to comprehend her determination to stay with Pepi long after it was apparent that he would never emigrate with her or even commit to her and that his "love" for her was a distant second to the loyalty he felt for his mother. I clearly see the necessity of becoming a German's lover and then wife in order to survive, but I can not understand why Edith's pressed to have a child with Werner Vertter in the worst of times. From the moment of conception this baby's life was at risk. Uncertain of her future with a man who did not even know the real Edith Hahn, this writer relates how, after the war, her daughter was baptized. Already knowing then that so many Jewish lives had been lost throughout Europe, did another Jewish identity need to be erased? I wanted to cry when Edith ended her relationship with the orphan, Gretl. If Edith ever tried to keep her "little family" together, she did not relate that in her book. Finally, of course, after all the history and all the passing years, Edith could not stop being in touch with the man who was never there for her. Though I cannot help but be bothered by certain choices Edith Hahn made, I must quickly add that I admire a woman who lived her "lie" so well for so long that she became a survivor.
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am 9. Juni 2005
This is a captivating story of survival that reached epic proportions that stirred sympathetic emotions in me throughout the read. Edith Hahn, an Austrian Jewish woman survived as she did, outside the concentration camps with a formidable strength and will to survive that amazed me, staring the enemy straight in the eyes under the false identity of a Aryan German.
The horrors of life for Jews during those holocaust years are vividly portrayed, allowing us to see the dark side of man that should not be allowed to haunt humanity. SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ and DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE are other survival novels that bring us closer to what it must have been like for the powerless victims of the holocaust.
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am 23. Juni 2000
Edith Hahn's story is surprisingly well written for an amateur; she is not self-censoring as far as one can make out. She tells the truth about her family, their life in Vienna where her parents run a restaurant, her happy childhood memories and focus on boys; her irritation with one sister who was self-pitying and unhappy. She is smart as a whip, gets into the law faculty of Vienna's university and almost graduates as one of the top law students - except that the Anschluss arrives before she takes her final exams. Her boyfriend, a "Mischling" (halfJew) is witty and wonderful and a perfect companion, but in the end, he betrays her and favors his gentile mother who lives in fear of the Jews and their coming near her son, after the Jewish father dies. She stays, in fact, well past the point of safe passage out of the Third Reich principally because of him. She winds up on an asparagus farm with other Jewish women doing dreadful and miserable farm work. Next, she's transfered to a cardboard-box factory. She gets out of there by feigning a return to Vienna to join her mother in a mandatory transport to Poland, but on the train she rips off the yellow star and returns to Vienna as an undercover Gentile. She gets false papers from a family friend/doctor, then uses them to get to Munich, where she lives with a family and helps them run a home-based tailoring business. That's how she meets her first husband, a German working in an airplane factory as a painter. She does love him to some extent, but mainly she sees marriage to this rather off-balance traditional man as a way to stay safe during the war. As a hausfrau, she's got the perfect disguise, and they have a child. He is drafted and sent to Russia, winds up in a POW camp in Siberia. She winds up alone with the child in Brandenburg after the war, and the Russians are there. She tries to pull strings to get him out early. He suddenly appears in their doorway, by which time she is now working as a judge in dealing with family law cases. Her salary is good, she is secure, and her husband balks at his sudden relegation to unemployment and a wife who doesn't darn his socks and who expects that he might pick up the fish for dinner. He explodes, hits her violently in front of the child, and disappears, ultimately rejoining his first wife. Our heroine gets out of East Germany and takes off for England. Whew! There, I think I gave away the plot more or less.But commentary: she is honest, tells her own opinion and reveals the little slips and errors that somehow save her. She is very well-educated for a woman of her time, speaking and writing English and French. She abhors the thought of her mother working as a maid, cleaning up for Germans. If you read a lot of the Holocaust literature written by women, most had had Gentile maids and could not imagine doing such work, nor did they know how to do it. If they were lucky enough during the war to be assigned to such a job, instead of a labor camp, they felt so enraged and humiliated, as well as inept and helpless in the work, that it becomes a major focus in the writing. I find it an interesting detail that male biographies and diaries do not mention. It was also because of Germany's pro-natalist policy that she does so well as a mother and housewife. One of the great shocks for her is a chance acquaintance in a park when a gentleman joins her in a walk, spontaneously. The time is after the war. He is a Jew, he reveals, and they are both "u-boots" who managed to swim under the surface during the war. He tells her that he could recognize immediately that she was Jewish. She is astounded in retrospect that the Germans she lived amongst couldn't recognize her typical Jewish features. She doesn't speculate as to an answer, but I can guess that many Germans were trained to hate Jews through propaganda yet in their everyday lives had little real contact with them, and never really studied their features. In a city with many Jews, such as Vienna, there was much higher recognition, of course. I remember that in my years living in Germany, no one recognized me as an Irishman, in spite of reddish hair, freckles, blue eyes and all other typical features of a "mick". In the USA or Canada, England or Australia, they know. In Germany, they thought I was an American whose parents were German but who had neglected to teach me the language properly.This is a story "mit Happy=end" as they say. She moved to Israel after the death of her second husband and lives contentedly there with her daughter, Angela, daughter of a Nazi officer. I would recommend this book to all who appreciate honesty and a female educated perspective.
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am 29. Februar 2000
Choices of courage are the choices the woman in this book made. This woman did exactly whatever she had to do to remain alive.It was obvious FROM her choices that she was going to be one of the many people who survived as a witness to the atrocities of how, not just one person but entire groups of people can become, be it out of fear or loyalty to some crazed individual telling them what to do.
The woman in this book is a true witness to the Holocaust and whatever her choices were are the very choices that kept her and her daughter alive. Not another soul on this earth should even dare to think they have the right to judge any choice this woman made in surviving the Holocaust.
Perhaps not everyone has the ability to understand the difference between real life and a fantasy or the actuality of how it was during 'hitlers' reign of terror on any personal level. That is understandable because anyone who was not there physically would NEVER be able to fathom the horrors of that time. Anyone who has a conscience, any compassion or love for mankind within their own soul, would not be able to understand the magnitude of the hatred and the brutality of those days. BUT this book describes it well enough for the mature reader to grasp.
This read was filled with choices of courage.
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am 8. Dezember 1999
My first reaction was to concur with the positive responses of other readers. This is a fascinating story, skillfull told, filled with feeling, driven by constant forward motion. However, on second thought I had to wonder about the choices this author made.
She spent five years in the 1930's studying law in Vienna. Surely she could have realized, once the Nazis came to power in Germany, that German law was not a promising field. But she remained in Vienna with her intellectual boyfriend, Pepi, also a law student. When her sisters and 100,000 Viennese Jews fled Hitler in the late '30's, she couldn't leave because she was carrying on this affair, and her boyfriend refused to emigrate. She wasted precious time on a go-nowhere relationship; he wouldn't marry her, wouldn't leave his mother, and wouldn't even shelter her for a night when she was desperate and homeless. She realized too late that Pepi was a dead end. Whereupon she became first mistress, then wife, of a Nazi. This was a cooly rational bargain, after the failure of idealistic young love.
In hindsight, she would have been better off following her father's advice to become a seamstress. She wouldn't have met the brilliant intellectual Pepi, and sewing is a survival skill transferrable anywhere in the world. German law was worthless in her future life in England, and indeed, she worked as a seamstress in the years after the war.
I do not wish to discount the author's deep suffering, or to imply it was her fault. In no way. But it was avoidable had she made other choices. Perhaps her wish for intellectual prestige blinded her to practical realities, that and her obsessive attachment to a boyfriend.
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am 10. Mai 2000
I'm an 18-year old college student in India.My father had been to London recently where he ran into Ms.Angela at Harrods.Although,it was a chance meeting for him,it was a god-sent gift for me.She encouraged him to read a copy of "The Nazi Officer's Wife" written by her mother,Edith Hahn Beer.Although I must admit that war novels never interested me before,I was proven wrong by this one.
Once I started reading the book,I just couldnt put it down.Here is a simple,straightforward account of a Jewsih woman whose faith in her religion and her strength never let her down inspite of the horrendous perils that she had to face every minute of her life during the World War period.When I try to understand the pain in her heart when she was refused her University Degree,when she had to leave her Mother for the Asparagus fields,when she had nobody to turn to after her relationship with her boyfriend was heading no where,when she had to put on an endless charade amidst the core of the Nazi society,when she had to rely on God's mercy to keep her Jewish identity a secret,when she had to work as a maid in London after being an honoured Judge in Germany.....what can i say,its just unimaginable that this woman managed to survive through all this on her own.
There are so many lessons that this book has taught me.I can never stop admiring Edith Hahn Beer for her unshakeable faith that tomorrow is a better day.One of the most beautiful things I found in this book was the French saying "Life is beautiful and it begins tomorrow".It is so true that very few of us bother to realise its meaning!
And of course,how can I forget to mention how moved I was by this woman's love for her Mother.Her belief that she would be reunited someday with her Mother,her pangs of grief when "she sent me cake when she was hungry,mittens when she was cold"...and her resolution to do the same for her daughter(by trying to provide her the family which she herself never had around her)....these things go a long way in bringing out human emotions in their most tender and vulnerable forms.One cannot help but think inwardly what else one could have done under such terrible circumstances.
No doubt Ms.Beer's decisions were justified in every sense and they were ably supported by her virtues which we should all aspire to inculcate.
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am 9. Februar 2000
I picked this biography up at Perl Mack Library on Saturday and had read the entire book by Sunday evening.
This writing was the personal account of how one woman survived the Holocaust. The book is well written and compelling. The book being a complete and total success and valuable as a Holocaust account,is a book to be read again and again, understood and accepted for the truth of a woman's survival as well as the survival of many others she knew during that time be they Jewish or not. It is a read that should be noted for it's honesty and it's information.
This book should be in every library, public, school and personal home library of all people who are concerned about the world today in that they will learn from the past.
There is absolutely no way anyone could have any right whatsoever to judge anyone by the choices they made during that horrible time in the world's history.
This book is honest and a tribute to the human spirit!
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am 24. Juli 2000
Though I consumed this book in a matter of hours, I found it so emotionally affecting that I had to stop and take a deep breath now and then, walk around the block, before I could continue reading. All the more compelling for its simple, honest style, this is a tale of extraordinary courage and perseverance on the part of Edith Hahn Beer. Would that more of her Austrian and German neighbors (of the "Aryan" stripe) had had a greater share of the integrity displayed by this woman. Her life irreparably fractured by events that remain utterly vivid and disturbing 50-some years after the fact, she somehow manages an astonishing degree of objectivity in her assessment of the evil forces arrayed against her and every other European Jew in those very dark decades. Definitely not a story for the fainthearted, this disturbing book and others like it need to be read and reread precisely to help prevent their repetition in the future.
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am 4. Januar 2000
We will only have the surviving victims of the holocaust with us a short time longer. How important it is that as many as possible should write their own personal stories. In the case of this book, Edith Hanh Beer allows us to see her very normal life at first disrupted and then torn apart by the invasion of the Nazi's. We see what motivates her (saving her mother's life, staying near the man she loves) and how both those decisions lead her into difficulties in one case and possibly into saving her own and her child's life in the other. We see the price one pays for concealing an identity so carefully that the concealer doesn't really know who she is anymore. We see how one can live with a mate and play a role for survival, and how those roles can turn around. It is an excellent and quick read, and I wish more of us would read these true stories to keep us from ever being in such a horrible situation ever again.
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am 25. Oktober 1999
Just when I thought I had read and seen everything I'd ever want about the Holocaust (and then some), I found myself fascinated by this book. Quite frankly, reading about somebody's true experience suddenly makes a story like "Life is Beautiful" seem shallow and unnecessary. (Truth being stranger, and more compelling, than even well-intended fiction.) In some ways it's the details of real everyday life -- the food rations, the clandestine radio listening, the casual comments of neighbors -- that make the book come alive. Plus, the clarity of the storytelling (it reads like a novel but maintains the right dose of sobriety and dignity) simply transports you into Edith Hahn's world. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to feel knowledgeable about the Holocaust.
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