October 5, 2016

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Halocaust...a book review

This past weekend, on one of Barnes & Noble's many tables, I happened across a paperback copy of The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Halocaust by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin.

You may know, I read. A LOT.  But considering how expensive my habit can be, I generally stick to the clearance section.  This book was not in the clearance section - but I bought it anyway - after reading the back cover how could I not?

"Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman in Vienna when the Gestapo forced her into a ghetto and then into a slave labor camp.  When she returned home months later, she knew she would become a hunted woman and went underground.  With the help of a Christian friend, she emerged in Munich as Grete Denner.  There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her.  Despite Edith's protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity a secret.

In wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear.  She tells how German officials casually questioned the lineage of her parents; how during childbirth she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal something of her past; and how, after her husband was captured by the Soviets, she was bombed out of her house and had to hide while drunken Russian soldiers raped women on the street.

Despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith created a remarkable record of survival.  She saved every document, as well as photographs she took inside labor camp.  Now part of a permanent collection at the Halocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, these hundreds of documents, several of which are included in the volume, form the fabric of a gripping new chapter in the history of the Halocaust - complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant."

I also generally don't read memoirs as I'm more a fan of novels - but this book was haunting and compelling.  It is my understanding that this book was made into a movie in 2003.  I have to wonder how I missed that?  Unfortunately, I wasn't blogging back then so I have no real reference as to what was going on in my life at that time.  All I can say is that I had a nine year old - so I was knee-deep in mommyhood at the time and this film wasn't on my radar otherwise, I surely would have seen the movie and read the book.

At any rate, I picked this book up on Friday and was drawn back to it every free moment I had over the weekend.  I finished it on Sunday afternoon.

I explained the plot to my (non-reading) husband and even he was intrigued enough to say, "I might have to read that."  (Not that I'm holding my breath - but if we could find that movie on Netflix, I'm sure he'd agree to watching it).

So, if you are as behind the times as I am and you haven't already read the book/saw the movie, I would recommend that you do so.  This story is well told and so unbelievably gutsy.  I certainly don't think I could have hidden in plain sight in the heart of the Nazi Germany - the fact that she did and lived to tell the tale leaves me in awe.


  1. I watched the 1999 documentary about her on YouTube a couple months ago.


    1. Thanks, Niki - I'll have to check out that documentary!

  2. I love memoirs. I just put a hold on this one at the library. And I think I'll watch the documentary. It sounds intriguing. Thanks, Gigi. :-)