By Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin
Edith Hahn was born in Vienna in 1914 and lived through WWII. When she was a teenager, she was encouraged to attend university, but before she could finish her studies and become an attorney, she was forced into a work camp like so many other Jewish citizens. She was released to join her mother who had mysteriously vanished. Edith followed her instincts, removed her yellow star branding, and became a Jewish fugitive. By the grace of God, she hid in plain sight. She married a man who became a Nazi officer, and before long, gave birth to a daughter, Angela. In order to spare others, Ms. Hahn kept her story a secret until Angela asked her to share her experiences with the world.
The Author Shares Herself
It took decades but Edith eventually shared her heroic story with her family and the world. Not only did she share the events of her ordeal, but she shared her fears, disgust, betrayal, helplessness, and hope—yes, hope, even in the midst of such despair. Edith is so real about her feelings that I can’t imagine how she kept her emotions inside for so many years. I think I would have burst from the stress or collapsed from the sadness.
How the Memoir Affected Me
Two aspects of Edith’s story impressed me the most: her courage and the courage of the key people who helped her survive. Generally, rules are hard for me to break, and I wonder if I would have had Edith’s courage to follow my gut instincts, remove the yellow star, and begin a life on the run. In hindsight, it seems like such an easy choice—live or die—but she didn’t know that her fate was certain. How did she know her choice to give up her life would actually save her life? With her friend’s permission and assistance, Edith assumed her friend Christine (Christl) Denner’s identity. Christine confidently walked into the authorities and lied about losing her identification papers. Once she received a new set of papers, Edith impersonated Christine right in the middle of Munich, Germany and married a Nazi officer. I admire Christine’s bravery and heroism, and I can only pray that I would have been able to muster such courage to save a friend’s life from certain peril.
That’s all it takes, you see—a moment of kindness. Someone who is sweet and understanding, who seems to be sent there like an angel on the road to get you through the nightmare. [p.123]
Hahn-Beer, Edith, and Susan Dworkin. The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust. New York: William Morrow, 2015. Print.
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© 2017 Sunday Dinner Stories, Michelle Beckman