“The Nazi Officer’s Wife” by Edith Hahn Beer

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the HolocaustThe Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read this book when you’re alone, the wind around you drowning out the world, the sunlight and air isolating your mind so that it will only be you and Edith, you and her story. So you can feel who she is and where she went with all the realness of being there.

It will be well worth it. It certainly was for me.

Firstly, I must mention that I love personal stories, that I love experiencing other people’s lives, and that I forgive most failures in storytelling because I know a real person had made it, not necessarily a professional writer, and most certainly not a professional writer creating a fictional tale that can be so easily modified for irony and suspense. That being said, I love Edith’s story. I find her experiences moving, sad, hopeful, and deep. I seem to forever be searching for a word that conveys the depth and danger, interest and didacticism, sadness and optimism that I find in the best stories. I would describe Edith’s memoirs with that word.

Similarly, I cannot say I enjoyed the story, for in it there was much sadness and fear. I cannot say I was fascinated and interested, for there was much more than those shallow, impersonal pleasures. I can say I was moved, but there was also so much more. There was learning, feeling, hoping, and crying.

Edith explains her life from her childhood to her trials during World War II. She lays down the most intimate details of her life, unedited, to give us a whole and perfect image her her personality, her dreams, and her life longings. Through her details, we come to know her as a real person and we come to understand everything she does and to feel those same emotions that she did throughout her ordeal. We can feel both her torture sand her triumphs intimately.

About the writing style: At first, it made me pause. Edith occasionally addresses the reader in the second person. But I think in the end, this is not a factor in the quality of the storytelling. In fact, it can be a great aid in bringing her closer to you, in making her story that much more personal.

Besides this, the narrative style is perfect. The emotions of real life are recreated with as much storytelling devices as real life can maintain. Scenes and dialogue are recreated with a perfect balance of immediacy and summary.

And on its title: Some may wonder why her book is titled the way it is, without her being the wife of a Nazi officer except for a short time in the story. But I think no word could describe a person wholly through life and that something must be used to symbolize the story presented. “The Nazi Officer’s Wife” fulfills this latter reason. In her incredible experience, Edith had to live a life like the rest of the Nazis. She had to pretend to be someone she was not, pretend to be a Nazi. In many ways, she was wedded to this lie, this incredible lie of agreement with monsters. This is how the title symbolizes her struggle.

What an incredible book, an incredible story, an incredible woman.

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