Review of The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Divorkin

I was riveted reading the autobiography The Nazi Officer’s Wife. It is the true story of a Jewish woman who hid her identity during World War II and pretended to be an Aryan. Edith Hahn ends up marrying a Nazi, but her identity was concealed. By a series of kindnesses shown by numerous people, some even Nazis, throughout the nightmare of the Holocaust, Edith Hahn escaped the death camps.

Edith grew up in Vienna, Austria and tells how easily her fellow Austrians accepted the Nazi takeover of their country during the Anschlusse. Suddenly, to be a Jew was a criminal offense and met with giving up personal belongings, one’s home, losing businesses and being forced to wear a yellow armband. Ready to complete her doctorate at the university, Edith was expelled for her Jewish ethnicity. With the help of her half- Jewish boyfriend, Pepi, she went to labor on a farm in Germany with the promise this would keep her mother from the concentration camp. She worked in asparagus fields with backbreaking effort to spare her beloved mother.

Woven in to Edith’s story are her romances, which either helped or hindered in her quest to be removed from danger. (You need to read for yourself to find out who helped and who hindered.) The hardships of just being able to get food or clothing are described, with sickness and weight loss. Yet, compared to most of her fellow Jews, Edith was blessed.

Of course, there is much more to the story of what happens with her mother, her boyfriend and what happened while she lived as a Nazi. But I don’t want to give the story away.

Apparently, the author (who also had a co-author) kept this all inside her for half a century before its revelation. After escaping Germany, she lived in England for a while, then went to Israel, but health problems forced her to return to England at the end of her life. She died a few years ago at the age of 95. The realities of what happened in a civilized society like Vienna are sober reminders of what can happen in the breakdown of law and order in a free society. I highly recommend this story for adult audiences. I found a copy at our local library and when I did an internet search, I found they made a documentary about Edith Hahn Beer’s life.


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