DIVIDED LIVES by Cynthia A. Crane


The Untold Stories of Jewish-Christian Women in Nazi Germany
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Sensitive oral histories of the suffering of Hitler’s tainted Aryans, products of mixed marriages.

As reflected in her bibliography, Crane (English/Raymond Walters Coll.) is more concerned with the biographic genre than the WWII period. Her account should not be compared to Holocaust memoirs, like Joe Rosenblum’s recent Defy the Darkness, where starvation, suicide, sadism, and murder are common. Once expectations are lowered, this Fulbright scholar’s oral histories of eight women who suffered “only” shock, anxiety, and lesser persecution may be appreciated for their less dramatic but still disturbing subtleties. The subsequent chapters and interviews grew from Crane’s own family history. Her Lutheran grandfather, Felix Cohn, had Jewish genes, so his medical license was revoked and he fled Germany in the 1930s. Typically, the Gestapo encouraged divorce and made life miserable for the remaining “impure” Aryans. In the 1950s, the author’s father changed his surname to Crane and, also typically, didn’t reveal the family’s checkered pedigree for decades. Most of the interviewees had their identity and their prospects overturned in one shocking moment when the Nuremburg Laws mudslide struck. Crane more than records these women’s pained stories of exclusion and mistreatment; she depicts the sadness in their voices and eyes, and in each apartment’s telling books and photos. Ruth Wilmschen, for example, brings copious notes to read at her interview, and meticulously divides her photos between Jewish and Christian relatives. We come to understand why these women are paranoid of any form of nationalism, and why issues like reparation money and the Turkish foreign presence in Germany are daily concerns. One woman enthuses about Jesus sightings, and almost all of them were baptized, but Crane makes her subjects “Jewish” and human enough.

Gives a voice to the neglected Mischlings (half-breeds) and provides a significant record of both wartime and postwar Germany.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-21953-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2000