A Jewish nurse recalls her myriad adventures in WWII as a spy operating under the noses of the Nazis.
Cohn, who grew up in French Lorraine but spoke German fluently, begins in 1945. Posing as a German nurse, she is about to slip into enemy territory as an intelligence agent. She ends the first chapter with Nazis pointing weapons at her, then invites us to wait as she fills in the intervening autobiographical detail. Born in 1920, Cohn experienced the Holocaust firsthand. Like many others, she and her family found themselves gradually isolated, then singled out for arrest and deportation. (A sister died at Auschwitz; her lover was executed for his resistance activities.) A determined young woman whose features the Nazis did not consider “Jewish,” Cohn was able to acquire some nurse’s training. When Paris was liberated, she joined the French army and by January 1945 was working undercover. She went on a number of dangerous missions (principally to detect enemy troop locations) and after the war returned to nursing, including a stint in Indochina. She eventually married, raised a family, moved to California. If all is to be believed, Cohn was a remarkable woman: she chastised Nazis to their faces, intimidated the prisoners she interrogated, learned to drive a stick-shift in one hour, possessed a photographic memory, verbally chastened a would-be rapist so severely that he not only abandoned his assault but offered to marry her, attracted the amorous attentions of most of the men she met, was a crack shot, survived falls through the ice, bullets, tanks, and traitors. Meanwhile, the prose—with an assist from novelist Holden (Farm Fatale, 2002, etc.)—is not worthy of the subject. Bristling with clichés, the text features long passages of humdrum dialogue (recalled verbatim from a half-century ago?) and has all the stylistic sophistication of a YA novel.
A feebly written profile in courage. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)