Autobiografia de Edith Hahn Beer
A mulher do oficial nazi
NOTA DE LEITURA
Este livro é uma espécie de conto de fadas, tantas as peripécias por que passou Edith Hahn durante a guerra. Destaca-se o seu carácter duro e destemido que a tornava sempre pronta para encontrar uma saída nas muitas dificuldades por que passou. .
O livro está bem escrito, mas saltam à vista as mazelas da tradução para português.
Vê-se que a autora tinha um carácter forte e decidido. A história tem um
ponto negro evidente: quando a autora abandona a criança chamada Gretl
que tinha trazido para casa a fim de fazer companhia à filha.
Abandonou-a depois de ter convivido com ela muitos meses ou mesmo anos.
Anoto outro livro sobre a vida dela, bastante fraquinho e mais curto. O título é The Jewish Wife of a Nazi Officer, de
A Family Affair: Sleeping with the enemy - a survivor's tale; In 1943,
Edith Hahn Beer, an Austrian Jew using an assumed Aryan identity,married Werner
Vetter, a German Nazi. They had a daughter, Angela, believed to be the only Jew
born in a Reich hospital. Edith, 86, reclaimed her name after the war and
divorced Werner. She now lives in Israel (died March 17, 2009). Angela Schluter,
55, a divorced mother-of-three and an artist, lives in London.
March, 6, 2000
Edith Hahn Beer
I was 24 and had just finished my law degree when my mother and I were sent to the ghetto in Vienna. It was just after Kristallnacht. My father had died from a heart attack, and my two sisters had already fled to Israel. In May 1941, I was sent to a labour camp in the north of Germany, and then to a paper factory. When I returned, just over a year later, my mother had been deported to Poland. I'd missed her by two weeks, and never heard from her again.
I was also on the deportation list so went into hiding for six weeks. A friend then rang a man who agreed to help me. When I arrived my heart contracted - he was wearing a Nazi uniform. There was no turning back. He advised me to ask a good Aryan friend of the same age and colouring as me to report her papers missing, apply for replacements, and give me the originals. He was my saviour. He didn't ask for money;I think he did it because of our mutual friend.
In August 1942, I travelled to Munich with my friend's identity papers, and worked as a seamstress in return for lodgings. That month I went to an art gallery. I was sitting in front of a painting when a blond man with a swastika pin in his lapel sat down beside me and started talking to me about art. His name was Werner Vetter. He was very nice. He had seven days left of his holiday and we saw each other every day.
In October, he came back and told me he loved me and proposed marriage. It was horrible, I was terribly embarrassed and didn't know what to say. I gave him all kinds of platitudes to try and get rid of him. He said he wanted to meet the father I had talked about, so I told him the truth. It was a risk, but I trusted him because I couldsee that he loved me. He then admitted that he was married, and was going through a divorce. He said that we were now even because we had both lied. He didn't mind that I was Jewish. I think I did love him. I didn't consider all Nazis to be the same.
That December, I joined Werner in Brandenburg, outside Berlin, where he worked in an aeroplane factory. I forced myself to forget everything that was dear to me, all my experience of life, my education, and became a bland, prosaic, polite person who never said or did anything to arouse attention. We never talked about the Jews orwhat might be happening to my mother. I avoided shops where I would have to give the Heil Hitler salute, and refused to hang his picture in the house. But I worked for the Red Cross in a hospital, and had to wear a brooch which bore a swastika. I wanted a baby and got pregnant. Werner insisted that we married. I later gave birth to Angela, not daring to take any medication in case I revealed my identity.
In March 1945, Werner was sent to a Russian labour camp in Siberia. When the war ended, I took my Jewish identity card, which my old boyfriend had concealed in the covers of a book, and I got a court order for my name to be changed.
In the summer of 1947, Werner returned. By that time I was working asa judge, and I was Edith again. He didn't like the real me. He wanted someone to stay at home and look after the house. After a few months he said he wanted a divorce. I was distraught, but had to agree.
The Russians wanted me to work for the secret service, so I fled to England with Angela, then four, and became a housemaid. I didn't tell her about my past because I wanted her to grow up as a normal girl, and not have to live in the shadow of this horrible holocaust.
I see Werner as the person who saved me. I don't know whether he is still alive. I have no regrets. Should I regret that I wasn't burnt to death, or gassed in a chamber? It was a miracle.
I FOUND out that my father was a Nazi when I was 16. My mother had come up with the bright idea that I should get to know him. The last time I had seen him was when I was 11. So I went to live with him for six months in Germany. He told me that he had been a member of the Nazi Party. I was shocked. I couldn't cope. I said I didn't want to know. It was denial.
I didn't see my original birth certificate until I was 29. There was a big swastika stamped on it. I couldn't deny that and it really shocked me.
We didn't talk about my mother's past for many, many years. I always knew, even as a child, that there was something very painful and very bad about her family, and I wasn't to ask. Every year when I was little she would send me six birthday cards from people who had been killed in the Holocaust, including her mother, to give me the illusion of some sort of family.
In 1984 my stepfather, Fred Beer, whom my mother had married in 1957,died; she moved to Israel four years later. Once, when I visited her, she showed me a load of papers and letters from the war. I was worried that if something happened to her someone would go through her flat and throw them out. I brought them back to Germany with me and put them in a safe. I had a friend whose husband asked to see them. On my mother's next visit, he started asking her questions. That was the first time I heard her story. I was stunned. I find it amazing that anyone could have lived through so much terror.
I don't like my father at all. I think he's terrible. When I went to live with
him at 16 I told him I didn't want to go to Christian religious classes at
school (I went to a Jewish school in London). He
just looked at me and hit me. I still can't open my mouth properly. In the Holocaust Museum in Washington I saw a slide of his Nazi Party card. I felt physically sick, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The last time I saw him was about 20 years ago.
The fact that my father was a Nazi is something I can only come to terms with in denial. If I was to sit and think about it I couldn't sleep at night. I still cannot see that Spielberg film. I'm not ashamed of what my mother did because it was a question of survival.I'm pleased he looked after her, and loved her, but I don't want anything to do with him.
Over the last six, seven years my mother and I have started talking properly. Her past has brought us closer together.
Angela recently decided to sell her mother’s archival collection through
London’s Sotheby’s; "My mother, who is now 83 needs to undergo an operation on
her eyes and we simply need the money. I believe it will afford my mother the
opportunity to lead a more comfortable life. I also believe that her story
should be told. By making it public,
more people will learn about this terrible time in our history."
The extraordinary story of love and survival is told through a collection of personal letters and official documents which was sold by Angela Schluter. These included;
More than 250 letters written by Edith to Pepi
23 pages of letters from Pepi to Edith
More than 40 photographs of Edith, Pepi and Werner and Angela, their daughter
Illicit photographs from Edith’s Labour camp
letters written under Edith’s assumed name
Edith’s German passport, stamped with a ‘J’
Letters from Werner smuggled out of Siberia in a spectacle case
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin
William Morrow, $26
Review by L.D. Meagher
November 16, 1999
(CNN) -- Those of us who did not witness the Holocaust sometimes have trouble appreciating just how deeply it affected life in Europe during the 1930s and 40s. As Nazi Germany extended its tendrils across the continent, entire populations were uprooted, displaced and destroyed.
"The Nazi Officer's Wife" isn't about all those people. It's about one.
Edith Hahn was a 24-year-old law student in Vienna when the Nazis closed their grip on Austria. She was bright and attractive. She was involved in the great political debates of the day. She was in love. Her future was unfolding like a glittering carpet before her. Then it was gone. With the Nazis in power, Edith no longer had a future. She was stripped of it because she was a Jew.
Six years later, not only was Edith still alive, she was living the life of a middle-class German hausfrau, tending to her young daughter while her husband was serving as an officer in the German Army on the Russian front. She had given up her entire identity, had discarded all hope of seeing her family again, and had become what was called a "U-boat" -- she was a Jew submerged in Nazi Germany, masquerading as a loyal Aryan daughter of the Fatherland.
Edith survived when millions of other Jews were exterminated. What does that make her? In "The Nazi Officer's Wife," it becomes clear that she doesn't consider herself heroic. She does consider herself immensely fortunate, even blessed, to have lived through the horror of Hitler-era Germany.
Edith Hahn Beer tells her story of survival in an understated tone that makes her ordeal seem all the more harrowing. Today, we might have trouble understanding the position she was in. If anyone around her had discovered her true identity, she would have died instantly and excruciatingly. Never for a moment did she forget that. Not even at the moment her daughter was born. Edith worked as a Red Cross nurse and had heard women blurt out their most intimate secrets under anesthesia. When her time came, she refused drugs, opting for "natural" childbirth seven years before Dr. Lamaze introduced the concept to Western Europe.
Beer describes her younger self in Vienna as a rather starry-eyed dreamer who dared seek the university education usually reserved for young men. Her vision cleared quickly and dramatically once the Nazis took over her school. She reported for her final examination, which she needed to pass in order to practice law. A clerk informed her flatly she would not take the exam, she was no longer welcome in the school and she should get out. Five years of studies, up in smoke. "She turned her back on me," Beer writes. "I could feel her sense of triumph, her genuine satisfaction in destroying my life. It had a smell, I tell you -- like sweat, like lust."
It was the first of many hard lessons Edith Hahn Beer would learn as her world crumbled around her and a new, hostile one rose in its place. In the end, however, she expresses little bitterness over the hand fate dealt her. She didn't set out to dupe the Nazi war machine. It just worked out that way. She doesn't mask her scorn for the Germans and Austrians who stood by idly as the Holocaust unfolded. But she also doesn't overlook small acts of kindness that helped ease her own suffering.
"The Nazi Officer's Wife" could have been a flashy book filled with high drama and brimming over with grand emotion. That it isn't provides a reflection of the person telling the story. Edith Hahn Beer never wanted to be clever or brave, famous or notorious. She just wanted to stay alive.
L.D. Meagher is a senior writer at CNN Headline News. He has worked in broadcasting for 30 years.
BBC World Service review: