Friday, January 21, 2011

Stories of those who were there

I've read a number of first hand accounts of the Nazi era in Germany, but none fascinated me more than "Frauen: German women recall the Third Reich" by Alison Owings. The point of view shared in this book is rare in American literature on the era. And the perspective of women, being homemakers, wives, and mothers in that time and place, is completely different than the perspective of victims or soldiers whose stories have been told more frequently.
Ms. Owings is an American, quite fluent in German courtesy of college semesters abroad, who collected the personal stories of over two dozen German women whose husbands, brothers, sons, and neighbors fought during WWII on the side of Germany. Like any other cross-section of people, these women occupied all parts of society and varied by education, economic background, social status, and community type. Some took part in resistance, others looked away in fear and voiced their shame in the book. Some exaggerated their activities and others minimized them humbly. Still others seem to not understand the lessons of history, blaming the Allies for bombing their cities and forcing them to sleep in the basement with wailing children while their homes crumbled over their heads. Fascinating.

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