Nov 2001
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Author to tell how Nazis treated 'mixed' families
By Christie Storm

As a child, Cynthia Crane felt like an outsider. Something was missing in her life. She realized her last name was different from her paternal grandparents, but whenever she asked questions, she only heard silence. Crane knew the family was from Germany but not much more than that.

Years later, she finally coaxed her grandmother into talking about the family history. What she found out changed her life forever.

Crane's grandparents and her father were living in Germany when Adolf Hitler rose to power. The family name was Cohn, and although the family was Christian, its Jewish bloodline "tainted" the entire family in the eyes of the Nazis.

Crane's grandmother was Aryan, but her grandfather was considered Jewish, even though both were actually Christian. To the Nazis, the family was considered mischlinge or half-breeds.

Crane's grandfather escaped to the United States, but in the year it took for the rest of the family to flee, her father, who was only 10 years old at the time, was regularly beaten by his teacher as an "example" for the other students.

Her father changed the family name after experiencing discrimination in America as well, and this was the family history that was missing from Crane's childhood.

Intrigued, Crane traveled to Germany as a graduate student. There she began unraveling her family history and became more interested in other mischlinge families.

"I suddenly connected with a part of my identity that was never even there," Crane said.

While in Germany, she interviewed women who were children of mixed marriages during Hitler's reign. She now shares their stories in Divided Lives: The Untold Stories of Jewish-Christian Women in Nazi Germany.

"The book is about the roots and identity and goes beyond the Third Reich and the Holocaust," Crane said.

Although the women were all from mixed families, their stories are unique. With one family member Aryan, the families were more protected than purely Jewish families, but they were also persecuted.

The years of alienation, persecution and stress are still evident in the women today. Crane says many have phobias and physical ailments.

"Some got over it, and some really struggle with identity -- socially, religiously and nationally," Crane says. "These were very German people, and overnight -- they were not."

But rather than being a story about defeat, the book is about survival, Crane said. And she hopes those who read the book will think about how they treat one another.

She also urges readers to be politically aware and to know that even under the worst circumstances, people can survive.

"They've lived, and people can learn from that," she says.

Crane will share stories from the book and her research at the Holocaust Education Conference on Friday at the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. The conference, "The Holocaust Remembered: Women in the Holocaust," is offered for educators and students only.

Copyright 2001, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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