Oct 22, 2001
The Journal-News

Author chronicles survival:
Book describes life under Nazi rule
By David Brown

Who are we? What do we claim as our true identity? These questions still trouble many German women who survived the Nazis despite being persecuted for the Jewish blood that ran through their veins.

Hamilton native and author Cynthia Crane discussed her book, "Divided Lives: The Untold Stories of Jewish-Christian Women in Nazi Germany," in front of approximately 250 guests Thursday night in Parrish Auditorium on the campus of Miami Hamilton University, as part of the Michael J. Colligan History Project.

The book focuses primarily on the lives of 10 women considered Mischlinges, the so-called "half-breed" children from mixed marriages. Although most of them were Christian, they were considered Jewish by the Nazis due to their mixed bloodline.

Crane discovered that the treatment they received, and the deaths of so many of their Jewish relatives, left a lasting impact.

"Social, political, familial, everything was touched," Crane said. "Some healed and lead normal lives, some did not. But who can say what is normal for them?"

Crane spent eight years researching and writing the book. She said it took about six months just to find the women and persuade them to tell their stories after a lifetime of silence.

"They still had a lot of fear," Crane said, because of their past persecution, and their trust was hard to gain. If you live in a country for 12 years, afraid to say the wrong thing because you could end up dead, that kind of persecution never leaves you."

With the rise to power of the Nazi party in Germany in 1933, Crane said Jews were no longer defined in religious or cultural ways, but in terms of race.

Mischlinges were classified in degrees. A person with two Jewish grandparents was first degree and a person with one Jewish grandparent was considered second degree. Under the Nuremberg Laws, their German citizenship was taken away.

During the lecture, Crane showed slides of eight women profiled in her book, along with a quote from each. Some were very powerful.

Ruth Yost - "I was born completely poisoned."

Margot Wetzel - "There was not part of life where you weren't asked whether or not you were Jewish."

Sigrid Lorenzen - "The Hitler ideology was stronger than my life."

Ingrid Wecker - "I was a wanderer between the waves, belonging to no one."

Ursula Bosselmann - "I stood at 18 looking into nothingness."

Given the difficulties in their lives and the deaths that touched all of them, Crane said the book could be seen as depressing. But it can also be a story of triumph.

"It's about life and survival, not just about death," said Crane, assistant professor of English at Raymond Walters College, University of Cincinnati, and a Hamilton Taft High School graduate.

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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