NWSA Journal 17(2) - Fall 2005
By Lyra Totten-Naylor

“Cynthia Crane’s exploration of Jewish-Christian women resists simple classification. It is at once a personal memoir of a scholar’s intellectual journey, an oral history, and a serious study of German women who had been marginalized both by the Nazis and by previous scholars. She writes of transgressions in the past and in the present as she and the other interview participants grapple with the issues of identity, inclusion, and exclusion.... Crane’s straightforward eloquent prose and thought-provoking yet subtle arguments make this book a delight to read.”


Journal of Contemporary History Vol 40(2) - 2005
By David Renton

Eyes closed! Everyone face the door!’ - Women in Nazi Germany

“Cynthia Crane’s book Divided Lives collects together ten unstructured interviews conducted with such mixed-race women who survived fascism. The research was conducted to enable Crane to understand the events of her own family history. Her grandmother was a gentile who married a German Jew. These are the women’s own stories, to which Crane brings sympathy and an eye for present-day detail. Of one interviewee, she reports, ‘Her red-lipsticked pouty mouth always slightly smirking, and her thick, beautifully coiffed brunette hair recalled to me the flappers of the 1920s’ (44). Similar descriptions recur.... The interviewees quoted in Divided Lives were children during the Holocaust. They suffered from antisemitism and felt the injustice keenly. Yet they remained in urban Germany.... The result is a complex sense of suffering and isolation from the oppressed.”

Moment Magazine, Notable Books - Oct 2003
By Nancy Breslau Lewis

"Officially labeled ‘mischlings’ or ‘half-breeds’ in Hitler’s Germany, the offspring of Jewish-Christian marriages were not spared persecution under the Nuremberg laws, although they most certainly fared better than children with four Jewish grandparents. Usually reared as Christians, these ‘mixed-race’ children were denied educational opportunities and career advancement, and witnessed the imprisonment or deportation of their parents or grandparents.

Author Cynthia Crane, an English professor at the University of Cincinnati, was startled to learn from her German grandmother’s unpublished memoirs that her father was himself a ‘mischling.’.... More than 50 years later the author traveled to Germany to gather the oral histories of surviving ‘mischlings,’ who were often hesitant to revisit their painful experiences. The testimonies of these ten elderly women underscore their psychological fragility and the long-term impact of the divided loyalties that ripped their families apart.”


The Australian Journal of Politics and History - Sept. 2004
By Emily Turner-Graham, University of Melbourne

"This book, which examines through a series of ten autobiographical pieces (each extensively introduced by Crane) the until recently under-examined trauma suffered by Mischlinge (those of mixed race or "half-breed") in the Third Reich, has an important contribution to make to our understanding of those groups persecuted by the Nazi regime.

Primarily, it raises some key questions regarding the matter of identity--especially that of non-Jewish and Jewish Germans--which has become inextricably bound together, particularly when embodied in the form of the Nazi-proclaimed Mischlinge. The question of identity is of great significance for these women, some of whom had not even regarded themselves as Jewish--or, indeed, known anything about Jewish life--until the Nazi state avowed them to be so. "Identification? Identity? Ah, Identitat! Identity. Who am I actually?" (p. 254). Sigrid Lorenzen, the daughter of one subject asks, encapsulating the explicit--or sometimes implicit--search for a unified sense of self which each of the women seems to have been on since the time of their sufferings during the Third Reich.

So too, Crane herself is on "[her] own personal odyssey" (p. 14). The daughter of a Mischlinge, her sense of an inherited inner confusion and the ever-present "feeling of 'Let's not speak of it'" (p. 10) forces her, like Sigrid Lorenzen, to seek closure. Their stories alone thus add a further layer, contributing another dimension to our understanding of the often troubled role of the survivor's child. Similarly, Crane begins her project as the Berlin Wall falls and the German reunification process begins, bringing with it a renewed questioning of what it is to be German and how then to deal with Germany's tumultuous recent past. "When I arrived [in Germany], talk of the Third Reich was everywhere in the media, but not on many citizens' lips. I heard moans of 'not again' from my landlady when the topic appeared on the news night after night" (p. 15).

Crane's subjects, who, as young women, were trapped between the sanctified "Aryan" world and the doomed one of Germany's Jews, continue to confront the questions raised by this dark chapter of Germany's history. Their stories abound with myriad details of everyday life in the Third Reich--the inhabitants of Ingrid Wecker's village plant "Hitler oaks" and place a flagpole with a golden swastika atop it in the town square--underlining the Nazis' infiltration into the very fabric of German life (p. 79). So too, their recollections of anti-Semitism's mounting threat--the protestations of a Jewish father that he is a war veteran (p. 140), the Gestapo's "suggestion" that an "Aryan" wife leave a Jewish husband (p. 220), the terror of Kristallnacht (p. 143)--are drawn with a sharp immediacy.

Interestingly, however, their time in Nazi Germany has also left a variety of surprising indelible marks on these women, once again emphasizing their crisis of identity. Some women are anti-Semitic, even reverting to Nazi-style categorisations: "You have the most beautiful, big, Jewish eyes" (Crane's emphasis, p. 105); "Gerd, my uncle [...] looked like a Jew" (p. 213), while others fail to see the cruel irony of their words, "As far as the situation in Germany today, I think the government's halt on the immigration of foreigners is good. I think we are getting too many foreigners in Germany" (p. 224), and thus, the extent to which they embody the title of this book."

Kirkus Reviews - Nov. 1, 2000.

"Sensitive oral histories of the suffering of Hitler's tainted Aryans, products of mixed marriages. As reflected in her bibliography, Crane (English / Raymond Walters Coll.) is more concerned with the biographic genre than the WWII period. Her account should not be compared to Holocaust memoirs like Joe Rosenblum's recent Defy the Darkness, where starvation, suicides, sadism, and murder are common. Once expectations are lowered, this Fulbright Scholar's oral histories of eight women who suffered "only" shock, anxiety, and lesser persecution may be appreciated for their less dramatic but still disturbing subtleties. The subsequent chapters and interviews grew from Crane's own family history. Her Lutheran grandfather, Felix Cohn, had Jewish genes, so his medical license was revoked and he fled Germany in the 1930s.

Typically, the Gestapo encouraged divorce and made life miserable for the remaining "impure" Aryans. In the 1950s, the author's father changed his surname to Crane and also typically, didn't reveal the family's checkered pedigree for decades. Most of the interviewees had their identity and their prospects overturned in one shocking moment when the Nuremberg Laws mudslide struck. Crane more than records these women's pained stories of exclusion and mistreatment, she depicts the sadness in their voices and eyes, and in each apartment's telling books and photos.

Ruth Wilmschen, for example, brings copious notes to read at her interview, and meticulously divides her photos between Jewish and Christian relatives. We come to understand why these women are paranoid of any form of nationalism and why issues like reparation money and the Turkish foreign presence in Germany are daily concerns. One woman enthuses about Jesus sightings, and almost all of them were baptized, but Crane makes her subjects "Jewish" and human enough. Gives a voice to the neglected Mischlings (half-breeds) and provides a significant record of both wartime and postwar Germany."

Publishers Weekly - Nov. 6, 2000

"In recent years, Holocaust scholarship has begun to uncover many little-known tragedies, such as the persecution of homosexuals and Gypsies under German national socialism. Crane (an assistant professor of English at Raymond Walters College in Ohio) focuses on the persecution of "mischlings," children of mixed Jewish and Christian marriages -- specifically, no women whose racial identity was frequently unclear, as some were not practicing Jews and some did not even regard themselves as Jewish.

Supplemented by an overview of the history and details of the intricate laws that determined which German citizens were to be classified as Jews or mischlings (literally "half-breeds"), the interviews offer the reader a precise and often frightening inside look at life for mischlings under the Third Reich. In each of the 10 transcribed monologues, each woman's cadences, complexities and individuality come through, along with startling details. For example, Isle B., who was born to an "Aryan" father and Jewish mother and who lost relatives in the Holocaust, is able to say of the attention that has been paid to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, "'I don't know why this Jewish thing stands out so much.'"

Most powerful is the sheer repetition of everyday details and incidents, such as the observance of Christmas in a mixed marriage, a child's walk to school past "Hitler" oaks and swastika flags, and the ways that natural quarreling among family members became frighteningly loaded under Nazi repression. While none of the historical material is new and Crane makes no pretense to original interpretations, the voices and stories she collects have not been heard in such detail before and are a welcome addition to Holocaust and Jewish studies. "

Holocaust Teacher Resource Center - Jan 10, 2001.

"Cynthia Crane gives us universal stories of hope and survival that transcend time, race, religion, class, and gender. She helps us to feel the experiences of ten women, children of Jewish-Christian marriages, whose families were persecuted under Hitler's Third Reich. These women, denoted by Hitler as Mischlinge ("half breeds"), were subjected to an onslaught of anti-Jewish laws that divided spouses, family and friends. Relatively little has been written about the plight of Jewish-Christian "mixed" families, perhaps because of this complex and controversial split between their Jewish and Christian roots. Cynthia Crane, the Christian daughter of a Mischling, presents the compelling lives of ten "Mischling" women."


"For Hitler, "Jewishness" was a blood-borne pathogen, and mischling--the offspring of Jewish-Christian marriages--were a threat to the Fatherland, even if they had been raised as Christians and German patriots. Crane, an English professor at Raymond Walters College in Cincinnati, grew up in a mischling family that had fled to the U.S. in 1939. In the '90s, she went back o Germany to interview mischling women who had lived through the Nazi years. Crane describes the roots of her research and the changing laws that controlled the behavior of those Hitler called "half-breeds," then lets the 10 women tell their stories. Some had not thought of themselves as Jewish until the state declared they were. As conditions worsened and relatives were sent to concentration camps, many wrestled with the conflicting strands of their identities. And in the years since the war, several of Crane's interviewees have become more thoughtful observers of current politics, thanks to their bitter wartime experiences...."

Library Journal

"These tales of "mixed families," considered "non-Aryan" by the Third Reich, bring home the awful discrimination of that time. In some cases, Aryans were pressured to divorce their non-Aryan spouses; children from these families were denied educational opportunities and barred from prestigious careers. Crane (English, Raymond Walters Coll.) was naturally drawn to these stories, as her grandparents were such a mixed couple who left Europe in 1938. Her interest lies in the uses of autobiography to heal such trauma. For this book, she has interviewed ten now-elderly women about their wartime experiences. After a brief introduction to each chapter, she lets each woman tell her story in her own way. Although none had previously identified with the Jewish tradition, each experienced the loss of family and friends in the camps. All remained in Germany after World War II or returned after living abroad and now think of themselves as German, despite their ordeals. Crane has succeeded in telling new stories on an old theme. Recommended for Holocaust and women's studies collections."

"...the stories are gripping and all deserve to be told. The book is a valiant effort, and worth reading."

Abraham J. Peck
Director, Academic Council for Post-Holocaust Christian and Jewish Studies

"Divided Lives has given a number of these Mischlinge the chance to effect the historical record of the Holocaust."

Caroline Schaumann
German Studies Review

"...Crane's project is a welcome addition to such a timely and sensitive topic...."

World Magazine - Dec 9, 2000.
By Marvin Olasky

"Finally, Cynthia Crane's Divided Lives (St. Martin's Press, 2000) shows the horror of Nazi Germany in a new way, by profiling 10 Jewish-Christian women who survived Hitler. Their hard stories, and the even harder stories of six million murdered human beings, show what happens when political power trumps theological truth and the rule of law is forgotten."

Hamilton Journal-News - Dec 19, 2000.
Crane's book another valuable contribution.

"Thanks to Cynthia Crane for her carefully researched and richly moving book, "Divided Lives," which chronicles "the untold stories of Jewish-Christian women in Nazi Germany."

It's another important contribution to the World War II archive that should remind us "never again" -- never again shall civilized countries allow the brutal extermination of a people just because of who they are. During Adolf Hitler's rule of Germany from 1933-1945, six million European Jews were killed, simply for being Jewish. Crane's book looks at another facet of the Holocaust's horror -- women who were branded "mischlinge" (half-breeds) because they were the products of mixed marriages between Christians and Jews.

Crane's grandparents -- Felix and Herta Cohn, who came to Hamilton in 1938 -- were considered to be in a mixed marriage, even though her grandfather was not, in fact, Jewish. (That, of course, was one of the tragedies of the situation in Nazi Germany. The Jews kept expecting their fellow Germans to come to their senses. Hitler's unwavering intention, however, was the complete annihilation of the entire Jewish populace of Europe.)

Crane is a Hamilton native who used a Fulbright Scholarship to help her tackle the subject, traveling to Germany for extensive research. The book took eight years to write and focuses on 10 stories similar to that of her grandmother.

Crane has a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati and is an assistant professor of English at the Raymond Walters branch of UC. (Her other grandfather, incidentally, was George Cummins, the man responsible for many of the "Remember When" photos the Journal-News runs.)

There are some people who would contend that the Holocaust did not really happen, that it is a post-World War II exaggeration by Jewish leaders. Not only did the Holocaust happen -- sadly -- but it remains one of the unspeakable horrors in the history of civilization. Those who try to undermine its truth do a disservice to history.

Crane's book sheds yet more light on the terrible misfortune people faced for no other reason than they were a convenient scapegoat for a maniac. It's another valuable account of a tragic era."

Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved.

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