Press

DIVIDED LIVES


Spring 2001
Wittenberg (University) Magazine

From the Hollow to the Hardback
By Sarah E. Lowe '01

They're PASSIONATE,
They're EAGER,
They're WITTENBERG ALUMNI,
And they're carving out careers book by book. Follow their footsteps and find out their sources of inspiration, their interests, what they've learned about themselves and what they enjoy the most as they've journeyed.

[preceding this story] "...Books have a life or their own."

Cynthia Crane '83 certainly proved this rule with her first book, Divided Lives, which focuses on 10 women whose Jewish/Christian marriage tore their families apart in Nazi Germany. The stories revealed in Divided Lives hit close to home for Crane, who is actually the granddaughter of a mischehe, or mixed-marriage, couple that escaped Germany in 1938.

Her father's last name was Cohn, meaning rabbi. Although he was baptized Christian and the family could trace no Jewish relatives in their pedigree, he was beaten every day by his Nazi-sympathetic teacher. The teacher would tell the class that he was an example of impure blood, Crane says. They called him a mischlinge, or half-breed, because of his mother and father's mixed marriage.

Moving to America did not erase the slurs her father had to endure. He eventually changed his last name to Crane. "He'd been a Christian all his life, but he was carrying around this loaded name. For Hitler it wasn't a religion; it was a race," explains the English professor at the University of Cincinnati.

The idea for her book came from the stories her grandinother told her about Germany before and during World War II. Crane's grandmother had even written a manuscript about her experiences, but she never published it. Crane dug into the memories buried in her grandmother's house, and "it all unfolded from there," she says.

With a Fulbright scholarship, Crane went to Hamburg, Germany to uncover her family's secrets. It began as her dissertation for Xavier University, but it developed into much more.

"It was like living in the Third Reich," the English major says, "which is what you do as a writer -- submerge yourself in another world. I was looking at my family's immigration files and what the Nazis had stolen. Then I had an epiphany in the archives; I wanted to find more people."

She eventually interviewed more than 20 people but scaled the stories down to 10 for Divided Lives. "When I went to Germany, a hole closed up inside of me," Crane says. "I had grown up hearing stories about a world I didn't know about. All these pieces that I had dreamed about suddenly became reality."

Her first book signing was at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati. More than 100 people attended. Crane says it was a defining moment in the process of producing this book. "I saw the book in a bigger way," she says, "I saw how it was affecting other people." She hopes that her book will remind people of Nazi Germany, and that it will be a lesson for the future.

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