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Edith Hahn Beer Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Nazi Officer's Wife (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon

Edith Hahn Beer was a Jewish woman from Austria who came to fame in 1997 when she sold her collection of papers at the age of 83 to raise money for her medical bills. The papers became a book that shed light on the struggles Edith faced in her efforts to survive the Holocaust.


Edith Hahn Beer was born in 1914 in Vienna to the owners of a restaurant. She was one of three girls in the family. Edith was still a young lady when her father died. Her mother, a widow, went against the grain and encouraged her daughter to pursue a meaningful education.

And Edith was ready to go into law. But the Nazis took that option out of her hands in the late 1930s when they rolled into Austria and put roots down. Edith’s family was among those who suffered the brunt of their wrath.

Their home was taken from them and they had to make do with a poor dwelling in the Ghetto in Vienna. Edith left Vienna soon after when the occupying power in Austria counted her among those that would be sent to Germany to provide labor.

Her time there did not last long, though. She was eventually sent back to Vienna. However, the author used that opportunity to escape the grip of her captors. She was on the train to Vienna when she slipped away and found a boyfriend who helped her stay hidden.

After that, the author began contemplating the notion of reconnecting with her family. That wasn’t possible when it came to her mother who was never heard from again. She was told that her sisters had fled the ghetto, so she held onto hope that she would see them again one day.

In the meantime, the author needed to fit in. That meant getting papers, an objective she achieved with the help of Christine Denner, a friend from school who convinced the authorities that she had accidentally thrown her papers in a river.

They believed her and gave her a new batch, thus freeing her to give the old papers, the original ones, to Edith who changed her name to Grete. But even with the false papers and even after she changed her name, it quickly became clear that Edith needed to leave Austria, especially as the war took a turn for the worst.

With the help of a sympathetic SS officer, Edith Hahn Beer became a Red Cross nursing aide. It was there that she encountered Werner Vetter, the man that eventually made her famous. Werner fell madly in love with Edith.

And that wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t a Nazi Officer. Edith knew that Werner discovering her Jewish roots and false papers would mean either imprisonment or death.

So she did everything she could to extinguish his affections for her. Nothing worked, and Edith was eventually forced to tell Werner the truth. To her shock, Werner, who was married, announced his intentions to leave his wife for her.

And he was true to his word. If Edith’s Jewish origins were a hindrance for Werner, he never mentioned it, and neither did he ever mention the fact that she was Jewish.

Werner and Edith got married soon after. Edith gave birth to their child a year later, a task she admitted pushed her to the edge. She refused to use painkillers during the birthing process. She took the agony of childbirth because she could not risk revealing dangerous secrets about her origins and identity under the influence of the painkilling gas typically deployed at the time.

In the years that followed, Edith Hahn Beer was content to play the role of a dutiful wife. She steered clear of her husband’s social circles, unwilling to expose herself to the sorts of prying questions that might expose her.

Her determination to stay in the background was tested when her husband was taken to Siberia as a prisoner of the Russians. Edith was initially uncertain as to how she should proceed as a single mother in a world that was so hostile to her kind.

But then the war ended and Edith was free to reveal her Jewish identity. She studied the law, became a Judge in Germany and joined the campaign to bring her husband home. And the author was successful in her endeavors. By 1947, Vetter had come home.

However, not only had his status greatly diminished in a world free from the weight of the World War but Vetter’s wife was now an important woman with a successful career.

The soldier couldn’t handle the change. So he went back to his first wife. Edith’s success did not last. The Stasi decided that Edith was perfectly positioned to become an informer for them.

So she took her child and went to London where she became a housekeeper. She met and married a Jewish Merchant called Fred Beer in 1957. She only moved to Israel when he died in 1984.

Health issues brought her back to London where ‘The Nazi Officer’s Wife’, a book she had co-written, hit the shelves in 1999 and improved her fortunes.

Edith Hahn Beer was 85 when she died in 2009. There was talk of turning her book into a movie in 2010. Names like Eva Green and Mike Figgis were attached to the project but it never came to fruition.

+The Nazi Officer’s Wife

The Nazis came to Austria when Edith Hahn Beer was studying law. The outspoken woman and her family, who were Jewish, were forced into the slums. Edith had to leave her mother and sister when she was sent to a labor camp out of the country.

She came back to find that her mother had been deported. So she fled from the train to Vienna and found salvation in the form of a school friend who helped her get false papers.

From there, Edith joined the Red Cross, met and fell in love with a Nazi Officer called Werner Vetter who married her despite her admission that she was actually Jewish.

This book tells Edith’s story. It explores the paralyzing fear that dogged her every footstep as she fought to disappear into the role of a Nazi soldier’s wife, this despite the frequent questions about her parentage.

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