Divided Lives

Cynthia A. Crane,

Divided Lives
 
 
In recent years, Holocaust scholarship has begun to uncover many little-known tragedies, such as the persecutions of homosexuals and Gypsies under German national socialism. Crane (an assistant professor of English at Raymond Waters College in Ohio) focuses on the persecution of "mischlings," children of mixed Jewish and Christian marriagesAspecifically, 10 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, Ilsa 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 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.


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