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Inge's War : A German Woman's Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler
by Svenja O'Donnell




Overview -
An extraordinary saga. --David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

The mesmerizing account of a granddaughter's search for a World War II family history hidden for sixty years

Growing up in Paris as the daughter of a German mother and an Irish father, Svenja O'Donnell knew little of her family's German past. All she knew was that her great-grandparents, grandmother, and mother had fled their home city of K nigsberg near the end of World War II, never to return. But everything changed when O'Donnell traveled to the city--now known as Kaliningrad, and a part of Russia--and called her grandmother, who uncharacteristically burst into tears. I have so much to tell you, Inge said.

In this transporting and illuminating book, the award-winning journalist vividly reconstructs the story of Inge's life from the rise of the Nazis through the brutal postwar years, from falling in love with a man who was sent to the Eastern Front just after she became pregnant with his child, to spearheading her family's flight as the Red Army closed in, her young daughter in tow. Ultimately, O'Donnell uncovers the act of violence that separated Inge from the man she loved; a terrible secret hidden for more than six decades.

A captivating World War II saga, Inge's War is also a powerful reckoning with the meaning of German identity and inherited trauma. In retracing her grandmother's footsteps, O'Donnell not only discovers the remarkable story of a woman caught in the gears of history, but also comes face-to-face with her family's legacy of neutrality and inaction--and offers a rare glimpse into a reality too long buried by silence and shame.

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More About Inge's War by Svenja O'Donnell

 
 
 

Overview

An extraordinary saga. --David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

The mesmerizing account of a granddaughter's search for a World War II family history hidden for sixty years

Growing up in Paris as the daughter of a German mother and an Irish father, Svenja O'Donnell knew little of her family's German past. All she knew was that her great-grandparents, grandmother, and mother had fled their home city of K nigsberg near the end of World War II, never to return. But everything changed when O'Donnell traveled to the city--now known as Kaliningrad, and a part of Russia--and called her grandmother, who uncharacteristically burst into tears. I have so much to tell you, Inge said.

In this transporting and illuminating book, the award-winning journalist vividly reconstructs the story of Inge's life from the rise of the Nazis through the brutal postwar years, from falling in love with a man who was sent to the Eastern Front just after she became pregnant with his child, to spearheading her family's flight as the Red Army closed in, her young daughter in tow. Ultimately, O'Donnell uncovers the act of violence that separated Inge from the man she loved; a terrible secret hidden for more than six decades.

A captivating World War II saga, Inge's War is also a powerful reckoning with the meaning of German identity and inherited trauma. In retracing her grandmother's footsteps, O'Donnell not only discovers the remarkable story of a woman caught in the gears of history, but also comes face-to-face with her family's legacy of neutrality and inaction--and offers a rare glimpse into a reality too long buried by silence and shame.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781984880215
  • ISBN-10: 1984880217
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publish Date: April 2020
  • Page Count: 320
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Inge's War

Svenja O’Donnell was never particularly close to her grandmother, Inge, whom she describes as an “aloof, somewhat selfish woman.” Unexpectedly, though, when O’Donnell visited the East Prussian town where her grandmother grew up, Inge suddenly announced during a phone call, “I have so much to tell you.” Thus began what the author calls a “decade of discoveries” into the secrets that lay at her “family’s heart, unspoken, undisturbed, unsuspected for years.” At one point, her normally reticent grandmother even began hearing the voices of her dead friends and family in the form of “waking dreams.” The past had come back to haunt her.

As a seasoned print and television journalist and a former political correspondent, O’Donnell was well-equipped to track down her family’s buried truths. In Inge’s War: A German Woman’s Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler, she lets events unfold chronologically while seamlessly interspersing conversations with her mother and grandmother, both natives of Germany, with her own research and travel to important family landmarks in Europe.

In the midst of World War II, Inge became a young, unmarried mother while her beloved boyfriend was off fighting the war; his father forbade them to marry. Later, as the Russian Army approached, Inge, her toddler (the author’s mother) and her elderly parents escaped just in time to Denmark, where, as Germans, they weren’t well received. The tale of their flight is harrowing, and O’Donnell provides thoughtful commentary every step of the way, observing, “Silence has always dominated women’s experience of war.” She notes that German children like her mother had “to bear the weight of an identity that made them pariahs at birth” and that she herself remembers feeling uneasy during a school trip to a war museum in Normandy, as she was the only half-German student in her class.

Even so, O’Donnell makes no excuses for anyone, noting that many Germans conveniently hid behind the phrase “I did not know” when it came to the realities of the Holocaust. As she notes, the goal of her investigation was “to learn the truth of my family’s story, to recognize in its shifts, its hopes and its flaws, the hybridity that shaped my own identity.”

Mission accomplished—with Inge’s War, O’Donnell has created a story that reads like a novel filled with fascinating history and excellent detective work.

 

BAM Customer Reviews