The Nazi Officer's Wife

Many books and films have undertaken the task of recording accounts of Jewish survival during the Third Reich, but few are as astonishing as the story of Viennese Jew Edith Hahn. Hahn not only assumed a false Christian identity and lived among the Nazis as a full-blooded Aryan, but went so far as to marry a member of the Nazi party. Narrated by Susan Sarandon,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Many books and films have undertaken the task of recording accounts of Jewish survival during the Third Reich, but few are as astonishing as the story of Viennese Jew Edith Hahn. Hahn not only assumed a false Christian identity and lived among the Nazis as a full-blooded Aryan, but went so far as to marry a member of the Nazi party. Narrated by Susan Sarandon, Liz Garbus's no-frills documentary alternates between readings from Hahn's memoirs (published in 1999 as The Nazi Officer's Wife and read in voice-over by Julia Ormond) and interviews with Hahn herself, who spins a nearly unbelievable tale. Hahn was a 24-year-old law student when Germany annexed Austria in 1938. Denied her degree and subjected to increasingly frightening anti-Semitic persecution, Hahn was reluctant to leave her widowed mother and her lover. But despite Hahn's best efforts, she was separated from both in 1941 when she was relocated to first an asparagus plantation in Ostberburg, Germany, then to a paper factory in Aschersleben. Instead of reporting to the Gestapo upon her return to Vienna, Edith made a bold decision: She removed the identifying yellow star all Jews were required to wear. Edith became what was known as a "U-boat," a fugitive from the Nazis living just below the surface of society. With the surprising assistance of two Nazi Party members, Edith assumed the identity of an Aryan friend, Christl Denner, who agreed to obtain duplicate identity papers. With her true papers sewn into the binding of a book, Hahn boarded a train for Germany and began a new life as full-blooded Aryan "Grete" Denner, a nurse's assistant for the Red Cross. Her imposture reached improbable heights when she was wooed and wed by Werner Vetter, a Nazi party member who was soon to be drafted into the Wehrmacht. In Edith's words, she went from being the most despised creature in the Third Reich — a Jew — to the most exalted: a Nazi officer's wife. At a brisk 97 minutes, the film skips over many episodes that make Hahn's book a pulse-pounding page-turner, but offers her rare perspective on both sides of civilian life during those nightmare years: The terror of Vienna's Jews as the stage was set for their destruction and the bizarre existence of Germany's middle class during the final days of the Third Reich.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Many books and films have undertaken the task of recording accounts of Jewish survival during the Third Reich, but few are as astonishing as the story of Viennese Jew Edith Hahn. Hahn not only assumed a false Christian identity and lived among the Nazis as… (more)

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