Inge’s War: A German Woman’s Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler

Svenja O’Donnell. Viking, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-984880-21-5
Journalist O’Donnell’s vivid and meticulously researched debut unearths the hidden history of her maternal grandmother’s flight from East Prussia during WWII and offers key insights into the lives of ordinary Germans under Nazi rule. Before 2006, O’Donnell writes, she knew her grandmother, Inge, as an “aloof, somewhat selfish woman, quick in her criticisms.” But O’Donnell’s visit to Kaliningrad, Russia (formerly Königsberg, Germany), the city where Inge lived until she, her parents, and her infant daughter (O’Donnell’s mother) fled the Soviet Army’s advance in 1945, cracked Inge’s reserve and led to a series of revelations about her family’s “apathy” during Hitler’s rise to power, her early adult years in wartime Berlin; her hardships as a refugee in Denmark and northern Germany; and the secret that doomed her relationship with O’Donnell’s biological grandfather, a soldier captured by the Soviets on the Eastern Front. O’Donnell fills in the gaps in Inge’s memories with investigative reporting, historical research, and imaginative recreations of key moments, delivering an incisive and multilayered account of family trauma, the dangers of nationalism and anti-Semitism, and the plight of refugees. This exceptional account transforms a private tragedy into a universal story of war and survival. Agent: Zoë Pagnamenta, the Zoë Pagnamenta Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/24/2020
Release date: 05/05/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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