Author's Note

DIVIDED LIVES

Author Cynthia A. CraneDIVIDED LIVES is the product of years of interviews, translations, and research. It was inspired by the experience of my own paternal grandparents in Nazi Germany. Their marriage was labeled a Mischele (mixed marriage) because my grandfather, Felix Cohn, was considered Jewish and "non-Aryan", and my grandmother, Herta Bahlsen, Christian and "Aryan". It did not matter that my grandfather was not Jewish and had his children baptized Christian. My father, Carl Crane, and his siblings were called Mischlinge (half-breeds), and because my father was considered half-Jewish he was beaten daily in school by his Nazi teacher. Eventually, they escaped Nazi Germany. It was my grandmother's personal tales of intrigue and courage that sparked my interest in this subject. Herta Bahlsen-Cohn

In researching DIVIDED LIVES, I spent a great deal of time in Germany interviewing Mischling women whose experiences often mirrored those of my own family. These women are still traumatized by nightmares of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, the loss of a parent and other family members in a concentration camp, and are torn between their Jewish and Christian identity. For some women, this Jewish identity was their lifesaver in post-World War II Germany, as they had to separate themselves from the Germans who were looked upon as Nazis. These Mischlinge, having been persecuted by their own people, wrestle with their conscience in reclaiming their German heritage. Most of the Mischlinge are still searching for a cultural, religious, or national identity as a result of their persecution.Carl Crane Carl Crane

In the past few years, there has been a burgeoning, renewed interest in Germany and the Holocaust. Although there has been a large amount of fine scholarship done on German/Jewish relations and the Holocaust, my topic of Mischlinge, for the most part, has only been treated as an aside. A second-generation American, such as myself, has never covered it from a personal perspective.

I hope that DIVIDED LIVES will inspire you by the strength and courage of the individuals in it, and also serve as a cautionary tale, to remind us of what can transpire when we lose sight of our humanity and our connection to one another.

Thank you for visiting,
Cynthia Crane


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Acknowledgment

This book raises a glass of fine champagne in toast to the spirit of women--the lives they follow, pursue, or endure and the varied tasks they must manage and balance. The women I know are incredible magicians and jugglers. I am indebted to my paternal grandmother, Herta Bahlsen Cohn, whose courage, tenacity, and independent spirit held together her family, got them out of Nazi Germany, and sustained them in America. Without your indomitable spirit, your memoir, and your stories of Nazi Germany, none of this work would have started or meant half as much. And my maternal grandmother, the late Alma Bender Cummins, an angel and great beauty who held us all lovingly in the palm of her hand, kept us in line, and gave generously of her time and energy. Both grandmothers grew up with strong matrilineal lines that continue through the generations. To the women who under fascism had yet another noose around their necks, to those whose spirit shattered under the memories and was never healed. To women of all races, classes, and ethnicities who are or have been “outsiders,” unwittingly or unwillingly forced into outsider status, enduring traumas that no one should have to endure, this book is also for you. (Divided Lives, xi)

 

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