Inge's War: A German Woman's Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler
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 Königsberg 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.
“The author, a graceful, eloquent writer, follows a trail that sometimes takes her through deeply troubling terrain, and she amply reveals the cruelty and compassion that characterize times of war. Haunting family stories that serve as a metaphor for human suffering everywhere.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Vivid and meticulously researched . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Enlightening and timely . . . This compelling testimonial details the deprivations German citizens faced during the war and reveals a dark part of Danish history . . . [It] deserves a wide audience.” —Booklist (starred)
“Too often the most dramatic, fascinating human stories are lost to history because they are never documented. Thankfully, Svenja O'Donnell has rescued the extraordinary saga of her grandmother, a saga filled with love and betrayal and secrets, a saga that illuminates the nature of war and memory. Using her remarkable skills as a reporter and writer, O'Donnell has recorded this story so meticulously and beautifully that it will remain forever in our consciousness.” —David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z
Hardcover, April 28, 2020