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on 24 July 2000
Christabel Bielenberg's account of her life in Germany from the time of Hitler's extraordinary rise to power and influence to his ultimate downfall makes compelling reading. Born to a wealthy and politically influential Irish/English family Bielenberg marries and commits herself to her husband's country - Germany - five years before the outbreak of World War II. She finds herself caught up in the horrors of Nazi Germany, sustained by her husband's group of friends who, refusing to believe that Hitler speaks for all Germans, work secretly throughout the war to keep alive channels of communication with England. Involved in the July 20th plot of 1944 to assassinate Hitler, Bielenberg's husband is imprisoned, all but sharing the fate of his co- conspirators. The account of his rescue is thrilling reading, but the overall theme of the book is that no nation has a monopoly on good or evil, that humanity and inhumanity co-exist in every race, and that goodness can be found in the most unlikely places. One of my all-time favourite books.
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on 10 January 2004
This is one of the most powerful autobiographies I have read about Nazi Germany, and believe me I have read many. Reading the reviews on Amazon I am amazed though that no one seems to mention (or remember?) the BBC TV series based on Christabel Bielenberg's story. It starred a very young Elizabeth Hurley. When the series hit the tv screens in the eighties it made a big impression on me, not in the least because of the excellent soundtrack. I am very sad to find that the soundtrack nor the series are available on CD/DVD - I have looked everywhere. Christabel Bielenberg sadly died in 2003, but her story is out there, a strong testimony of one of the darkest times in man's history. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 November 2011
I found this book very interesting, as it describes the every day life in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945 as seen by a housewife and a mother of little children - which is a point of view rarely seen.

Now granted, Christabel Bielenberg was not exactly a typical German woman, being born in English aristocracy and becoming a German citizen only after her 1934 marriage to a young lawyer from Hamburg. Together with her husband and almost all their friends they were also fervently anti-Nazi from the beginning - which ultimately led to her husband being investigated and detained by Gestapo in 1944. But even if her point of view was not typical to most of the Germans, she still shared the joys and sorrows of every day life under Nazi regime and her humble and very moderately worded testimony is a very precious and very interesting one. This book is slow paced and sticks to the facts, but still I read it with as much pleasure as if it was a good novel.

There are some particularly interesting moments, like the interrogation of Ms Bielenberg by Gestapo in 1944, or her conversation in a train with a fellow voyager who happened to be a Latvian Waffen SS officer - a tormented man who looked for death on battlefield but instead was just collecting more decorations and promotions... Another particularly interesting chapter is the story of a Nazi party member who was in charge of the building in which Ms Bielenberg and her family lived. Life and personnality of this rather pathetic person are of a great interest for anybody wanting to understand better the phenomenon of Hitler and his regime.

I appreciated this book very much and I will certainly read its continuation, "The road ahead", describing especially the first years of life in occupied Germany after 1945.
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on 25 January 2007
I bought it by chance from an airport bookshop on my way to Sweden, and then could not put it down. When I'd finished it once I read it again, and every few years I come back to it. It will always be kept on my shelf of favourite books. My mother, who had been bombed in Liverpool, particularly enjoyed it. It is not only a joy to read, but it educates in the best possible way, and shows how not all Germans were Nazis, as is commonly assumed nowadays. It starts with Christabel leaving England and marrying into a family of Hamburg lawyers. Their friends, all at the very start of their professional careers as doctors, lawyers, officials etc, are a fun loving bunch, and are quick to express their growing disquiet at the rise of Hitler. As it becomes more dangerous to show dissent, they then have to conform or fall automatically under suspicion, and so they have to juggle carefully between showing loyalty to the regime and their country, and helping their friends in the German Underground movement. The story follows Christabel as she struggles to hold her family together after her husband Peter's arrest by the Gestapo.

So many personal stories from Nazi Germany ended in despair and destruction, but this is not one of them. It is very dark in parts, and the sudden news of her friend Adam's trial and brutal execution as a result of the purge after the July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler is particularly harrowing. Other people's tales are brought in too, such as the SS officer who cannot sleep because of the dreadful things he has done, and the jolly innkeeper who waits for news of her son, destined to leave his bones in Russia. The sheer humanity of this book is so deeply moving but at the same time inspirational. It is the best example of ordinary people struggling to keep their integrity and dignity in the face of not only the institutional cruelty of the 3rd Reich, but also the terrifying Allied bombing of Berlin. They were so lucky to have survived, where so many were swept away, but how lucky for us too, to have this wonderful story handed down to us.
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on 4 August 2000
This is an absolutely wonderful book describing the life of a young English woman living in Germany, mainly Berlin, during the war. Our view of WW2 is coloured by all the propaganda we have read. This book shows that people are just people, at least when they are out of uniform. She lived the same life as any other resident of Germany with all its restrictions and dangers during the war, but no more than everyone else. Hardly the usual view of Hitler's Germany. I have read it twice and am now ordering a copy for a friend.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2015
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Christabel Bielenberg, married a German lawyer in 1934. This is a narrative of an English woman who marries a German in the 1930s and goes to live in Germany. They have children and then the war descends. She lived through the war in Germany, as a German citizen, under the horrors of Nazi rule and Allied bombings. Her husband was closely associated with resistance circles, and he was arrested after the failure of the plot against Hitler's life on 20th July 1944, and she herself was interrogated by the Gestapo. Christabel Bielenberg is a wonderfully observant writer, and she writes about the people she knew and met in a vivid and insightful manner, her story comes fully alive for the reader, for here is a lot to be gleaned here about the German resistance and life under Nazis rule. The reader is given a view of WWII that is relatively unique - that of a woman essentially trapped behind enemy lines and just trying to survive - and keep her family alive - the best way she knows how.

This is a book that interesting and beautifully written book. Christabel Bielenberg was first glimpsed in the media in the award winning series "The World at War" documentary in the 1970s. Her interviews in the series were always interesting and poignant. Also her experiences in World War II were made into the BBC television drama serial, called Christabel in 1988, was adapted by Dennis Potter.
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on 16 February 2013
Bielenberg, a young Anglo-Irish woman married to a German, was stranded in Germany during WWII. Both she and her husband opposed Hitler and all that he stood for, but, like others in their circle, realised that overt opposition to his regime would bring only death. With two young sons to care for, the Bielenbergs had to be careful but tried to help other resisters whilst also maintaining a low profile. When her husband was imprisoned, Christabel showed outstanding courage in the ways she tried to obtain his release. This is a beautifully written book which gives great insight into what it was like to live in Germany throughout the war.
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on 25 May 2015
I have now read this book 3 or 4 times over the years, and this time will be the last.

Maybe I am getting old and jaded, but the words boring and pointless come to mind.

She describes her daily life before and during the war, but most of the time she could well have been a German wife of an Englishman living in England during the war. The mundane reality of ordinary life during a war, together with bombing from above, was apparently not much different, according to the book, from life in England during the same time.

Yes, persecution of the Jews is mentioned, yes one could only talk freely with a known few, and yes there were shortages and a black market. But I learned nothing of the "feeling" of living in Nazi Germany, or even being in a totalitarian dictatorship.

Even the arrest of her husband, and his subsequent eventual release has a blandness to it that is a little disturbing. At times I was wishing she would just scream out loud with the horror of what was going on around her, but no; her life in a small German village could have been anywhere in England.

I admire her husband's support of the resistance against Hitler, and her support of her husband. But the matter of fact description of events generally leaves them in only two dimensions. I feel as though I should be more supportive of her book, and her time in Nazi Germany, but the detachment with which it is written puts me off.

The book is certainly worth reading once, perhaps it would have been better if I had left it at that.

PS Most of my reviews are on Amazon.com
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on 31 January 2008
Memoirs of life inside the wartime Third Reich from an outside perspective are understandably thin on the ground. Christabel Bielenberg's book is precious just for this fact alone. More than this, she tells her story with compassion and some skill, creating an accessible page turner that nevertheless gives valuable insights into everyday life in Nazi Germany and the risks run by those who decided to resist. I bought this book many years ago but find myself re-reading it every year. Its power does not fade with time.
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on 7 March 2009
Having lived and worked in Germany from 1968 to 1993 my father gave me this book with the note that "I wish that everyone you know in Germany could read this".

Perhaps everyone everywhere should read this, for in simple langauge and with uncontrived telling, it shows how good and evil can co-exist anywhere - many a so-called democratic country is today only a hair's breath away from such falls from grace - and especially in the nightmare bureaucratic world that was National Socialist Germany.

Christabel Bielenberg's innocence and naivity and her innate sense that "everything will turn out all right in the end" take her on dangerous paths as her husband is arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated in Berlin, and she and her children make friends with villagers in the Black Forest.

Unlike most of their friends, who ended up beaten to death, hung, or shot against a wall in some German prison, they both lived into late old age and seem to have been rewarded with a happy life - after Germany.

A thrilling read, and it reminds me very much of my own time in that country: many things were unchanged 20 years after the end of the war. And this book should be taught in every school.

RaF
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