The Evil That Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen

The Evil That Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen

The Evil That Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen

The Evil That Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen

Synopsis

In 1931, Gustav Becker and Erna Kohen married. He was Catholic and she was Jewish. Erna and Gustav had no idea their religious affiliations, which mattered so little to them, would define their marriage under the Nazis. As one of the more than 20,000 German Jews married to an "Aryan" spouse, Erna was initially exempt from the most radical anti-Jewish measures. However, even after Erna willingly converted to Catholicism, the persecution, isolation, and hatred leveled against them by the Nazi regime and their Christian neighbors intensified, and she and their son Silvan were forced to flee alone into the mountains. Through intimate and insightful diary entries, Erna tells her own compelling and horrifying story and reflects on the fortunate escapes and terrible tragedies of her friends and family. The Nazis would exact steep payment for Erna's survival: her home, her family, and ultimately her faithful husband's life. The Evil That Surrounds Us reveals both the great evil of Nazi Germany and the powerful love and courage of her husband, friends, and strangers who risked everything to protect her.

Excerpt

On July 3, 1931, gustav becker and erna kohen married. Gustav was thirty, Erna twenty-five. Photographs of Erna from the 1920s depict a vivacious young woman whose pretty face showed no trace of the strain and solemnity that marked her features in later years. But even then, all was not well. Gustav and Erna married during the Great Depression, and we do not know if the economic misery and political instability that was menacing Germany at the time was already casting a shadow over the couple’s happiness. Perhaps Gustav and Erna resolutely banished all gloomy thoughts that day, secure in the knowledge that they were more fortunate than many, since earlier that year Gustav had found work as an engineer with the radio manufacturer Reinhardt & Co. in Berlin. the newlyweds settled into comfortable bourgeois surroundings in Berlin-Treptow.

The Beckers were new to Berlin. Born in 1901, Gustav hailed from a Catholic family of civil servants in the medium-sized city of Darmstadt in southwestern Germany, where he had also completed his university studies in engineering. Erna was born in 1906 in Cologne. She was the third of five children of assimilated Jewish parents whose families had lived in Germany for generations. When Erna was four years old, her father, Heinrich Kohen, moved his wife and children to Frankfurt am . . .

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