Book Talk: Inge's War: A German Woman's Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler
“ An extraordinary saga." —David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon.
The mesmerizing account of a granddaughter's search for a World War II family history hidden for sixty years.
About the Book
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.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ 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.”
“ A lyrical, engrossing and essential read.”
—Sathnam Sanghera, author of The Boy with the Topknot
“ A superbly nuanced reclamation of history and family secrets.” —Brian Van Reet, author of Spoils
“ 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.” —PW
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Svenja O'Donnell grew up in Paris with a German mother and an Irish father, before attending university in the UK. As Bloomberg's UK political correspondent, she was awarded the Washington-based National Press Club's Breaking News award in 2017 for her coverage of the Brexit referendum. She has travelled all over the word for assignments and has appeared on BBC, Sky News, and France 24. She holds master's degrees in English and art history from the University of Edinburgh.