My work explores the impact of history on our lives as we search for identity and a home.
Biographer, Author & Academic
I love telling stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context. The most recent of my 6 published books are a memoir/biography The Reluctant Nazi based on my grandfather’s diaries in Berlin 1945, and Better Homes of South Bend : An American Story of Courage, about African American Studebaker workers in the 1950’s who stand up against Jim Crow in the North.
One reason for my fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical may stem from my own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, my family fled the city in 1945. This was for me the beginning of a string of migrations, boarding schools in Vienna and on the Baltic, a small town near Hamburg, a move to the US, first Urbana, Illinois, then a year in New York, and several in London where I earned a PhD in Modern Drama. I taught at the University of Illinois, Indiana University South Bend, and abroad.
The Reluctant Nazi
Searching for My Grandfather
After my father, an Austrian fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe, was shot down over England, I found a loving home with my grandfather, Api as I affectionately called him. Over 60 years later, I discovered a diary Api had kept in 1945 when he worked as doctor in medical cellars a stone’s throw from the Reichstag. The diary revealed not only the horrors of the fall of Berlin followed by Soviet occupation, but that Api had been a Nazi. This forced me to confront questions of guilt and political responsibility I had evaded all my life.
The Reluctant Nazi was chosen by the Notre Dame Review “Editors Select” Spring 2013.
Media: Interview on WNIT Experience Michiana, July 9, 2013. Featured book on Dinner and a Book WNIT
Some Reader Comments: “I have never experienced the human side of war as I did through your book.” Paula Persen Miller
“I was incredibly moved by the story of Api and yourself.” Derwyn Rokeby-Thomas
“Her memories as a young child caught in World War II Germany, coupled with her grandfather’s struggle to survive war-ravaged Berlin bring human faces to the German side of the war.” Feemaedchen
“Such a remarkable, moving, and totally honest book!..I much appreciated the finely balanced discussion of ‘collective guilt.’ Dafydd Bullock