My work explores the impact of history on our lives as we search for identity and a home.


Gabrielle Robinson

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.

Featured Work


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



Better Homes of South Bend

“An eye opening look at racial issues in America after WW II and up to the present. The author, Gabrielle Robinson, has delved into the Mid-American city of South Bend to study racial problems in housing for African Americans. With the population based around several industrial complexes in the city, the need for good clean affordable housing was an absolute must. A few African American leaders in the community started an effort to make good housing more attainable to the black working population. Read how the city leaders put up barriers to force segregation in housing. This is truly a story of “COURAGE” with a goal in mind and one that was and is attainable.

This is an important read. Small city or big city, problems still exist in housing. Solutions must be discovered for the sake of future generations. Read with an open mind and open heart.”

— DON HALASZ; Goodreads



“The story of the Better Homes of South Bend, a corporation created by determined members of the African American community of South Bend in the 1950s to find a neighborhood they could call their own. Many of its members and leaders came from the South to escape Jim Crow, but Jim Crow could be found in South Bend, too. 

The corporation was very thorough in its process to secure all they needed to buy their own homes. It took time, patience, and cooperation from all involved.

This book also looks at similar situations happening today in South Bend and across the United States. The determination for a safer community, a safe future for everyone’s children, is a universal desire. 

Insightful and powerful. A part of South Bend’s history that cannot be ignored.”

— Carter A.; Goodreads