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

Gabrielle Robinson

Biography, Memoir, History

Gabrielle loves telling stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context. The most recent of her 6 published books are a memoir/biography The Reluctant Nazi based on her 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 stood up against Jim Crow in the North. 

One reason for her fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical stems from her own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, her family fled the city in 1945. This was the beginning of a string of migrations, boarding schools in Vienna and on the Baltic, small towns and cities in Germany, a move to the US, first Urbana, Illinois where she got a BA in English in 1964, followed by an MA from Columbia University in 1965, and a PhD in Modern Drama in London in 1968. Gabrielle taught at the University of Illinois, Indiana University South Bend, and abroad.

Featured Work

This is my grandfather’s story of bare survival in the devastated Berlin of 1945 as he recorded it every day in his diary. Each entry is a letter to us since we were cut off from any communication. The writing helped to save his life.

It also is my story of how he gave me a loving home in the bleak post-war years, and how, decades later, the diaries revealed that he had been a Nazi.

Find out first hand what life was like for an ordinary German like my grandfather as Berlin fell in 1945. Also see how I, late in life, had to come to terms with being German when I discovered that my grandfather had been a Nazi.


The Reluctant Nazi was chosen by the Notre Dame Review “Editors Select” Spring 2013.

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

My father on his Messerschmitt 109 a few months before his death. “Margit,” my mother’s name, is painted on the fuselage.

I loved riding with my Grandfather as he was visiting patients in 1950. We talked about the trees and the clouds, and he told me stories like the fable of the ant and the grasshopper.