The Evil That Surrounds Us

The Evil That Surrounds Us

The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen
Edited by Kevin P. Spicer and Martina Cucchiara
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/01/2017
ISBN: 978-0-253-02990-4
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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.

Author Bio

Erna Becker-Kohen (1906–1987), a German Catholic of Jewish heritage, survived on the run in Hitler’s Germany.

Martina Cucchiara is Assistant Professor of History at Bluffton University in Ohio.

Esther-Maria Nägele is the granddaughter of Erna Becker-Kohen. She studied geography at the University of Cologne.

Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., is James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College. He is author of Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism and Resisting the Third Reich: The Catholic Clergy in Hitler’s Berlin and editor of Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust.


“The Evil That Surrounds Us provides invaluable information and insights into the countless acts of discrimination and persecution, the slights and the life-endangering situations that "outsiders" in the Nazi regime faced on a daily basis. A mesmerizing look into one woman's experience of the Holocaust.”
 — Beth A. Griech-Poelle, author of Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

“A gripping memoir, beautifully translated, introduced, and annotated. The story of a woman and child trying to save their lives by running from the Nazis in the middle of mountains, snow, and loneliness is worth telling, but add to that the Catholic husband who is punished for staying married to a (racial) Jew—this is a story we have rarely read.”
 — Marion Kaplan, editor of Gender and Jewish History

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Table of Contents

Diary of Erna Becker-Kohen