This memoir is unlike any others from the World War II era that I've read, and that's a good thing. Marokvia, who is 97 years old, remembers with startling clarity many of the details and events that shaped her life during the war.
A French woman married to a German man, she moves with him to Stuttgart in 1939 at the start of the Nazi invasion of Europe. Her husband, Abel, is drafted, and Marokvia endures a series of moves: she becomes a weaver in Sankt Peter, a farmer in Bergheim, and also lives briefly in some of Germany's major cities. Everywhere she goes, she meets people who are anti-Nazi, but eventually, she is denounced as a spy, and she is monitored by the Gestapo. How she handles daily life under scrutiny is a testament in courage.
Once the war is over, Marokvia recounts her struggles trying to make a new life for herself and Abel in Paris, where they are ultimately rejected because he is German. Despite this, Marokvia ends her memoir on a high note. She and Abel fared better than many others during the war, and she is fully aware of it, making references to an apparent guardian angel that saved her from the worst situations.
What makes this memoir distinctive is that Marokvia allows us to understand what German life was really like during the war. History books tend to portray all Germans of that era as being bloodthirsty Nazi sympathizers. Certainly, Marokvia knew some who were like that. But she met many people who were just trying to eke out a simple existence, and get through the war with as little trouble as possible. These people did not support Hitler or understand why the Nazis were trying to take over Europe. It is these people who Marokvia befriends, and she recalls some of their subtle subversion. One family in Bergheim, for example, quietly listened to the BBC. The punishment for this, if discovered, was death. Marokvia and her husband too, found paths of quiet resistance. Every Nazi defeat was discreetly celebrated. In fact, when the French military arrives at Marokvia's doorstep, she opens the doors wide to greet them, and nearly gets shot in the process.
The major problem with this memoir is, perhaps, the amount of time that has elapsed since then. Marokvia is nearly 100 years old and suffered a stroke. She even says in the memoir that there are many details she could not remember. She started this memoir in 1942, but had to destroy all the papers when the Gestapo came to her door. To be sure, if she had been able to write this earlier, it would be much richer, but for now, what she does remember, even some of the minutest details, is amazing and worth reading.