Review by Chastity Campbell

Director: Liz Garbus
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen Color/Black & White
Studio: A&E
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: July 29th, 2003

Film ***

Germany, Austria and Poland in the late 1930s and early 1940s were not among the safest places to be if you were of Jewish descent.   During my lifetime I have heard hundreds of stories that retell the horrible and utterly despicable treatment of the Jews during WWII.  This DVD is one that will enlighten, surprise, and educate you all at the same time.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is exactly what its title implies, and yet goes completely against the grain of what you think it will be.   I know the term Nazi evokes fear and disgust in a lot of places around the world, but if you take the time to watch this documentary, you will be given one of the most unique and individual perspectives I’ve ever seen regarding this era in history. 

Mrs. Edith Hahn Beer is a very wonderful and amazing woman in my opinion.   Edith was born in Vienna, Austria on January 24, 1914.   Her father Leopold served in World War I and came home shortly after the end of the war to open a restaurant.   Edith and her family were Jewish, and lived a fairly nice life with very few complications.   They were happy and loved their country.  

The family according to Edith was not very active religiously, however they were not immune to the Anti-Semitic references being made about the culture of their people.

As an adult, Edith attended the University attempting to obtain a law degree.  She had hopes, and aspirations of someday becoming a judge.   She was an intellectual, concerned with society’s flaws and how to make them better.  She was also living inside of a ticking time bomb that would soon go off and shatter everything about the world she was living in.

A&E did an astonishing job with the story this woman had to tell.  Like so many of their other documentaries, this one is put together very well.   Each section of this DVD builds upon the other, with facts and very detailed information.   The still photographs combined with the stock footage of World War II Europe paints a very vivid mental picture that helps you follow this woman on her incredible journey.

Susan Sarandon’s soft tones and gentle voice guide you through the highs and lows that Mrs. Hahn faced as she went from college student, to slave laborer to fugitive, in less that two years.   Edith’s letter’s to Pepe, her first love, are narrated by herself, and cross faded with the voice of Julia Ormond to give them a youthful touch and connect the two time periods.  

I think both Susan Sarandon and Julia Ormond were very nicely suited to the task of bringing this story forward.   I believe the cross fading of Julia’s voice with Edith’s was eerily realistic as though it was Edith herself as a young girl reading the letters.  

As a fugitive from the Nazis in World War II Austria, Edith was on the run and running out of time.  Through a series of chance encounters, she was brought into contact with people who gave her a new identity, and set her on the course that led to the man she would marry.   A Nazi sympathizer and soon to be enlisted man who would make Edith Hahn, an Austrian born Jew, The Nazi Officer’s Wife.  

This DVD, like so many others from A&E contains so much information that simply watching it one time will not be enough.   I think everyone could benefit from seeing this woman’s amazing story unfold.  No verbal explanation will be able to do this story justice, so pick it up today.  I promise you will not be sorry you did.

Video ***

This DVD, presented in a 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen Format, contained some of the cleanest and most vivid images I have had the pleasure of viewing.   A lot of stock footage and black and white photos were used which contained quite a bit of dirt and grain.  This, however, helped to create a mental connection between present day and the 1940s.  There’s really is very little that can be done with prints and film footage that are as old as these were, however the footage shot in modern times of Mrs. Hahn, and some of the image collages done with old photographs, were visually stunning.

Audio **

All of the audio on this disc was clean and easy to understand.   The Dolby Digital Stereo mix was blended nicely and contained hardly any errors at all.  The voiceovers by Susan Sarandon and Julia Ormond were also good balanced with the rest of the overall audio on the DVD.  

The only thing that I had a slight problem with was the interviewer.  If you are going to ask questions of someone you are interviewing, use a microphone.   It was obvious that the questions were being picked up by a microphone Mrs. Hahn was wearing or a boom microphone that was positioned completely out of range to capture the interviewer’s voice.  

Features (zero stars)

There were no features with this DVD.


While this DVD lacks the lavish packaging and feature filled sections we have all become accustomed to, it makes up for all this by giving you a very detailed and unique perspective of world history through the eyes of a true survivor.   For world history buffs, this is definitely a must see.   As for those less inclined toward historical information, give it a chance, because it’s definitely an eye opener.