Catherine EhrlichFeb 21, 2022
One Woman, Two World Wars, and a Legacy of Courage
She Writes Press 2021
In Irma's Passport: One Woman, Two World Wars, and a Legacy of Courage (She Writes Press, 2021), Catherine Ehrlich explores her Austrian grandparents’ influential lives at the crossroads of German and Jewish national movements. Weaving her grandmother Irma’s spellbinding memoirs into her narrative, she profiles a charismatic woman who confronts history with courage and rebuilds lives—for herself and Europe’s dispossessed.
Starting out in Bohemia’s picturesque countryside, Irma studies languages in Prague alongside Kafka and Einstein—and so joins Europe’s intelligentsia. Tension builds as World War I destroys that world, and Irma marries prominent Zionist, Jakob Ehrlich, bold advocate for Vienna’s 180,000 Jews. Irma’s direct words detail the weeks after Hitler’s arrival when Adolf Eichmann himself appears to liberate Irma and her son from Vienna.
Irma’s stunning turnaround in London unfolds amidst a dazzling cohort of luminaries—Chaim and Vera Weizmann, and Viscountess Beatrice Samuel among them. Irma finds her voice as an activist, saving lives and resettling refugees, and ultimately moves on to New York where her work resumes among high-profile friends like Catskills hostess Jennie Grossinger.
Jane Scimeca is Professor of History at Brookdale Community College