Book recommendation: Katrin FitzHerbert: True to Both My Selves

Katrin Fitzherbert’s autobiography won a prize for autobiography in 1997. I only heard of it recently and picked it up second-hand. It’s subtitled A Family Memoir of Germany and England in two World Wars.

Here’s the summary from the Virago website:

TRUE TO BOTH MY SELVES is an extraordinary account of a childhood disjointed by country and by war. Curiously mirroring her English grandmother, who married a German hairdresser in London and was then expelled to Germany following the First World War, Katrin Fitzherbert was born in Germany in 1936 and lived under Hitler’s regime until, at the age of eleven, she was suddenly ‘repatriated’ to an England she had never known. There she had to forget her German father and the German language. This is the story of three generations of remarkable women, and their struggle for survival and integrity as individuals in times divided by war.

This is a readable and honest account of some parts of English and German history I know only skeleton facts about – what it was like living through WWII as a child who supported the system and then being told to pretend she had been born in London (for fear of the 1918-type repercussions), that after WWII the English tended to see all Germans as either villains or victims, the psychological pressure when no one in her family had any understanding of what it was like having to hide half of one’s own history.

The blurb on the book says:

Katrin FitzHerbert was born in Germany in 1936. She was educated at fourteen schools in Germany and England and read PPE at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She has been a journalist, an anthropologist, and trained and worked as a psychiatric social worker. She is the founder and director of the National Pyramid Trust, a charity promoting self-esteem and resilience in primary-school children. She is married, has two daughter, and lives in London and Totnes.

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