Cover image for My wounded heart : the life of Lilli Jahn, 1900-1944
My wounded heart : the life of Lilli Jahn, 1900-1944
Doerry, Martin.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Mein verwundetes Herz. English
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 269 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map, portraits ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.G5 J36413 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



An international sensation already sold in fifteen languages, this heartbreaking collection of recently discovered letters captures the destruction not only of a life but also of an entire nation.

Born in 1900 to wealthy Jewish parents, Lilli Jahn stood firmly among the German bourgeoisie. A doctor by training, she married a young Protestant physician. Her husband divorced her in 1942, after sixteen years of marriage and five children, leaving her with no means of supporting her family (Jews were no longer allowed to practice medicine), and no protection from the dangers to come. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, Lilli perished in Auschwitz in 1944.

My Wounded Heart is a collection of three-hundred-odd letters between Lilli, her children, and their circle of friends, extending from the mid-1930s to just before her death. Full of everyday details of life from both Lilli and her correspondents, these extraordinary letters are both informative and moving. In the end, we are witness to her daughter's attempts to meet her mother, even though it means going into the labor camp itself, and Lilli's courage in the face of her inevitable end.

Introduced by and with narrative commentary from Lilli's grandson, My Wounded Heart is a literary and historic work on par with the wartime diaries of Anne Frank and Victor Klemperer.

Author Notes

Martin Doerry is Lilli Jahn's grandson and the editor in chief of Der Spiegel magazine. He studied German literature and history in T#65533;bingen and Z#65533;rich and completed his Ph.D. in modern history.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Lilliahn, a Germanewish doctor, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and sent to the Breitenau Corrective Labor Camp; she died in Auschwitz in 1944. This book is\b a collection of 300 letters between Lilli, her four daughters, her son, and a few of their friends from the mid-1930s to just before her death. About 250 of the letters were written by Lilli's children to her in 1943 and 1944. Other letters in the collection were written by Lilli to the children, most of them mailed illicitly. The children were compelled to witness their mother's slow and agonizing degradation. They sent her parcels of whatever they managed to scrape together in the way of food and clothes. The letters convey a graphic picture of the stigmatization, isolation, and persecution to which she and her children were gradually subjected. Their correspondence also reveals the human indifference in wartime and bears witness to devotion and the courage of one's convictions. A chilling reminder ofewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis. --George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

By the time the Gestapo arrested Dr. Lilli Jahn in 1943, she had been forced to stop practicing medicine, ostracized by her German neighbors in Immenhausen and divorced by her non-Jewish husband, Ernst, after he'd had a child with a fellow doctor whom he subsequently married. Confined to her home, Lilli found joy in her five children until her deportation. One of the most unusual stories to come out of the Holocaust, Lilli's tale is told largely through letters she wrote, dating from her courtship with Ernst in 1923 through her final 1944 letter from Auschwitz ("I'm well, I'm working at my profession," she writes in the censored message), and from more than 250 letters from her children between 1943 and 1944, when Lilli was incarcerated at a forced labor camp in Breitenau. Its graphic depiction of the fate of Jews in so-called "privileged" mixed marriages and the way national politics affected domestic life make this a valuable addition to the Holocaust canon. The children's letters detail their daily activities. For her part, Lilli had only one goal: "I'm being careful and my one thought is to come back to you fit and well and, I hope, soon." Doerry, Lilli's grandson and editor of the German magazine Der Spiegel, could easily have turned this into a maudlin and melodramatic story. Instead, he has wisely chosen to let the letters speak for themselves, confining himself to inserting details and filling in historical information where necessary. The result is a heartbreaking story that powerfully illustrates love's power to wound-and to heal. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Mar. 18) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Of the many Holocaust memoirs published today, this book differs in that it is about a woman who did not survive. Doerry, deputy editor in chief of Der Spiegel and grandson of Lili Jahn, weaves together over 300 letters between Lili and her friends, husband, and children over a period of 25 years. These letters show a vibrant intellectual who struggled to keep her family together through political and personal tragedy. In the introduction the author asks why, with the many Holocaust memoirs already published, Lili's story should be told at all. In fact, the letters offer a view into everyday life in Germany both before and during the war, including the effect of German racial laws on individuals and their families. Most important, this book puts a human face on what many of those in the German-Jewish bourgeoisie experienced during the Nazi regime; loss of profession, freedom, identity, hope, and finally life itself. An essential purchase for all Holocaust collections in public and academic libraries.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll., Painesville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.