In this illuminating and deeply moving memoir, a former American military intelligence officer goes beyond traditional Cold War espionage tales to tell the true story of her family - of five women separated by the Iron Curtain for more than 40 years and their miraculous reunion after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Forty Autumns makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two.
At 20 Hanna escaped from East to West Germany. But the price of freedom - leaving behind her parents, eight siblings, and family home - was heartbreaking. Uprooted, Hanna eventually moved to America, where she settled down with her husband and had children of her own.
Growing up near Washington, DC, Hanna's daughter, Nina Willner, became the first female army intelligence officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Though only a few miles separated American Nina and her German relatives - grandmother Oma; aunt Heidi; and cousin Cordula, a member of the East German Olympic training team - a bitter political war kept them apart.
In Forty Autumns, Nina recounts her family's story - five ordinary lives buffeted by circumstances beyond their control. She takes us deep into the tumultuous and terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences as an intelligence officer running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.
A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love - of five women whose spirits could not be broken and who fought to preserve what matters most: family.
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Great story - couldn't leave it alone
I have always been interested in the history of the GDR, but up till now, it was the political reality (e.g. taylor's The Berlin Wall), but this lovely story brings home the personal impact the Wall had. I loved exploring the human side of this part of history, and would recommend it thoroughly.
tubthumping american propaganda from start to finish, if you want to learn anything about the DDR that you wont find on wikipedia, you will be very very dissapointed
we learnt nothing of her being an intelligence operative in berlin other than she was allowed in and drove a car around a few times and took some sneeky pictures.The authour didnt get cold qwhen writing this, so wrapped up in the stars and stripes as she is, we did learn that the USSR sent Oswald to kill Kennedy,all athletes in east germany were drug cheats (except her relative of course) and basiaclly the east was overthrown by Nena,Elvis,the beatles , Michael Jackson and doubtless the scorpions.The only saving grace of the book was the epilogue, where at least she toucehd on the reality of the west german takeover in the early 90's , with mass redundancies and wholesale asset stripping.The DDR may have been a failed system but at leat people had a stake in it, The west Germans just took it all away for themselves,
the whole family
read a decent book on the DDR not this propaganda
- PAUL C.