STEPS OF COURAGE

My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America

THIS SWEEPING LOVE STORY HAS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE:

  • FORBIDDEN ROMANCE in HITLER’S GERMANY
  • THE DANGERS of being a JEWISH MISCHLINGE (mixed blood)
  • BAD NAZIS and even a ‘GOOD’ ONE
  • EXTREME MOUNTAINEERING
  • THE IMPACT of NAZISM on SCIENCE and MUSIC
  • THE AMERICAN IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE
  • LIFE in THE ATOMIC CITY of LOS ALAMOS during the COLD WAR
  • and SUBSEQUENTLY in SANTA FE and more…

When I opened up an old, dusty leather suitcase a few years ago, little did I expect to find a treasure trove of over 500 love letters between my parents written during their courtship from 1934 to 1938. Their romance coincided with the rise of Hitler and growing anti-Semitism in Germany, events that profoundly shaped their lives.

Inspired by translating these letters from the German as well as my discovery of untapped German archives, I began to write STEPS OF COURAGE: My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America. A highly personal narrative intermingled with historical events, my book plays out against some of the most significant markers of the 20th century: Hitler’s Germany, the American immigrant experience and finally, ever-growing nuclear threats of the Cold War.

In 1934, my father, a handsome world record-holding mountaineer and aspiring physicist, falls in love with my mother, a stunning widow whose husband was murdered by the Nazis. Racial laws prohibit their marriage but in a rare exception and with the direct assistance of Hitler’s personal assistant (a ‘good’ Nazi), they manage to wed and flee Germany. In America, my parents were considered enemy aliens and faced different adversities; ironically, they are later recruited to the most secret place of all, the Atomic City of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Steps of Courage is a tale of love, terror, and adventure that features heroes and villains. It covers the status of Mischlinge (part-Jews) in Hitler’s Germany and the nazification of extreme mountaineering, scientific research, and musical life. When my parents immigrate to America, they face a new set of challenges. In their unique journey, they befriend such icons as cellist Pablo Casals, conductor Wilhelm Furtwangeler, Eleanor Roosevelt, singer/actor Paul Robeson, painter Georgia O’Keefe and several Nobel-prize-winning physicists. But above all, in Steps of Courage you will read a universal and timeless story of courage.

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Steps of Courage by Bettina Hoerlin

2nd edition published by AuthorHouse 12/5/2012
ISBN: 978-1-4634-2618-7(sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4634-2619-4(hc)
ISBN: 978-1-4634-2617-0(ebk)
Library of Congress Control Number : 2011910629

Read an Excerpt

Also Published in German:

COURAGE Im Schatten des Nanga Parbat 1934: Die wahre Geschichte des Bergsteigers Hermann Hoerlin und einer lebensgefaehrlichen Liebe
published by Tyrolia Verlag, Innsbruck 2014
ISBN 978-3-7022-336-5 (gedrucktes Buch)
ISBN 978-3-7022-3361-7 (E-Book)

BOOK TRAILER

This is, ultimately, a book about marriage—not only of the two remarkable people who happen to have been Bettina Hoerlin's parents, but also the marriage of the political and the personal, the inextricable effect of their lives on the great events that shaped our last century and that continue to shape who we are today. Commencing with the terrors of Nazi Germany, and culminating in the specter of nuclear war at Los Alamos, Steps of Courage is that rare thing—a personal narrative that is at the same time historically significant and utterly spellbinding.

KATHRYN DAVISAuthor of The Thin Place and winner of the 2006 Lannan Literary Award

Bettina Hoerlin's Steps of Courage is a story of love, adventure and terror. That alone makes it a wonderful read. The fact that every word of it is true, set against pre-war Nazi Germany, makes it even more special. Add to it the perspective from which it is told—a daughter discovering the incredible mystery of her parents—and you have something extraordinary.

BUZZ BISSINGERPulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of Father's Day and Friday Night Lights

This moving and elegant memoir by the daughter of Herman Hoerlin, one of the leading German alpinists of his time, vividly recalls the "golden age of mountaineering" in the Alps, Himalayas and Andes and recounts one man's brave effort to resist the nazification of German climbing institutions in the 1930s.

STEWART WEAVERProfessor of History at the University of Rochester and co-author (with Maurice Isserman) of Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes

...vibrant, engaging book about remarkable people...they come vividly to life. A joyous and loving tribute to their lives.

LUCIE PRINZFormer staff editor, The Atlantic

Features & Interviews

  • A VALENTINE’S DAY LOVE STORY FOR THE AGESCHESTNUT HILL LOCAL
    Author’s parents survived barbarism of Nazis…one of the most compelling love stories you will ever read. But it is so much more – a real life political thriller, a rendezvous with history, a tale of moral courage in the face of the most despicable evil, murder….
  • NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: RADIO TIMES with Marty Moss-Coane
    Tune in to this lively hour-long interview (July 2, 2012) and discover how Bettina feels about discovering her Jewish background, as well as the threats against her parents in Nazi Germany.