A woman comes to terms with her family’s dark Nazi past in this memoir from the author of Nine and a Half Weeks—A moving and profound exploration of the legacy of war and hate on an individual life.
Born in Austria at the height of Word War II, Ingeborg Day grew up knowing little about the early years of her life. When she came to America in 1957 as an exchange student, she heard for the first time references to Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust, topics that were forbidden in her homeland and her own house.
Day married an American and stayed in the U.S. permanently, a separation that created great physical and psychological distance between herself and her father— a Nazi nobody, an out-of-work locksmith’s apprentice who ended up joining the Austrian army, where his musical talents blossomed in a military band. An early member of the Nazi Party, he was automatically incorporated into the SS after the Anschluss in 1938. But with the fall of the Third Reich, he refused to speak of the past, determined to remain silent.
Ghost Waltz, Day’s astonishing and beautiful memoir, tells of her efforts to understand the legacy of her Austrian past—one of unbearable horror mixed with ordinary human patrimonies of family loyalty and affection. Moving back and forth in time, from 1980s New York to World War I Austria under Kaiser Franz Josef, she illuminates her country’s painful modern history as well as her own memories of the war, of the Russian and English occupations, and of the strangely silent 1950s. Day confronts the question whether and how she was bequeathed a legacy of unvoiced anti-Semitism, an inheritance that Ghost Waltz eloquently repudiates and dispels.