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Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany
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Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  810 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
Marthe Cohn was a beautiful young Jewish woman living just across the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. Her family sheltered Jews fleeing the Nazis, including Jewish children sent away by their terrified parents. But soon her homeland was also under Nazi rule. As the Nazi occupation escalated, Marthe’s sister was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. The rest of ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Broadway Books (first published December 3rd 2002)
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In writing a review for a different book about female spies during WWI, I remembered having read this book back in 2003. This is a fascinating true story of Marthe Cohn, a French Jewish spy in Nazi Germany during WWII. I highly recommend this book.
Aug 30, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
This is the fascinating memoir of a young French-Jewish woman who survives the Holocaust because of her quick wits, her Aryan looks, and a forged identification card. After Paris is liberated (about halfway through the book), the reader discovers the reason for the book's title: Marthe -- who was raised in the Alsace Lorraine area and is fluent in both French and German -- decides to work as a spy in German-occupied territory.

She recalls so many details that this book is a stunning, albeit horri
Terri Lynn
What a fascinating book! Marthe Cohn was a 19 year old French Jew when her family had to abandon their home and business to run from Nazi Germans who were invading their country. A pacifist who had enough hope and optimism to think problems could be averted if only the French and Germans sat down and talked it over, she was shocked at what the Germans would soon do to both Jewish and non-Jewish French.

Her family was close knit though the father had a past that made it difficult for him to be tr
Jan 22, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Hoffnung Gutgluck as a surname certainly fits. This is Marthe Cohn's birth family's name. It means Hope and Good Luck. Her story is phenomenal and close to unbelievable for the number of times she skirted death before she was 25. And her life after the war, those first 6 years afterwards when she was in the French Army- those are as dicey! Maybe more. Not only in Europe but in Indochine (Saigon).

Not even 5 feet tall and weighing between 94-100 lbs. IMHO her appearance was deceiving to a exponent
Alan Cook
Jul 16, 2013 Alan Cook rated it it was amazing
Marthe Cohn is in her nineties now and has never hit five feet, but she played a major role in the final year of World War II, spying for the French troops in Germany. The fact that she grew up in Metz, France, speaking flawless French and German was a big help to her, and the atrocities she experienced that got members of her family and friends tortured and killed motivated her to action. Spy stories don't get more exciting than this one, especially since it's true. Faced with death many times, ...more
Susan Weinberg
Dec 31, 2012 Susan Weinberg rated it it was amazing
Fascinating memoir of Marthe Cohn's wartime experiences as a French Jew who spoke fluent German. Blonde and blue-eyed she was able to pass as a German and serve as a spy. She also hid her Jewish background as she served in the military. She tells the story of her family during the war and the ways in which their lives were touched, including the murder of her sister and the execution of her fiance. The story reads like a thriller and showed a different perspective of war time experience than one ...more
Jan 14, 2009 Kellie rated it really liked it
I could not put this book down. Reading this book was more like watching a movie, the descriptions were incredible and had so much detail I thought I was witnessing the events. Usually I have a hard time with books such as this, the people tend to come off as too good to be true, this was not the case with this book. Marthe was good and did a lot of heroic and selfless things, but she also proved to be human and made mistakes and wasn't afraid to admit them.
Feb 08, 2016 Clarice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Mrs Cohn came to speak in Park City, UT, which is why I wanted to finish this book. I didn't make it to her event, but this book chronicles her life during the war, and she is an amazing woman.
May 19, 2017 Sarah rated it liked it
A brave woman. An interesting memoir. After losing her beloved fiancé and her sister and having her family torn apart and scattered across Europe during WWII, young French Jew Marthe accepts the offer to to assist the French Resistance. Blonde, blue eyed and fluent in German, she boldly went behind enemy lines and posed as a German civilian searching for her fictional German-soldier fiancé. She was able to witness and gain critical information on the movement of German troops towards France. She ...more
Lisa Jason
Jan 01, 2017 Lisa Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Amazing Memoir

This is an amazing memoir by an incredibly brave and humble woman. I read this for a book club and it gives much fodder for discussion. Marthe Hoffnung Cohn shows us that anyone can be brave & valiant in the right circumstances. Her story leading to, through, and after WWII as a French Jewish nurse and is inspiring and miraculous. And it had a happy ending.
P.S. Winn
Jun 17, 2017 P.S. Winn rated it it was amazing
Amazing story of courage and survival during a horrible time in history. Marthe Cohn, a jewish girl caught up in the circumstances of WW !!. We should all read this story and remember what happened to prevent it from happening again.
Ronnie Gabriel
May 28, 2017 Ronnie Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book

I could not stop reading this story. I would put it down to do something and the book would draw me back into this remarkable story. Wow!
Juliet Viswanathan
May 05, 2017 Juliet Viswanathan rated it it was amazing
A truly harrowing tale of an incredible woman!
Dec 08, 2014 Relstuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book about an ugly time. A book not about the war, but about a French Jewish girl and her family, in a time of war.

Early in the book the author (Marthe) talks about a neighbor girl calling her a "dirty Jew". Her response was to tell her that she bathed every day and then when the girl repeated her insult she smashed the bag of eggs she was carrying on her head. The author of this memoir was a young blonde girl at the start of WWII who lived in Northern France with her Jewish family.
Gi Fo
Mar 11, 2017 Gi Fo rated it it was amazing
Another great book and true story of heroism during WW2 and the struggles of one Jewish family in France during the Nazi occupation, how they survived and helped others in the process.
Lisa Jason
Feb 23, 2017 Lisa Jason rated it really liked it
We read this for a book club and it did not disappoint. The story of this young French Jewish woman and what the stress & injustice of a war did to bring out a boldness and bravery in her, is quite the story. Needless to say, it engendered an excellent discussion. This is a fantastic, almost unbelievable, memoir of an amazing life. If that sounds appealing, do read it.
Jan 18, 2008 Kevin rated it really liked it
Wow. This lady had unbelievable guts. This is a war story everyone ought to read. It details the wartime experience of Marthe Cohn, a Jewish woman of binational French-German heritage who grew up in the Alsace region of Northeastern France, who in the end was able to put her bilingual skills and her incredible at the service of Allied intelligence by making espionage forays into the Nazi Germany itself. The first part of the story tells of the tightening of the noose on Jewish families in occupi ...more
Mar 07, 2015 Pauline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, wwii, read-aloud
An intense and engaging book. A must-read! This is one of our read-aloud books & it is perfectly suited for that. It is written in such an engaging & descriptive format that we feel we are walking along with Marte Cohn, a young Jewish woman, her family & friends. I'm thankful that some in this war generation are telling their stories, lest they be lost forever. We must never forget! Beware: it's a book you get emotionally sucked into as you read of their brave moves to protect the fa ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
So many people risked their lives during World War II to do their part. Marthe Cohn was one of those amazing women. I was fortunate to meet in her person because she lives nearby, and hearing this 93-year-old woman calmly describe some of her experiences was inspiring. That is what amazes me about this story and others like this--it is all true. This isn't some fictional world she imagined. The title is a bit misleading--only a portion of the book is actually about her time spying. This book giv ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii, non-fiction
This was well written, much like a historical fiction book in that it included conversations as if they only happened yesterday and not lifetime's of yesterdays ago. The story was told with a beginning, middle and ending which is hard to do as you recall events from long ago. This made the story itself much easier to read and understand.
Since I was a kidling in middle school, I have read every book I can get my hands on with any reference to the Holocaust. It is almost as if I have to witness t
Dec 09, 2012 Neeta rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of a young Jewish woman, Marthe, and her family living in France prior to and during WWII. She describes the growing anti-Semitism in the 1930's. The Germans invaded Poland and more eastern European countries prior to invading France, and the French Jews never had a clear picture of just how bad things were in those countries. They thought the Germans were too civil to take over France. But eventually Marthe's family has to go into hiding when the German's invade France and a ...more
Jan 04, 2017 Jacquelyn rated it it was amazing
Marthe was encouraged to record her extraordinary life during WWII. A story she admits she didn't share with many because they would have thought she was making it all up. Her maiden name was Hoffnung Gutgluck --which means Hope and Good Luck, something that helped her along the way. "People are intolerant because they are frightened by what they don't understand or deem different. You must never judge a person by his religion, skin color, or beliefs. If someone needs help, you never ask his or ...more
Pat Jorgenson Waterchilde
Apr 05, 2016 Pat Jorgenson Waterchilde rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely fascinating memoir! As a lover of anything historical, I am astounded by the bravery of men and women who faced overwhelming odds and struggles of survival during the world's cruelest times. WWII and the Nazis reign of terror against the Jewish people was one of those times. Marthe, a French Jew, lived through the Nazis occupation of France, face numerous difficulties of war, became a spy for the French as the war was ending and was morally braver than most. What a story and t ...more
Linda K
Jul 17, 2011 Linda K rated it liked it
I am forever amazed at what people during World War II endured and lived to tell about. This true story reveals the life of a French Jewish woman and her family. Trained as a nurse, Marthe Cohn was full of an heroic boldness that saved herself and much of her family, as the Nazi occupation pushed them out of their homes, seeking refuge further south in France. As the war neared the end, Marthe served with the French First Army, aiding the allied commanders in troop movements and plans of the ene ...more
Apr 14, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marthe Cohn was in her late teens when Hitler was rising to power. Living across the German border in Alsace-Lorraine, her family began taking in Jews who were fleeing the Nazis, as well as the Jewish children being sent away by terrified parents. Soon her own homeland was under Nazi rule, and she and her parents, brothers, and sisters were forced to live the restricted lives of all Jews. As the Nazi occupation of France escalated along with the war, Marthe' s sister was arrested and eventually ...more
Jan 30, 2017 Sfahrney rated it liked it
Another real story of what an ordinary person can accomplish when passionately roused. Marthe was a Jew in France and her family was caught up in Hitler's insanity. Not only Marthe but her close circle and family found many ways to actively resist the oncoming destruction of their faith, culture, beliefs and humanity. One has to celebrate the strength and commitment to push oneself beyond the comfort zone into action and action into heroism. Timely for today as American values and beliefs are be ...more
Aug 25, 2016 Katie rated it really liked it
WOW. I really enjoyed this book. It was very captivating and brought tears to my eyes many times. I thought it would be filled with lots of military stuff and therefore wasn't sure I'd like it but the first 2/3 of the book were just about surviving as a Jew during the war. Her work as an intelligence agent and field nurse in the last third proved to be very interesting as well. I found this book as interesting and fascinating as The Nightingale and loved that it was actually a work of nonfiction ...more
Carole Sustak
May 10, 2016 Carole Sustak rated it it was amazing
A very well presented history of the life of the author Marthe Cohn as a Jewess during her childhood and into her late twenties. In an attempt to find her sister, who was taken from their home late one night, and to support the French in their war against the Nazi invasion, Marthe inadvertently took on the role of intelligence provider for the French military. This one time agreement led into an extensive service to her country and provision of intelligence support that helped France significant ...more
Aug 14, 2010 Suellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It didn't hurt that the author is the mother-in-law of one of our book club members and that she was there to talk to us. That being said, it's an amazing story ... especially when you see her in person.

She also spoke at church:

She was likely in Paris at the same time as one of Bob's relatives, who was in the Resistance and was shot as the Germans were leaving. The word was passed from window to window.

At the family church in St. Germain des Pres, bullet h
Donna Herrick
Nov 29, 2016 Donna Herrick rated it it was amazing
First, a tale of amazing resolve and bravery and intelligence.
Second, a tale about finding your strength and purpose in life, of making yourself of use and of being true to yourself.
Third, a story about WWII from the vantage point of the French Army and about French interests after the war, a viewpoint that we seldom hear in the United States.
Fourth, a story of successful, but costly resistance to Nazi tyranny.
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