Eva & Otto: Resistance, Refugees, and Love in the Time of Hitler

Eva and Otto: Resistance, Refugees, and Love in the Time of Hitler (Paperback)

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 Eva & Otto: Resistance, Refugees, and Love in the Time of Hitler
Purdue University Press
6.00" x 9.00"

Book Description

Eva and Otto is a true story about German opposition and resistance to Hitler as revealed through the early lives of Eva Lewinski Pfister (1910–1991) and Otto Pfister (1900–1985). It is an intimate and epic account of two Germans—Eva born Jewish, Otto born Catholic—who worked with a little-known German political group that resisted and fought against Hitler in Germany before 1933 and then in exile in Paris before the German invasion of France in May 1940. After their improbable escapes from separate internment and imprisonment in Europe, Eva obtained refuge in America in October 1940 where she worked to rescue other endangered political refugees, including Otto, with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt. As revealed in recently declassified records, Eva and Otto later engaged in different secret assignments with the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in support of the Allied war effort. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, Eva and Otto gave each other hope and strength as they acted upon what they understood to be an ethical duty to help others threatened by fascism. The book provides a sobering insight into the personal risks and costs of a commitment to that duty. Their unusually beautiful writing—directed to each other in diaries and correspondence during two long periods of wartime separation—also reveals an unlikely and inspiring love story.

Book Reviews

Pre-Publication Reviews

“Their courage, resourcefulness, love, and unending optimism against all odds is thrilling. This is the American story of the mid-twentieth century.”

—Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation


“This riveting history of the anti-Nazi resistance paints an extraordinary portrait of two people―a Jewish woman and a German man―who fought Hitler and also fell in love. Using the memoirs, diaries, and letters of Eva Lewinski and Otto Pfister, their three children have written the account of their parents’ efforts to undermine Nazism as they risked their lives in Germany, France, and Belgium. An intimate story about Germans and Jews opposing the same horrific enemy, this book adds a whole new dimension to Holocaust literature. This is a moving love story and an important history made human at the grassroots level.”

—Marion A. Kaplan, author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany


“This is a book for every student and every teacher. I had the privilege of being one of Eva’s high school students from 1969–1971, and our friendship continued. As she wrote, she ‘related to kids’ because she liked and respected them. She inspired us to learn, and she responded to me and other teens from her deep well of experience. She nurtured every interest in the bigger things in life: purpose, service to others, and appreciation for the anchors of nature, spirit, music, poetry. At the time, I did not know much detail about her remarkable early life with Otto. But how we all benefited! I am grateful that this history has been told and will be preserved. I am deeply touched and inspired.”

—Carol Larson, President and CEO, David and Lucile Packard Foundation


Eva and Otto is a moving story of resistance and love told largely through the correspondence of Eva Lewinski and Otto Pfister. It provides a rare view into what it can mean personally to dedicate oneself wholeheartedly to a struggle against tyranny. Eva and Otto’s love for each other sustained them as they suffered long separations, danger, and imprisonment to fulfill their mission. Their longing to marry and create a family existed in tension with the rigorous ethic of the tightly knit resistance group of which they were a part and their commitment to carrying out anti-Nazi activities until Hitler was defeated. The extraordinary job that Eva and Otto’s children have done in tracking down the documents needed to tell their parents’ story also illuminates a little-known chapter in the history of the fight to rid the world of Nazism.”

—John F. Sears, PhD, author of Eleanor Roosevelt, Refugees, and the Founding of Israel and former Executive Director of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute


“The authors have done a superb job in supplementing their parents’ letters and diaries using their own rigorous research, and the story progresses in a way that is historically interesting and emotionally satisfying.”

—Susan Elisabeth Subak, author of Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis


“Eva Lewinski and Otto Pfister courageously devoted themselves, over a period of years, to combating Nazism, while carefully nurturing a deep, life-sustaining love for one another. Their intermingled life stories, ably contextualized by the authors of this book, provide readers with a moving, richly documented, real-life drama, lovingly presented and thoroughly researched.”

—Jack Jacobs, author of Jews and Leftist Politics: Judaism, Israel, Antisemitism, and Gender


About the Author(s):

Tom Pfister was a partner at the law firm of Latham & Watkins, LLP, where he practiced in its Los Angeles office for over thirty years before retiring. He currently serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and provides pro bono legal advice for them. Tom received his AB from Stanford University (majoring in history and German), and spent a year of study with Stanford programs in Germany. He received his JD from Harvard Law School.

Kathy Pfister is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Amherst, Massachusetts. For many years, she worked as a therapist in the Counseling Service at Mount Holyoke College. During that time, she also served as a member of the adjunct faculty at the Smith College Graduate School of Social Work. Kathy received her AB from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of California, Berkeley.

Peter Pfister was a partner at the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, where he practiced in its San Francisco office for over 40 years. He previously served as chairman of that firm, and is currently a senior counsel. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Peter spent a year in the Education Abroad program at the University of Göttingen, Germany. He received his JD from Yale Law School.​