Cover image for Enemies in love : a German POW, a black nurse, and an unlikely romance
Enemies in love : a German POW, a black nurse, and an unlikely romance
Physical Description:
xvi, 251 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Elinor -- Frederick -- Fighting Hitler and Jim Crow -- German POWs in the United States -- Prisoners and nurses -- A forbidden romance -- End of war -- An uncertain future -- Searching for acceptance -- Finally home.
This is the nonfiction love story of Elinor Powell, an African American army nurse, and Frederick Albert, a German prisoner of war. The two met when black army nurses were put in regular contact with German POWs who were detained in the United States during World War II, an unlikely and little-discussed circumstance during one of the most documented periods in history. --


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Book 920 CLA 1 1
Book 920 CLA 1 1

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A "New & Noteworthy" selection of The New York Times Book Review

"Alexis Clark illuminates a whole corner of unknown World War II history."
--Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci

"[A]n irresistible human story. . . . Clark's voice is engaging, and her tale universal."
--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power and American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

A true and deeply moving narrative of forbidden love during World War II and a shocking, hidden history of race on the home front

This is a love story like no other: Elinor Powell was an African American nurse in the U.S. military during World War II; Frederick Albert was a soldier in Hitler's army, captured by the Allies and shipped to a prisoner-of-war camp in the Arizona desert. Like most other black nurses, Elinor pulled a second-class assignment, in a dusty, sun-baked--and segregated--Western town. The army figured that the risk of fraternization between black nurses and white German POWs was almost nil.

Brought together by unlikely circumstances in a racist world, Elinor and Frederick should have been bitter enemies; but instead, at the height of World War II, they fell in love. Their dramatic story was unearthed by journalist Alexis Clark, who through years of interviews and historical research has pieced together an astounding narrative of race and true love in the cauldron of war.

Based on a New York Times story by Clark that drew national attention, Enemies in Love paints a tableau of dreams deferred and of love struggling to survive, twenty-five years before the Supreme Court's Loving decision legalizing mixed-race marriage--revealing the surprising possibilities for human connection during one of history's most violent conflicts.

Author Notes

Previously an editor at Town & Country magazine, Alexis Clark is a freelance journalist who has written for the New York Times, Yahoo, The Root, Condé Nast Traveler, and other publications. An alumna of Spelman College, Clark holds master's degrees from the University of Virginia and Columbia Journalism School, where she's currently an adjunct professor. She lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this engaging yet unfulfilling narrative expanded from a New York Times article, journalist Clark narrates the almost inconceivable romance between Elinor Powell, an African-American army nurse, and Frederick Albert, the German prisoner of war she met during World War II. Where this book shines is in its stark depiction of racism in pre- and post-war America. Elinor, who finished near the top of her nursing school class, comes face to face with racial prejudice in the South, a sharp contrast to her privileged Northern upbringing. While serving in Arizona, she meets Frederick, a jazz-loving painter who, though a soldier and a member of the Hitler Youth, "was never indoctrinated into Hitler's racist system." Clark excels at placing this unlikely interracial romance in context as a shocking rarity, but her depiction of Elinor and Frederick's relationship feels lacking-undoubtedly due to their "private, even reticent" natures and Clark's inability to access firsthand material. Interviews and research paint a picture of a couple stoically coping with racism, financial difficulty, and even infidelity, but they're depicted only on a surface level. The book founders as a portrait of a marriage, but it has plenty to say about race relations and cultural change in mid-20th-century America. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon Agency. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

An African-American nurse experiences racism in two nations driven apart by war.Elinor Powell earned a nursing degree in 1943 and joined the U.S. Army the following year, determined to do her part for the war effort. She was sent to Arizona to complete her basic training and then posted to a German prisoner-of-war camp in the desert south of Phoenix. There, Elinor met Frederick Albert, an English-speaking German with a learned interest in the jazz music that had been banned by the Hitler regime. Frederick, writes freelance journalist Clark, was a man of many parts, an artist and intellectual who opposed Hitler but joined the army all the same. He claimed to have been a combat soldier captured in Italy, but the paperwork Clark turns up suggests that he was instead a medical corpsman taken prisoner in North Africa. "The most reasonable explanation was that in an attempt to impress his children, Frederick told them that he was an elite paratrooper," writes the author. Whatever the case, those children resulted from the ardent romance Elinor and Frederick struck up in that Arizona camp and continued after the war, moving a step ahead of Jim Crow laws and finally, after marrying in New York, returning for a time to Germany, where their young children experienced a racism of a different kind and degree from that they would have to endure back home. "Focusing on prejudice could have destroyed their relationship," writes Clark, "since it seemed that the world was against them." Yet their relationship prevailed even when it developed that Frederick had a different notion of faithfulness from Elinor's, and they did what they could to shield their childrenone of whom grew up to be a professional jazz trumpeterfrom the worst of the bigotry they encountered in two lands.A footnote in the vast literature of civil rights, but a resonant one. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

The relationship that blossomed in an Arizona prisoner-of-war camp during WWII was not only unlikely it was forbidden. But Frederick Albert, a German who was drafted into Hitler's army but held no loyalty to the Third Reich, could not deny his attraction to the nurse he spotted in the cafeteria. Statuesque at six feet tall, Elinor Powell was one of the few African American nurses permitted to serve their country. The romance between Frederick and Elinor, crossing the boundaries of wartime allegiances and race, endured despite the severe tests it faced, as Clark relates in this remarkable true story. Like many of their generation, Frederick and Elinor remained tight-lipped about their wartime experiences, leaving their story told for the most part through tantalizing secondhand accounts. But Enemies in Love expands beyond the beleaguered couple to examine some of the lesser-known aspects of the war, from the discrimination faced by African Americans in the military to the interaction between German prisoners of war and the communities that reluctantly housed them. A powerful tale of love against all odds.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2018 Booklist

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. ix
Introductionp. xiii
1 Elinorp. 1
2 Frederickp. 23
3 Fighting Hitler and Jim Crowp. 45
4 German POWs in the United Statesp. 71
5 Prisoners and Nursesp. 93
6 A Forbidden Romancep. 111
7 End of Warp. 121
8 An Uncertain Futurep. 137
9 Searching for Acceptancep. 155
10 Finally Homep. 177
Postscriptp. 207
Acknowledgmentsp. 209
Notesp. 217
Indexp. 233