Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler

A True Love Story Rediscovered

LIST PRICE $11.99

About The Book

“ FOR EVEN IN NAZI VIENNA, Trudi realized, women still looked in the mirror. . . . She knows that even in the bleak darkness, we feel, love, desire. She left no child (she and Walter tried, with no success); her hats are long lost, but her book is her legacy, discovered once again.” —From the introduction by Linda Grant, a uthor of The Clothes on Their Backs, The Thoughtful Dresser and We Had It So Good

In 1938 Trudi Kanter, stunningly beautiful, chic and charismatic, was a hat designer for the best-dressed women in Vienna. She frequented the most elegant cafés. She had suitors. She flew to Paris to see the latest fashions. And she fell deeply in love with Walter Ehrlich, a charming and romantic businessman. But as Hitler’s tanks rolled into Austria, the world this young Jewish couple knew collapsed, leaving them desperate to escape.

In prose that cuts straight to the bone, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler tells the true story of Trudi’s astonishing journey from Vienna to Prague to blitzed London seeking safety for her and Walter amid the horror engulfing Europe. It was her courage, resourcefulness and perseverance that kept both her and her beloved safe during the Nazi invasion and that make this an indelible memoir of love and survival.

Sifting through a secondhand bookshop in London, an English editor stumbled upon this extraordinary book, and now, though she died in 1992, the world has a second chance to discover Trudi Kanter’s enchanting story. In these pages she is alive—vivid, tenacious and absolutely unforgettable.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In London, in 1984, Trudi Kanter's remarkable memoir was published by N. Spearman. Largely unread, it went out of print until it was re-discovered by a British editor in 2011 and now, for the first time, it is available to readers everywhere. In 1938 Trudi Miller, stunningly beautiful, chic, and charismatic, was a hat designer for the best-dressed women in Vienna. She frequented cafes. She had suitors. She flew to Paris to see the latest fashions. And she fell deeply in love with Walter Ehrlich, a charming and romantic businessman. But as Hitler’s tanks roll into Austria, the world this young Jewish couple knows and loves collapses leaving them desperate to find a way to survive.
 
Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler is an enchanting true story that moves from Vienna to Prague to blitzed London, as Trudi seeks safety for her and Walter amid the horror engulfing Europe. In prose that cuts straight to the bone, Trudi Kanter has shared her indelible story. Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler is destined to become a World War II classic.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. The subtitle of this memoir is “A True Love Story Rediscovered.” How much of Kanter’s tale is a love story, and how much a war story? How did the experience of war bring Trudi and Walter closer together?
 
2. When Trudi tried to convince Walter to flee Vienna in 1938, he responded, “You know that you always put your head down and charge at the wall, whereas I need to think carefully before I make a decision.” (p. 35) How did the differences in Trudi and Walter’s decision-making effect their chances of survival?
 
3. Describing the anti-Semitic mobs in 1938 Vienna, Trudi wrote, “This is the truth about what happened, but I feel some reluctance to write it down.” (pp. 44-45) Why did Trudi hesitate to describe the realities of Nazi Vienna? Do you think she portrayed the people of Vienna fairly? Why or why not?
 
4. Consider the role that jealousy played in Trudi and Walter’s relationship. When did Trudi worry about losing Walter to other women? Did her fears seem justified? Why or why not?
 
5. Discuss Trudi’s relationship with her ex-husband, Pepi. How did they manage to remain close after the end of their marriage? In what ways did Trudi have trouble letting Pepi go?
 
6. Consider the gender roles in Trudi and Walter’s relationship. How did Walter handle Trudi’s success as a designer? How did Trudi deal with Walter’s slow career start in London? In what ways were Trudi and Walter ahead of their time, in terms of gender and the workplace?
 
7. During their first weeks in London, Trudi observed in frustration, “No one will let us forget that we are foreigners!... It’s a dirty word!” (p. 153) Discuss how Trudi and Walter were treated in London. What kinds of discrimination did they face?
 
8. Trudi wrote, “Now that I am married to Walter, I have come to realize that there can’t be red roses every day. A good marriage means having someone to talk to at night, someone you can fight with and fuss over. Someone you can trust.” (pp. 192-193) Discuss Trudi and Walter’s transition from daily roses to everyday trust. What did Trudi gain and lose when she married Walter?
 
9. When Trudi fought off Mr. Curlow’s romantic advances, she discovered, “Even in my smart clothes, with my sophisticated maquillage, my two marriages and all my recent experiences, I am still an immature girl.” (p. 222) Did you think of Trudi as an “immature girl” or an experienced woman when you read her memoir? Explain your answer.
 
10. Discuss how the War affected Trudi’s relationship with her parents.
 
11. Consider the ups and downs of Trudi’s career as a hat designer. How did she manage to advance in her career, even as a new immigrant to London? Which of her designs sounded the most innovative?
 
12. “There was a time when a feather and a sequin was a hat.” (p. 24) Discuss the changing hat fashions during the years Trudi described in her memoir. Which fashions sounded the most alluring? Which could you picture women wearing today?
 
13. When Mr. Curlow’s factory was bombed, he said to his workers, “We’ll build it all up again, everything as it was… Brick by brick, floors and ceilings, water and electricity. All of it! Who is with me?” (p. 224) How did Walter react to Mr. Curlow’s determination to rebuild? How did Mr. Curlow’s statement capture the spirit of wartime England?
 
14. The end of the memoir briefly describes the end of Walter’s life. What was particularly tragic about Walter’s death in 1960? Do you think this memoir of love and war was difficult for Trudi to write? Why or why not?
 
15. Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler was originally published in England in 1984, but went largely unread. Why do you think today’s readers might be especially interested in Trudi’s story? How are her struggles and adventures relevant to readers today?

Enhance Your Book Club

  1. Ask members of your book club to wear their favorite hats to your meeting! From retro cloches to modern sun hats, compare your favorite pieces of stylish and practical headwear.   
 
2. Browse an online exhibit of wartime Vienna – including photographs, personal histories, artifacts, and maps – at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005452.   
 
3. Read all about the history of women’s hat fashions, from the 18th century through the 20th century: http://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-history/the-history-of-womens-hats/.   
 
4. Treat your book club to a taste of Vienna! Bake a batch of decadent Sachertorte, a traditional café dessert, and serve it at your book club meeting. Find a recipe here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sachertorte-231043.   
 
5. “Walter and I used to play a game,” Trudi writes – they would quiz each other on the contents of Walter’s long-lost home in Vienna. (p. 51) Pair off in your book club and ask your partner to remember details of her first childhood home. What color were the bedroom curtains; how many lamps were in the living room; what did the kitchen cabinets look like?

About The Author

Trudi Kanter was born in Austria and moved across Europe as she tried to escape the Nazis. She and her husband finally settled in England, where she first published her memoir. Her story was lost after her death in 1992 but was reintroduced to the world with the publication of Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (October 2012)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451696592

Raves and Reviews

“This one memoir is a generous- spirited book. Its many delightful moments, as well as its almost matter-of-fact description of menace and impending danger, stay long in the mind.”

– Wall Street Journal

“What makes the book so instantly mesmerizingis Trudi Kanter herself, who fashioned sentences just the way she fashionedhats as a milliner in late 1930s Vienna—each a dazzling, delicate object ofdelight.”

– Oprah.com, Book of the Week

“TrudiKanter's memoir is blessed with a wonderful title and an even better backstory…her spirited charm will win you over.”

– USA Today

“In a rediscovered memoir, the charmed life of designer Trudi Kanter is split open as the Nazis claim Vienna and terror reigns. Every Holocaust story is worth remembering, and Trudi's is unique—she refuses to lose her vision of what the world should be at its very best: a place of red roses, Paris avenues, and above all else, true love.”

– Alice Hoffman, author of The Dovekeepers

“There have been many books by and about refugees from the Third Reich…but there can be few if any that manage to combine terror and death with such sheer frivolity as this engaging memoir….Ms. Kanter’s attraction to the light rather than the storm clouds that bedeviled so much of her existence makes her book a happy read.”

– Washington Times

“With a natural writing style, a talent for re-creating the details of daily life (especially the fashions), Trudi, who died in 1992, comes alive for the reader, creating what becomes a valuable piece of social history. But more than all this, her memoir is a poem of love to her husband, to the cities of Vienna and Paris, and to a way of life that, in the twinkling of an eye, completely disappeared.”

– Chicago Jewish Star

Some Girls,Some Hats and Hitler does not minimize the horrors of war or the Holocaust, but through Kanter's delightful hopefulness and spare,riveting writing, it presents an unusual memoir of an era that must not be forgotten.”

– Shelf Awareness

“This Holocaust memoir is more a tale of love than a horror story of Nazi-occupied Europe...the words
and imagery flow beautifully.”

– Publishers Weekly

“From Paris to Vienna to London, Kantercreates a vibrant tapestry of her incredible odyssey through one of the darkestperiods in contemporary history. Romance, passion, and peril create anauthentically vivid backdrop for this intimate chronicle.”

– Booklist

“This book is a remarkable, first-hand account of life during the time, and the importance that fashion played in the survival of Kanter and her loved ones.”

– fashionpulsedaily.com

“In prose that cuts straight to the bone, SOMEGIRLS, SOME HATS AND HITLER tells the true story of Trudi’s astonishing journeyfrom Vienna to Prague to blitzed London seeking safety for her and Walter amidthe horror engulfing Europe…enchanting…In these pages she is alive --- vivid,tenacious and absolutely unforgettable.”

– bookreporter.com

“Trudi Kanter relates the emotional roller coaster she was on in attempting to get to England with her parents and the love of her life, Walter. The reader shares their terror and resultant cycles of inertia, hope and finally galvanization of emotional resources that Ms. Kanter, her family and friends all brought to bear.”

– Jewish Book World

"Nothing undid beauty and romance like the onslaught of World War II. And yet in Trudi Kanter's elegant memoir Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler love and grace survive the horror in Western Europe. What an enchanting book. What a gem. I could not put it down.”

– Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers and Something Red

"This Holocaust memoir is more a tale of love than a horror story of Nazi-occupied Europe...the words
and imagery flow beautifully."

– Publishers Weekly

"Distilled through the lens of a sartorial dignitary, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler offers an illuminating chronicle of narrow wartime escapes, calamity, and ingenuity. What makes this account all the more revealing is its candor regarding the persistence of mortal tendencies amid even the most disastrous of situations. Sometimes there is vanity, sometimes jealousy, and often, in the most unexpected of places, beauty of both the aesthetic and human varieties." --Alicia Oltuski, author of Precious Objects

"A fascinating romance, a tribute to the love that beat Hitler."

– Daily Post

“A wonderful memoir of a young milliner in pre-World War II Vienna who flees to London with the man she loves when Hitler’s tanks invade. Despite the tragic subject matter, this warm and vividly humorous autobiography is a must for anyone interested in fashion, history – and love.” —Bella

“In a rediscovered memoir, the charmed life of designer Trudi Kanter is split open as the Nazis claim Vienna and terror reigns. Every Holocaust story is worth remembering, and Trudi's is unique—she refuses to lose her vision of what the world should be at its very best: a place of red roses, Paris avenues, and above all else, true love.” —Alice Hoffman

"Nothing undid beauty and romance like the onslaught of World War II. And yet in Trudi Kanter's elegant memoir Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler love and grace survive the horror in Western Europe. What an enchanting book. What a gem. I could not put it down.” --Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers and Something Red

"This Holocaust memoir is more a tale of love than a horror story of Nazi-occupied Europe...the words
and imagery flow beautifully." -Publishers Weekly

"Distilled through the lens of a sartorial dignitary, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler offers an illuminating chronicle of narrow wartime escapes, calamity, and ingenuity. What makes this account all the more revealing is its candor regarding the persistence of mortal tendencies amid even the most disastrous of situations. Sometimes there is vanity, sometimes jealousy, and often, in the most unexpected of places, beauty of both the aesthetic and human varieties." --Alicia Oltuski, author of Precious Objects

"A fascinating romance, a tribute to the love that beat Hitler." --Daily Post

“A wonderful memoir of a young milliner in pre-World War II Vienna who flees to London with the man she loves when Hitler’s tanks invade. Despite the tragic subject matter, this warm and vividly humorous autobiography is a must for anyone interested in fashion, history – and love.” —Bella

“For even in Nazi Vienna, Trudi realized, women still looked in the mirror….Her book is also about the appetite for life, for clothes and hats, and food, and cocktails, and sex, and furnishings, and good company, and conversation. She knew that even in the bleak darkness, we feel, love, desire. She left no child (she and Walter tried, with no success); her hats are long lost, but her book is her legacy, discovered once again.”

–From the introduction by Linda Grant, author of The Clothes on Their Backs, The Thoughtful Dresser, and We Had It So Good

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