The Mousetrap

| September 21, 2013


The Mousetrap

Ruth Hanka Eigner (1926 – 2010), who eventually immigrated to the United States and converted to Judaism, was one of many Germans living in the Czechoslovak Republic (Hitler’s Sudetenland) for nearly a millenium. In The Mousetrap — winner of the 2003 San Diego Book Award for an Unpublished Memoir — she tells the harrowing true story of her experiences as a young Bohemian woman in the years after the Second World War ended. She tells of the understandable brutality with which she and her family and friends were treated after the Germans lost the war.

She also tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship that, because of the terrible times in which they lived, threatened to kill them both.

At the time of her death, Ruth had nearly completed the next portion of her autobiography, which is currently being prepared for publication.

Learn more about Ruth Eigner at or find her on page on Facebook —

From the Introduction to The Mousetrap —

Now that I have finally brought myself to write of these events, which took place nearly sixty-five years ago in a middle European land which no longer exists, I am faced with the fact that Americans now coming of age, like my own grandchildren, will need some historical background. The country was Czechoslovakia, created in 1918, made up of a hodge-podge of nationalities – Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Hungarian, Poles and others — previously ruled by the Austrians, losers of the First World War. My own people, ethnic Germans, had lived in this same territory for almost a thousand years, and since we spoke the same language as the Austrian rulers, I suppose we thought of ourselves as better than our neighbors. Many of us were also excessively proud of our German culture, believing that it was superior to that of the Slavic people who now vastly outnumbered us in the new country. There was great fear among chauvinists and prejudiced Germans that we might lose our national identity and be forced even to give up our language. These people argued and sometimes demonstrated violently for the creation of a new German country. And the uprisings they fomented were sometimes put down with corresponding violence. It was easy, therefore for Adolf Hitler to argue in 1938 that the German citizens of Czechoslovakia needed his protection. To “save” us, as he said, from the persecution of the Czechs, he annexed the part of the country in which we lived. I was only twelve when this happened, but I was old enough to remember that there was much cheering in the streets when the German troops marched in. I remember also that during the next seven years which passed before the defeat of the Nazis, Germans of my group, even boys I grew up with, enlisted or were drafted to fight in Hitler’s army. No doubt many of them joined in the persecution of those who had been our fellow Czechoslovakians for the past twenty years, the descendants of people who had been our neighbors for centuries. Who could blame the Czechs for wanting to get revenge once Hitler was gone, and they were back in power? They felt, that unless we were driven from the country, we would betray them again at the first opportunity. All this was understandable, but it did not lessen the fear of the German Czechoslovakians, both the innocent and the guilty among us, who faced this reciprocal terror. — Ruth Hanka Eigner

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