Bielenberg, Christabel (Mary Burton) 1909-2003

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BIELENBERG, Christabel (Mary Burton) 1909-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born June 18, 1909, in London, England; died November 2, 2003, in Tullow, County Carlow, Ireland. Farmer and author. The wife of Nazi-opponent Peter Bielenberg, Christabel Bielenberg is best remembered as the author of books concerning her harrowing experiences as a dissident in Nazi Germany. Born to a life of privilege in England, her interest in music led her to move to Hamburg to train as an opera singer. It was there that she met her husband, Peter, an aristocratic lawyer whom she married in 1934. Although by this time Adolf Hitler was rising to power, the Bielenbergs and their intellectual friends did not believe that German citizens would actually support the Nazis. This would prove to be a grave mistake. By 1938, they were feeling disillusioned by events at home and spent time traveling and working outside of Germany. However, Bielenberg's husband decided to return to Germany to try and restart his career as an attorney. The Nazis by then suspected them of being dissidents, especially because of their association with known dissident Adam von Trott zu Solz, who actually persuaded the Bielenbergs to remain in Germany and try to resist the Nazis locally. Meanwhile, Bielenberg's husband was punished for his activities by being sent to Norway to work in a fish-paste factory, and after Trott was hanged for participating in the 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, Peter was considered guilty by association and imprisoned. Christabel, however, cleverly negotiated for his release by convincing the Gestapo that she had friends in high places. The Bielenbergs managed to lay low in the Bavarian Black Forest until after the war. Remaining for a time in Germany, where she was a correspondent for the Observer, Bielenberg managed to move to Ireland in 1948, where she and Peter became successful farmers for the rest of their lives. Bielenberg wrote about her experiences in The Past Is Myself (1968), which was later published as Ride Out the Dark (1971), and When I Was a German, 1934-1945: An Englishwoman in Nazi Germany (1998). She was also the author of The Road Ahead (1992), Christabel Bielenberg and Nazi Germany (1996), and Guided Tour of Dublin. Her wartime memoir was adapted in 1988 as a "Masterpiece Theater" television miniseries starring Elizabeth Hurley.



Women in World History, Yorkin Publications (Westford, CT), 1999.


Independent (London, England), November 4, 2003, p. 18.

Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2003, p. B14.

New York Times, November 6, 2003, p. C13.

Washington Post, November 6, 2003, p. B8.