Elizabeth Pschorr: A Privileged Marriage (Boing Boing Video)

(Watch on YouTube, Dotsub, or download MP4)

pschorr3.jpg On the eve of the Third Reich, a young woman of Jewish descent married an Aryan man. The Nazis would later classify that as a "privileged marriage," which saved her life while millions died. Her name is Elizabeth Pschorr, and today on Boing Boing Video, we present her story in her own words, with rare archival family photo and film taken as early as the 1930s.

A little backstory on how this episode came to be: Ms. Pschorr's grandson, Jason McHugh, has worked with us since the early days of BBTV as a field producer and cameraman. One day when we were on a shoot together, he told me about his grandma, and an autobiographical book she was writing. I asked if we could visit her and record some of her story, and this episode unfolded over the next two years. Jason scanned old photos, love letters, and copied black and white film reels tucked away in boxes at his grandma's home.

After the jump, more of those photos, and Jason (who's enjoying the holidays today with his grandmother) shares his thoughts about his family's story, and about the making of the video you'll see above.

Jason McHugh writes:

pschorr-inset.jpgMy Grandmother, Elizabeth Pschorr, is a major inspiration to me, and to the rest of our family and friends. At age 98, she is still quite on her game physically, mentally and spiritually. Elizabeth lives alone with her small dog Charlie, and has been recently appealing to the DMV to keep her driver's license for another renewal. This week, we are enjoying a traditional German Christmas celebration at her house complete with a candle-lit tree full of tinsel and silver bulbs, rhyming Christmas cards, a table full of presents and a four-course dinner feast!

Of course, as you can see in this video (and in her book, A Privileged Marriage), she is in fact Jewish and so am I. This was a surprise to me, until I read my grandmother's book and discovered she didn't know know she was Jewish either until Hitler came to power. Her parents were wealthy non-practicing Jews, who embraced the German tradition of Christmas in an elaborate way, and we are lucky enough to be able to continue that tradition with Elizabeth to this day.

Elizabeth was inspired to pick up the pen and take a journey into her past while we were on a family trip in Hawaii back in the late seventies. For her, it was a chance to understand who she really was, and then be spiritually reborn again into her present self after having shut a part of herself off for a long time. For the rest of our family and friends, it has been a chance to understand the dramatic changes and wartime insanity she survived, and absorb a detailed account of our family history and German-American history.

A big part of this story, beyond the wartime survival and immigration, is about love. This is the part of the story that my Grandmother is still grappling with: love, and everything that comes with it. She really enjoys philosophical discussions about various aspects of love and has found great inspiration from her favorite philosopher Erich Fromm's book The Art of Loving.

This will be the first time that any of the archival family footage has been seen by the public, besides her 90th birthday, where we played the raw footage with a photo retrospective. Since then, her major PR campaign for A Privileged Marriage has been doing book readings at local book stores and libraries in Northern California.

The debut of this piece on Boing Boing will certainly be the biggest audience she been able to share her story with to date. It also marks the launch of Elizabeth's film career. She has recently been studying screenwriting books in hopes of adapting her story for the screen as well as encouraging me to get Stephen Spielberg on board for the project!

More online: Elizabeth Pschorr Website | Amazon link for A Privileged Marriage

(Images from the archives of Elizabeth Pschorr)





  1. Happy Hanukkah, Elizabeth Pschorr.
    Merry Christmas, Boing Boing.
    Have a cool Kwanzaa & a swinging Saturnalia.
    Feliz Navidad & un Prospero Ano Nuevo.
    Happy New Year.

  2. Thank you Mrs. Pschorr, Xeni and everyone at BBTV for this wonderful story. It put me in mind of my parents own love story. I’m going to pull out some old albums and remember their story this evening with friends.

    Thank you again and Merry Christmas.

  3. My Tante Anna, who died in the eighties close to her hundredth birthday, also survived the war as the jewish spouse of ein Ärischer Mann.

  4. Funny, but I just watched a wonderfully complex and emotional film with Kate Winslett and Ralph Fiennes ( and I can’t remember its name !!!) but it details the era after the dust eas settling and Germany was trying to come to terms with what, as a people, they had done. It is a joy to watch and for the first time I understood the confusion in the minds of young Germans whose parents and grandparents knew of Auschwitz etc. but stood by and did mothing. German guilt will never go away I fear./ I always ask myself if any other nation but Germany could and would do what was done, against any moral stance whatever. This lady was indeed privileged!

    1. It was “The Reader” and I found it, in the eagerness to forget what ordinary Germans had done during the war, understandably or not, obscene. It was just so rightwing: It’s not what the Germans as a nation did but, in this case, what a single person. Under the circumstances, it was of course understandable she’d join the Nazis, but to kill 300-odd innocents and with *no* acknowledgement of anything morally, you questionable? Please. And of course the story is loaded by having her cop the cherry of the character who’s the story’s POV. Please. An ugly, obnoxious story. But right for our era where taking responsibility for anything is, you know, passe. And make that a hateful story.

    1. gwynsen – On the eve of Hitler’s Third Reich, a girl from a German-Jewish family of wealth and privilege is married to the scion of a prominent “Aryan” brewing family…

  5. Really remarkable story with a dramatic backround .The heart wants what it wants. Ms. Pschorr’s face is a beautiful map of her life.

  6. Interesting, but the video leaves out things that seem really important to understanding the story. How did she and her husband survive in 1943-1945? When did they immigrate to America? It sounds like she made it through the war as the wife of a protected German industrialist (small scale), and perhaps he had his affair in that period, (did they divorce during the war or after) and perhaps she met the other man in 1945 or 1946 and somehow they both moved to America in the post 1945 period? And did his second wife come to America? And why was he working for her parents (did I get that?)? It’s really hard to discern who was doing what when… and any time we consider a personal history in this time frame it is really important to know this in order to make historical sense of the story. Just a few dates and mapping onto history would be helpful. Enjoyed the story!

  7. I wanted to say that that old saying ‘the heart wants what it wants’ to me is beautiful. And also, that yesterday I watched a film called ‘The Reader’ with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet about the guilt that Germany even today carries because of the holocaust… but the main point the film makes is that it was quite ‘ordinary’ people who knew and watched it all happen. So I ask myself, would it happen anywhere else but Germany…was there something in the German love of order that contributed?

  8. please amend the article to say “aryan” with quotes, as without the quotes it falls deeper into problematic usage. really it an obsolete term that belongs to 19th-century physical anthropology, or, more weakly, to different moments in political history, but has no real basis for racial usage other than to refer to ancient Iran and should not be recognized as associated with a caucasian subset even if nazism employed it in such a manner.



  9. I am Elizabeth’s daughter, Irene. There are many unanswered questions as regards her story but I can say that my father’s family was one of the 7 Munich brewery families and eventually the breweries merged to become Hacker-Pschorr. My father said he didn’t drink beer as he knew how it was made.

  10. @#5: it’s “arischer Mann”, not “ärischer Mann”. the latter is unknown in german language.
    @#8: yes, she is.

  11. When the Nazis came to power they terrorized the German people. Any political dissent meant a trip to a concentration camp (not a death camp but still prison with no trial). The Brown Shirts and later the Black Shirts (para-military Nazi Party thugs) were allowed to march in the streets. The German people were terrorized into submission by their very government which gradually began to operate outside the countries’ own laws. I doubt many Americans (or Westerners) would have the courage to confront their government if the same thing were to happen today.

  12. Many years ago, when the SF Press Club was still alive, Elizabeth Pschorr came to speak to us about her experience and discuss her book, A Privlieged Marriage. It was an interesting afternoon – we also met her daughter – a wonderful artist. I still have some of her cards.
    Since that time I have had occasion to read more holcaust novels/non-fiction and also visited Germany. The era never ceases to both terrify and facsinate me. I still don’t know what I personally would have been able to sacrifice for my principles…I hope I never am tested. Good to know that E. Pschorr is doing well.

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