By Margaret Leis (Peg) Hanna


Margaret Leis (Peg) Hanna has written with Brunhilde Maurer (Hilde) Barron WHILE ... contrasting memoirs of two little girls born during WWII in opposing countries. Their stories began as lunchtime conversations between Peg, an American, and Hilde, a German, during the twelve years Hilde cleaned house for the Hanna family.

Every other Tuesday the two women, the same age, shared stories of their childhoods, teen and young adult lives, marriages and motherhood. They were amazed to find extreme contrasts, startling discoveries, sometimes striking similarities, and agreed to write their stories. When Hilde stopped cleaning for the Hannas, she handed "Mrs. Hanna" (always the client) one hundred pages of handwritten notes about her life in Germany and later in America. Peg wrote of her life lived entirely in America.
"My mother taught me that an important word in any language is while. While one thing is happening, so is another. While I wash dishes, you dry. While we are in nighttime, someone is in daylight. While one person dies, another is born." (Peg) With this word WHILE we started our book.

Excerpts from Margaret Leis Hanna's current project While:

  The American woman and the German cleaning lady sat at the kitchen table eating lunch and sharing life stories. Bruni looked up from her Schwartzbrot, black bread. “You were born in a hospital?” I, the American, nodded.” Wasn’t everybody in the 1940’s?” Bruni answered, “Hell no, we were born at home.”

Thus began While the noontime revelations and written chapters of contrasting lives of women the same age.

Bruni writes;

“One afternoon my mother and I went to the backyard to sit in the grass. The weather was wonderful. The sun was shining and it was hot. We must have fallen asleep for suddenly there was a roaring sound coming from the sky. Mom, startled out of her sleep, jumped up. She finally realized that there were many planes in the sky and they were bombing the houses and the ground. Mom grabbed me, practically me behind her across the courtyard and into a cellar. Neighbors and many other people came running with their children, old people and mostly women came from everywhere to seek shelter. One boy screamed at the top of his lungs as he lay on the ground in the cellar. In the dark I could see a shining substance on his skin and his clothing. The boy died a horrible death that day…I was told later that phosphorus killed him. Amerikan planes unloaded the acid as they flew over the city.  We stayed all night and slept on top of potatoes and other vegetables.”

While at the same age Peggy writes;

“I sat cross-legged on the floor hugging my doll as Mother and Grandma Craig sat at the kitchen table. Blankets hung over the windows. One small lamp lit the room. No other lights were on in the house. We were in the midst of an air raid drill. My father wore a white helmet, carried a flashlight and patrolled the neighborhood as an air raid warden.   Neighbors kept the area dark until an all-clear signal was given. Although my hometown was inland, it could be targeted as the mill produced steel for the war….I felt safe, my father was protecting us.”


The stories told in tandem of the two women relate contrasting stories of starvation versus rationing, to domestic beatings from a divorcee and her lover compared to the strict upbringing from two loving parents. Included in the mix are three disastrous marriages, divorces and a forty-four year marriage, financial instability, military lives  and motherhood.

To learn more about Margaret Hanna, her other publications or to visit her blog go to Peg-Board at

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