I was on a book promotion in the prairie city of Winnipeg which owns the reputation of being one of the coldest cities in Canada. Can you believe it was 15°C above on March 13th when I arrived, 18°C two days later and reasonably warm during the whole week I was in “Friendly Manitoba”. No snow in sight but lots of sand used to sprinkle the slippery streets earlier and now the wind blew it around. Everything was muddy and grey and holy. Sorry, I mean to say “pot-hole-y”! The day after I left it snowed again. The snow makes everything look so clean. It makes a beautiful cover-up – at least for a while.
One thing the Winnipeggers still do is read a lot of books: real books, not e-books. Many told me “I like to feel a book, look at a book, leaf through it, put it down and pick it up again. I like to have it on my book shelf or on my night table.” I hardly ever saw one person walking out of one of the three enormous book stores where I was autographing my book with fewer than two, three or more books. The stores where open ‘til 10.00 PM and people walked in as late as two minutes to ten and shopped. Does the climate have something to do with this? Do the prairie people still know how to relax at home with a glass of wine and a good book? You tell me!
I was interviewed on CJOB Radio and had a lively conversation with the charming host, Greg Mackling. An hour long TV interview was taped by the Shaw crew of “go! Winnipeg” and it will soon be available on YouTube. Book readings, autographing and lots of discussions about my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”, the story of ordinary German families before, during and after WWII filled my time. The members of a Rotary Club where I was the luncheon speaker were very attentive and another Rotary Club wanted me at their meeting as well, but my time was already totally booked.
When I came home I had lost my voice. But I had lots of fun. In one of the biggest and architecturally most beautiful and largest book stores, McNally Robinson’s my book became a “Bestseller” and I hope it will remain so and be displayed on the bestseller table for a while longer. In both the very large Chapter Book stores, people were already waiting for me despite the fact that I always come half an hour earlier than expected. And they stuck around, wanting to catch every word of every discussion I had with one of them. Amazing! For seventy years I “Didn’t talk about it” and now I can hardly “shut up” with people around me.
Everybody wanted to know more. Did I open a can of worms? Is it based on real interest or is it rather the sensation “Thank God it didn’t happen to me”? After reading my book they write to me. “It reads like a Spielberg movie” said one. Another said “I look at my eleven year old granddaughter and just shiver to think…what, if, when, how can I protect her?” Still another sent me an e-mail “Are you alright? I just need to know…”
And dozens of readers of “We Don’t Talk About That” are telling me their own or their parents’ or grandparents’ stories of their life during WWII – how little they were told and now they can relate and want to hear more. “I wasn’t interested when I was younger and THEY wanted to talk about it, and now they are gone and I have nobody to ask anymore. Your book is a huge eye opener. While reading it I was with you every step of the way.” Still another says “When they talk about the probability of WWIII on the News I switch the TV off. I don’t want to hear or think about it.”
The last comment came from one of those Europeans who had experienced ‘close encounters’. To stick one’s head in the sand like an ostrich will not help to avoid or protect any one. It’s like the few of the leading Germans who knew how futile World War II was likely to be, knew what was happening all around them and still did not believe it. To save their life they did not talk about it. One of their mottos was something like “I know it’s better not to know what I think I know or might not even know.” I found this phrase in one of Lyn Alexander’s books “The Schellendorf Series,” – four books spanning the time from before WWI to the Nueremberg Trials after WWII. For us today it is not healthy to be ignorant or pretend not to know.
A WWIII with sophisticated weaponry will not be happening in just certain areas of the globe, – all continents will be affected. Don’t say “what can we do about it?” – think! You have voting power; but I’m with you. I also think that we, the ordinary people, will be caught in the middle as always, will not be able to stop the politicians if they put their minds to it. After all, we don’t go around shooting the people whom we don’t like or with whom we do not agree. Like the Texan in the bar pointing to three others and saying “I don’t like that guy.” When asked “which one” he shot two and said “See the one sitting there? That’s the one I don’t like”. Sorry. Just a joke I heard. Life isn’t like that.