What happened to the Berlin Wall?

Berlin Wall

The hated Wall came into existence on the 13th of August 1959 – a huge surprise in the morning. It was the best kept secret. NOBODY had any  knowledge of the plans for it. It divided the great city of Berlin into East and West, and cutting families from families, in many cases even along the center of a street. The ‘Fall of the Wall’ was a another surprise in 1989 as hundreds of thousands marched and the East German Police put their guns down and watched helplessly as the wall was stormed. I watched the happening on TV and thought it was a trick film as people climbed the wall and started dancing on it. Secure gates were broken down and East and West people hugged, laughed and cried and couldn’t believe that no shots were fired. Finally, in June 1990, every effort was made to remove the hundreds of miles of the hated monster. Lots of souvenirs were sold after the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989; thousands of people hacked and picked and took parts home as a reminder of the terror it has caused. I know two people who showed me their treasure, a little piece of the wall. Thousands of people all over the world have a piece and it is impossible to track them all down.

Berlin did not destroy all of it. An ‘Open Air Gallery’ has attracted artists from all over the world to create their art on long parts of the wall. Many places in Berlin now have memorials, one is called ‘Parliament of Trees against Terror and War’ – an imaginative creation by Ben Wagin, using sixteen trees and fifty-eight original wall parts. Tourists visit those places and take photos. There are more memorials: the ‘Mauer Park’ and the ‘Topography of Terror,’ an original part of the wall with Hinterland and Death zone, another one with the tower used by sharpshooters. The Berliners are maintaining these reminders to show the world what has happened here. It is a warning to be vigilant and not let it happen again.The Berlin Wall was built to keep people “in” since they were escaping by the thousands each day. I was one of them.

But not only the Berliners kept relics and built memorials. A commission from Japan came in 1990 and bought two parts for a Museum Village honoring the saving of German Seamen in 1873.

The most extensive collection of the wall is found in the Newseum in Washington D.C. The CIA in Langley, Virginia also displays three relics, and another three are gracing the Garden of the UN Main Office Building in the USA.

Winston Churchill coined the expression ‘The Iron Curtain’ in 1946. His granddaughter, Edwina Sandys, a wellknown sculptor, incorporated eight wall pieces in her ‘Freedom Memorial.’

South Korea was encouraged by the ‘Fall of the Wall’ that a unification is possible. They have five relics of the Berlin Wall in their Theme Park in Uijeongbu, representing the dream of their own ‘Unification’ with North Korea. Right now it is a very timely dream, and we hope it comes true soon. The leaders of both countries shook hands across the border and had long friendly talks.

Brandenberg Gate

You will find a piece with personal graffito of the Berlin Wall in Kingston, Jamaica, next to the Military Museum. It was a gift from the city of Berlin to the sprinter Usain Bolt after he ran a world record during the Berlin World Championships in 2009. Amazing that  many years after the ‘Fall of the Wall’ a relic of it is still a precious and welcome gift.

It is interesting how a piece of the wall came to be at the Vatican: The Italian businessman Marco Piccinini obtained a segment during an auction in Monaco and gifted it to Pope Johannes Paul II.

Last but not least, the City of Berlin presented a piece of the wall to the Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela when he was released after twenty-seven years in prison. Due to Nelson Mandela, the Berlin Wall is represented in Kapstadt, South Africa.

My personal experiences happened before the wall was built. I escaped the East in 1955. My parents had a close call the day before the infamous “Wall” was put up overnight and saw the light of day on August 13th 1959. My parents tried to escape on August the 12th but did not make it. (see my book “We Don’t Talk About That“) Our family was divided for fifty years. It was interesting to see the new generations struggle with the new reality. The younger people in East and West had a difficult time understanding each other. During those fifty years of communist indoctrination in the East, a lot of brainwashing had taken hold.

We don’t want more walls! The only one we can accept and appreciate when traveling is the Great Wall of China.

 

 

Advertisements

I’m Tickled Pink – I’m Pickled Tink

Wow! This blog post relates to a recent e-mail I received from Bob Pickles, the WW I history writer. But first our history:

On June 21, 2014, Bob Pickles wrote a review of my memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About That.’

“Giselle Roeder’s book is a vital piece of the jigsaw of suffering in World War II (& representative of civilian suffering in all conflicts). It could well have been a story of the tragedy endured by Jews, Gypsies or Polish intelligentsia perpetrated by the Nazis. If it  (the book) were not so harrowing, it should be desired reading in schools & given the same historical, literary importance as “The Diary of Anne Frank.” To be read alone with a strong drink perhaps. – (it is) A fine testament to the unquenchable spirit of survival & hope with the help of a few ‘angels’ along the way.”

This is just an excerpt from his review. Reading it gave me goose bumps. I thanked him with all my heart and this started an occasional e-mail exchange. He was not happy with the ending of my book – so he has been encouraging me to write a sequel. He is not the only one. Many of my readers keep asking.  A now ninety-year-old lady, who bought and gave away fifty-seven copies of my book, begs for the continuation to read before she dies.

A few months ago Bob Pickles asked me for help with translations of German expressions for the newest book in his series of WWI, “The Foster Family in the Great War.” I happily obliged. Since I didn’t know many of the profanities soldiers might have used I had asked several German-speaking writer friends. One was Elisabeth Marion, a WWII history writer.  Her most famous book is “The Night I danced with Rommel.” Bob Pickles was happy with my translations.  I thought nothing of it, I love helping someone. Anyone!

A few days ago I received a surprising e-mail from Bob:

Hi Giselle, just to let you know my latest (8th) WW1 novel is published on Amazon as both a paperback and as a Kindle edition. Entitled “Vimy” – a novel of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry’s attack on Vimy Ridge 1917 – I have dedicated it inside to you.

If you “Look Inside” the book on the sample on Kindle, the parts you kindly translated into colloquial German are found in the first few chapters.

Wow! A book by Robert S. Pickles, a serious UK history writer, dedicated to meee? Never, ever did I think any book would ever be dedicated to me.

I’m tickled pink – I tink I’m pickled. Thank you, Bob Pickles. I will recommend your book to the Canadian Legion; I would think a number of the Canadian veterans will also be tickled pink to read about the Princess Pat’s Light Infantry role at Vimy Ridge.

 

 

Revelation of a Time Capsule and More

Stresow Church

Once upon a time, there was a small village in the eastern part of Germany called “Stresow.” A church with a cemetery surrounding it and a pub was built in the center. Those two places were also the centre of any social life of the hard-working farmers. Since women were not allowed in the pub, they would meet after church in the cemetery during their task of taking care of the graves to visit with each other and chat. To this day, the graves are planted with flowers in German cemeteries and each family tries to have the best-looking one.

Many years went by. After WWII in 1945, the states of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania, about one-third of Germany were ceded to Poland. The German inhabitants had ten minutes to get out of their homes where they had lived for generations. My own family was amongst the millions evicted, and so was the family of my cousin Joachim. With only the clothing on our back and with what we could carry, we were three weeks on the road to nowhere, slept in barns when lucky or under the stars. (the full story in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”)

I have never been back to my birthplace but my cousin Joachim has. Poland belongs to the EU, and visits are possible. Joachim has been back several times. He only lives about seventy kilometers away while I live on another continent. Joachim made friends with the Polish family who now lives in his father’s house. He had the most incredible experience in 2006. A friend of his Polish friend is a teacher in the neighboring town of Bad Schoenfliess. He is in charge of a museum and was happy to show Joachim two rooms dedicated to the “German Time.” There are photographs of Joachim’s family and his ancestors as well as of my parents and other families we know. Joachim was amazed.

The most significant surprise was a folder he was given with old handwritten documents, letters, and newspapers of the years from 1871 to 1896. They had been contained in a ‘Time Capsule” buried when a new church tower was built in 1896 after the old church tower had collapsed. Nobody could read any of these documents since they were written using the German Süterlin letters.  Joachim was able to read them. There was a list of twenty-four farmers living in Stresow in 1871, including Joachim’s great-grandparents. Two pastors serving the small community between 1871 and 1896 had written an account of life during those years. Joachim was able to re-write the most critical documents. Photographs of the old and the new church tower were included in the time capsule.

What an exciting experience for my cousin Joachim!

The same year he had another surprise coming. In 1945, when the family was evicted and had to leave within ten minutes, his grandmother had stuffed one hundred-forty-five photos into his school satchel with a change of underwear. These photos had been picked up out of the mud after the Russian invasion. I had picked ours up from the pile of manure in the middle of our yeard. They represent the only memorabilia of our life from before 1945. During the long walk, Joachim, his grandparents, and his mother had a chance to stay in a house for two nights. Joachim and his two small sisters played with the six-year-old son Robert living there. They looked at the pictures. Joachim’s satchel was forgotten when they left, and his grandma always lamented as long as she lived about the loss of those treasured photos from home. She died and never got over the loss.

Almost sixty-one years later, the ITS, a search service connected to the Red Cross as well as churches,  found Joachim’s sister Marianne. She had looked for and listed their dad’s name many years ago. Now, with the Internet, it had been possible for the previous six-year-old Robert, at sixty-seven years old, to find the family who had stayed with them in 1945. Robert had kept the photos in a box in his attic all those years. During a project to add on to his house, he came across it and started searching for the kids he had played with in 1945.

Joachim phoned Robert and made a reservation to visit the next day. The newspaper in Joachim’s hometown got hold of the story, and I have in my hands a copy of the one-third page with a photo of my cousin holding a photograph of himself and his two sisters. A large one at the bottom is of ten men, the artistic biking club with Joachim’s father and uncle in their sports uniform. Needless to say, Joachim in his eighties and the former little Robert in his late sixties, are now close friends.

Former WWI Memorial

Joachim exclaimed when he first related this story to me:

“You cannot pay for something like this. To get your lost treasure back after sixty years is absolutely miraculous.”

Free e-book Promotion Results:

It is interesting for me, the writer, to see the results of the e-book promotion from March 4th to March 10th, offered by Smashwords:

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “We Don’t Talk About That” = 15

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Forget Me Not”                      =   4

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Ein Mensch von Gestern”     =   3

It will be even more interesting to see if the giveaway FREE is creating real sales. I like to thank all my faithful Facebook and other social media friends for sharing my promo-blog and saying a few words about my books they have read.

For all who have received my FREE e-books, happy reading. Please place “Reviews” on my website www.giselleroeder.com or Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734091.

Thank you!

Promo: Read an e-Book Week March 4-10

Three of my books in e-book format are FREE only at Smashwords from March 4th – 10th.

To access the sale follow these links:

We Don’t Talk About That:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734091

Forget Me Not:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/608409

Ein Mensch von Gestern:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/732607

Did Adolf Hitler Have a Love Life?

Eva Braun with Adolf Hitler

Could a man, hated as much as he is, have ever been a lover? Could he have been tender or passionate? Could there have been a time when he was just – shall we say, an ordinary man? How can someone, who was painting many beautiful pictures of flowers, landscapes, people, and architectural buildings, even caricatures, be such an evil person? Or is there an answer to the question how did he become one? I was curious, and so I started digging into his personal past.

He was born the son of the second wife of his father, a government employee in Austria. His mother was his idol and greatest love. To the end of his life, he never got over her passing. He never finished high school. For a time he was taught by nuns. He was absolutely fascinated by the topic of the Richard Wagner operas and the mystery of the Germanic sagas. He wished to be ‘Germanic’ when still a young teenager. There was a beautiful girl his age he admired, but she was not interested. He loved to paint and hoped to be admitted to the Art Academy in Vienna. When he applied, he was told that his paintings are not good enough. He lacked the necessary talent for art, but his architectural drawings were acceptable, and he should consider becoming an architect. He left Vienna, deeply disappointed. He also left Austria, moved to Munich and made a simple living by selling his art.

He joined the German army and fought in WWI. He was wounded, got decorated and came back to Munich as a Corporal after the war. A new party, the ‘Worker’s Party’ attracted many of the surviving soldiers, officers, and generals, who felt cheated by the loss of the war. They claimed the outcome had been ‘fixed’ by the socialists and communists and they declared the Treaty of Versailles as unfair, and would, in the long run, lead to another war. Ranting and raving in the beer halls they tried to find a way to fix the world problems. By chance, Hitler attended one of the meetings and knew that this was the platform for his ideas to make Germany great again.

It seems that up to this point women did not play a part in Hitler’s life. Within a year, he became the leader of the Workers Party, renamed it the NSDAP, the National Socialist Democratic Workers Party, attracting even more people, especially wealthier and aristocratic men. They started to invite him into their homes and the rumors of him having love affairs with older women, especially actresses, added to his allure. When he became daring and tried to overthrow the Bavarian Government, to put one of his new friends in charge, he was arrested and put in prison. He defended himself with speeches that became famous throughout Germany. He wrote his book “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) while in custody, outlining his plan to rebuild Germany. Incredibly, that book is still in print and translated into several languages.

Years after his release, he moved into a place called “The Berghof” in the alpine mountains. He invited his half-sister to be his housekeeper. She had a daughter, Geli, a happy, outgoing teenage girl at seventeen years of age. Hitler was bewitched by his half-niece. He deeply loved her despite the fact that he was twenty years older. He spoiled her, he never left her side, even went window shopping in Munich with her or had bodyguards for her when he was not around. Geli liked the young chauffeur who was at her disposal and Hitler fired him. Geli felt imprisoned and begged to be allowed to go to Vienna to take up singing lessons. Hitler bought an apartment in Munich to spend more time with her and keep her under tight control. They had separate bedrooms with connecting doors. Hitler was obsessed with his niece. He later declared that she was the only woman he ever truly loved.

During this time at about age 40, he met the young assistant and model of the official photographer of his party. Eva Braun, who was 17, more worldly, wore makeup (which he hated) and smoked of which he did not approve. They went on walks together, and he was intrigued by their conversations. Eva started to frequent the small restaurants he went to, watched him and seems to have become a stalker without his knowledge.

One night Hitler had a terrible row with Geli. He went to a meeting in Nuremberg. Geli locked herself in her room and shot herself with his pistol, according to historians the same one he used in 1945 in the Führerbunker to shoot himself. Hitler was called back from Nuremberg and was devastated by Geli’s death. She was, by now, 23 years old. He fell into a deep depression; he was suicidal. Two party people stayed with him to prevent him from killing himself. He did not attend Geli’s funeral. But, after weeks, when he visited her grave, he had come back a changed man. He was brooding, dark, aggressive, and hateful. Meanwhile, his rise within the party continued. Many influential people supported him and his ideas.

When Hitler was 37 years old, he had met another young woman, Maria Reiter, who was only sixteen, and it was she who fell in love with him. When she realized it was a hopeless infatuation, she hanged herself but was cut down by a relative in time and lived. I think it was she who later married, and when her husband got killed in WWII, Hitler sent her 100 red roses.

There was another young woman, Unity Mitford, a member of the Fascist party of England. She came to Berlin, admired him greatly, tried to get close to him but also realized that he was only mildly interested in her because of her connections. She shot herself in the temple, survived but was brain damaged. Hitler paid her hospital bills and arranged her transport to Switzerland where she was picked up by her family and brought back to England where she later died of her injuries. Some historians claim that she had born him a son, but it has never been confirmed.

One of the most beautiful women in Germany, the actress Renate Müller caught his eye. She had a Jewish boyfriend and was asked to give him up. She refused. The boyfriend disappeared and she went into hiding in a mental care home. She jumped to her death from a window to escape SS men who came for her.

It seems to me, checking into his love life, that Hitler liked young women. He could mold them, control them, and keep them away from getting involved in his political life. He stated there were only two women he admired and respected: One was the pilot Hanna Reitsch, and the other was the Film Director Leni Riefenstahl. Women have no place in politics, he said. Loving this man proved fatal.

The German people had absolutely no idea that Hitler had a female companion living with him: Eva Braun. It was revealed after the war. Only the people in his inner circle knew her; she was hidden from any public appearances. Even she had tried twice to take her own life. Apparently, there are some heartwrenching letters in a museum somewhere, along with the pistol that Geli used to shoot herself, and Hitler used to end his own life after marrying Eva Braun when he realized that all was lost and the Russian army was closing in on the Bunker. Eva was his companion for thirteen years, she never left him, and as his wife took a cyanide capsule sitting next to him on a sofa.

Hitler had always claimed he could not enjoy the happiness of marriage since he was married to the German people and their welfare. He made sure he appeared to be a celibate man. He believed that all German women were in love with him and he could not disappoint any of them.

I discussed this side of Hitler’s life with Alison Donaghey of DominoThinking.com in a recent podcast which can be found here: https://dominothinking.com/radio/.

 

 

Budapest-Amsterdam River Cruise – Final Chapter

You may never have heard of the “Main River” in Germany.  Compared to the other large rivers like the Rhine, the Elbe and the Oder it does not flow the same way. Those start in the south of Germany and make their way towards the North Sea or the Baltic Sea. The 330 mile long Main River cuts across Germany through Franconia, a beautiful area with gems of cities not to be missed. Canals with almighty locks connect this hardly known river with the Danube. The last part of the impressive canal was only completed in 1992. It provides an international waterway connecting Rotterdam at the North Sea with Konstanca on the Black Sea.

We visited many of the pretty, fairy-tale towns along the Main. Since Scenic Cruise Lines has electrically assisted bikes for more adventurous guests, about thirty chose to ride next to the ship and meet up at the next stop. Arriving in the area of the modern metropole of Frankfurt we again had a choice of excursions. We elected Heidelberg, the oldest and most famous university town in Germany. At one time in my life I had to lecture there, needed to go to a hairdresser, they talked me into a color rinse, and my hair turned out red. RED! I hated it – but it couldn’t be changed until it washed out over the next four weeks. We had also read the fabulous ‘Schellendorf’ series of books by Lynn Alexander, set in Heidelberg. We tried to find the Schellendorf house, stable and other places but naturally did not miss walking up to the old castle ruin which provides an incredible view over the surrounding wine country with the Neckar river winding its way through it.

Mainz is the city where the Main River joins the waters of the Rhine. Johannes Gutenberg was born in Mainz; the man who invented the movable lettering for the printing process, enabling the mass production of books in 1440. His masterpiece was the first ever printed Bible still displayed in the Gutenberg Museum. Several places in Mainz warrant a visit; the cathedral which looks more like a fort, the medieval Iron Tower, and the art lover surely would not want to miss seeing the Chagall window in St. Stephen’s Church. The history of this city goes back more than two thousand years when the Romans realized the strategic importance of its location.

Another excursion in this area offered by Scenic was a visit to Wiesbaden, in the 19th century one of the most exclusive spa cities in Germany due to many hot springs. Once called ’Aquae Mattiacorum’ was a flourishing Roman city two millennia ago. It still retains the aura of its heyday in the Belle époque. Wiesbaden brings up another memory: I was married there. But that is another story, told in the sequel to my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That.”

Father Rhine! We must have entered it during the night because I do not remember our ship slipping from the Main into the Rhine River. Many poets have written about the Rhine, many songs are sung about it, and many cruise companies offer tours up and down the Rhine River. It springs in Basel Switzerland and winds its way through vast valleys and narrow gaps between mountains all the way to Holland, picking up other, smaller rivers joining it along the way. The best-known one of such rivers is the Moselle. A dangerous turn to navigate the Rhine for any ship is the corner at the Lorelei. The German poet Heinrich Heine wrote a song of a beautiful siren sitting on top of the steep cliff, combing her golden hair, singing and causing many a ship crashing, the captains lured by her and not paying attention at the sharp narrow bend in the river.

On both sides of the Rhine remain old castles, most now in ruins with maybe a small part made livable for an owner. Once upon a time they were built by robber barons, catching boats coming up or down the river and collecting fees. We had a historian on board telling the stories of twenty-three such castles. It was funny to watch people’s heads on the top deck swivel from one side to another, trying not to miss anything. I did a bike tour in 1957, and several castles were youth hostels. In the late eighties, we toured the Rhine area in a car, and we stayed in one converted to part hotel and restaurant. The owner was a Swizz man, he invited us for an after-dinner cognac (brandy) drink to enjoy with him. He lived alone and asked us many questions about life in Canada. The next day we noticed he had charged us for the drinks. Some invitation!

Not to be missed along the Rhine is Rüdesheim. Make sure to try a “Rüdesheim Coffee” laced with Assbach Uralt Brandy and sign up for a tour of the unique “Museum of Mechanical Music Instruments.” Rüdesheim is a truly ‘happy place.’

Scenic Cruises has a contract with the “Mark Castle.” We enjoyed a medieval dinner and show as well as being horrified by the room full of torture instruments of the not so good old times.

We sailed by the modern, extensive cities of Boppard, Bonn, Cologne; we had almost a day to enjoy Cologne, and then into the widening waterways leaving Germany to Holland, all the way to Amsterdam. Also known as the Venice of the North because of its many bridges, I’d call it the city of bikes. Highrise parking garages for bikes, bikes, bikes and more bikes. Houseboats along the waterways are beautifully tended with lots of plants and flowers, five or more story buildings all joined along the water, and one wonders how they were built on this watery part of the Earth.

An excursion brought us to an area with windmills, typical for Holland. We had fun visiting a store where the Dutch clogs were made, watching the craft production from a piece of wood to the painting of this footwear. I was reminded of my teen years when a pair of those (unpainted!) clogs kept my always icy feet warm, the only shoes I owned for a couple of years, worn for school, church and elsewhere. Interesting was a place where they made cheese, big wagon wheels of cheese were displayed to age on many shelves. And before you ask, yes, we could watch the process in the making and taste the types of cheese.

Writing about the Budapest-Amsterdam cruise and, despite having done others since, I dream and hope we can do this particular cruise again. There was so much to see and enjoy, and there wasn’t time enough to take it all in the first time. I am sure I will enjoy it, even more, the second time.

Good news: My e-books will be available at 50% off from December 25th to January 2nd on Smashwords:

Review of my Memoir brings Tears to my Eyes

Nikki Landis, a Goodreads author, reviewed my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That: An Amazing Story of Survival
Her rating: 5 Stars.

Nikki Landis is an award winning author of about a dozen books. She is well known for her “Fight for Light Novels”, “The NightWatchers Saga” and the “Freedom Fighters Series”. In 2017 she was the proud recipient of the IPPY Gold Star for her latest book “Refugee Road”. I have just started to read it and am fascinated.

Nikki is not only a prolific writer, she also reads more than anyone I know, and reviews all the books on Goodreads. Plus, she is a wife and the mother of five boys (7 years to 18!)  and works full time. How does she do it? Do her days have more than 24 hours? Oh, I forgot – the night also has 12! Funny! Thank you, Nikki, from all my heart.

Read Nikki Landis’s review:
Read in Aug 2017

Some stories must be told, no matter how disturbing, horrible, or unbelievable they may seem. Some truths devastate because you can’t imagine how they are possibly true. You DON’T WANT them to be true. How can such brutality exist? How can one individual possibly survive after so much horror? How much can the human spirit endure and bounce back from the brink of destruction and continue on?

This book, I think, is probably one of the most emotional and life changing stories I have ever read. It truly touched my soul. I have the utmost respect for the author and her courage, bravery, and willingness to step forward and tell the truth about the shocking and brutal events of her life. She is, WAS, a victim. Her family were victims. Her friends and neighbors. In fact, many German women were and yet they survived. They pushed forward. They endured the despicable and impossible, and they persevered.

This book is not an easy read. I had to stop often, take a breath or break, and come back to the story. Over several days I read and witnessed the horrific events that changed a nation and destroyed a country. As an American woman in 2017, what do I truly know of suffering? What do I know of survival, fighting with everything I have in order to make it through each day? What do I know of living in fear for my life or waiting for the next man to knock on my door, ordering me to disrobe? What do I know of losing all that I own, of being displaced without a home or country, and losing everything, including the people I love? What do I know of starvation?

The answer is simple. I do not. But by reading this story, I have an idea. My heart just aches. I’m devastated. I cannot imagine enduring for even one day what the author and these other women endured for months, years of their lives. How did they go on? How did they later marry and have families? How did not lose their very soul to such inhumane acts?

The story does not end there. The author takes us on a journey of self-discovery and the search for freedom. I found myself cheering her on throughout the book, hoping that she would finally find peace, love, and happiness. I don’t think you can give away spoilers in a novel like this. It’s a true account of suffering and perseverance, of losing everything and finding what truly matters, and because of that, I am happy to say I think the author found what she was looking for in the end.

Chronicling the first thirty or so years of her life, the author lays out life in the 1940’s and 50’s and her youth, her family, and life before the war. Once the war starts, it’s a shocking read. Be warned, this novel tells the brutal truth and is in parts almost too much, but only because of content. The way in which the books is written, in a narrative that feels like you are listening to a close friend, is the only way to get through the stories.

There is a lot of wonderful historical detail from life back in that era, landmarks, cities, geography, and much information about the war and its effects on the German people. For me this is one of the most interesting parts of the book. You hear much growing up about World War II and its effects on the world, the atrocity of so many lives lost, the hatred of the Jewish people, but I don’t think I can recollect much learning in school about the German people and their struggles. It’s wrong. We can’t forget as a society what happened. We can’t condone what happened. We can’t let it happen again.

WE CAN’T FORGET.

Stories like this must be told and published. They must be shared. They need to be read. What hope do we have for humanity if we forget, if the dust covers the words of these atrocities and God forbid, history tries to repeat itself? No, we can’t let that happen. And the author is right to share this story, to talk about what happened, and to ensure her words are written down for all eternity. In her own words, no embellishment, she describes the gritty and grueling aspects of her life from start to finish. There’s no other way the story could be written.

I have a much better understanding of history now. Such experiences must mark a person for life. This is a memoir I would recommend to everyone, but especially I will recommend to the women I know. It’s an emotional, courageous, and extraordinary story that MUST BE READ. I highly recommend purchasing this book and owning a copy for yourself. “We Don’t Talk About That” is truly an amazing story of survival.

Mentally overfed but feeling undernourished

Is there just too much information fed to us by the media? I think they have a dilemma too: Too much and too many serious things are going on in the world. Syria, Iran, North Korea, England, Russia and last but not least the USA keeps us breathless and, in many cases even frightened.  Hardly a day goes by when we do not get upset over a new announcement, and it hardly ever is about something we would emotionally get involved in: some good happenings in our own backyard.

I don’t want to add to it. I am just a person who, after writing the memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” – the years growing up under the Nazis, and then later under the Communist Regime in East Germany – who really is OVEFED but UNDERNOURISHED by the present political situation.  I would like to stick my head in the sand and write another book, a happy one! But that is dangerous and surely not advisable.

Talk about a happy book! It was on a flight from Hawaii to Canada when I got chatting with the stewardesses in their Business Class galley kitchen. Naturally the talk included the question “what do you do…” and my writing career came up. There was a time when “I did not talk about that” – but now, finding a willing ear to listen, I can’t shut up. One of the ladies was very keen on my title “We Don’t Talk About That”. She had serious questions.  Later, she went on to tell me about her aunt who had written a similar book, “Prague Winter” – and highly recommended I read it. I Googled it, found it, read it, and was amazed when I found out a lot of information about the writer: Madeleine Albright. I was not familiar with her name.

Madeleine Albright was the first woman ever nominated and accepted to become the Secretary of State in 1993. Wow! What a story! From the little Czech girl in “Prague Winter” to making history for women. What an intelligent person! She has written a number of books. One paragraph in the book I read resonated with me so strongly that I absolutely must share it with you:

“In the end, no one who lived through the years of 1937 to 1948 was a stranger to profound sadness. Millions of innocents did not survive, and their deaths must never be forgotten. Today, we lack the power to reclaim lives, but we have a duty to learn all that we can about what happened and why – not to judge with the benefit of hindsight but to prevent the worst of that history from playing out again.”

True words! So, my dear readers and followers, we are NOT TO STICK OUR HEADS INTO THE SAND. Let’s open our eyes; a lot of what has happened back then, what I have written about in “We Don’t Talk About That” and Madeleine Albright in “Prague Winter”,  is happening again and there are a lot of signs that worse may be to come. Madeleine Albright is working on a new book “Fascism” to be published in April 2018. “The author examines the economic, religious, racial, and cultural factors that are today dividing populations and fostering bigotry across the globe, while also looking at how demagogues from Mussolini to Duterte have attracted followers by exploiting fear, nurturing anger, and promising easy answers to complex problems,” according to HarperCollins, her publisher.

Do the people in power ever learn from history? Do they even KNOW the history or are vaguely interested in it? Do the people who elect them, have any clues? Maybe every generation has to make their own mistakes, have their own experiences, make their own history and create their own past. Will the next generation after them learn from it? Most likely, not. Maybe we resent or do not want to learn from or ‘copy’ our predecessors.

Somewhere I saw a quote, something like this: “When a boy is old enough to believe or even follow his father’s advice, he usually has kids who don’t believe him.”