Many thanks to the following individuals who have posted reviews:
Audrey M., Canada, 2016
This evening I finished reading your book “We Don’t Talk About That”. I was mesmerized throughout all the pages. I felt it to be ‘unfinished’! I want to know what happened!May I ask why you did not add an epilogue and at least a brief summary of the ensuing years?
Will you write another book to let us know what became of the rest of your life?I have relatives who were involved in these events of history as well, I never asked but nowI want to hear their full story. Your book has helped me to understand better and motivated me to approach several and a dinner party is planned. NOW I will really be able to HEAR them.
I do thank you for writing this book.
H. W. Bryce, Vancouver, B.C. 2015
I found this book to be a compelling read.
I am of the same era, so I remember a lot about it. I remember the somber news on our battery-driven radio in the countryside of Northern Saskatchewan. The deep-voiced announcers pounded their reports through the static and ambient white noise to tell of this battle or that.
And while Giselle was suffering with little or sometimes no food and had to grub in fields by night to rescue little potatoes left behind by the harvesters, and to sweep up flour dust in a mill to get supplies for home-made bread on wood-starved cook stoves, we “suffered” rationaing. Looking back, we might have thought of rationing as deprivation, but we never suffered without food, even if Mother sent us kids out to collect spring dandelion leaves for salads, etc.
There are many “moving” parts in Giselle’s past, and sometimes the oddest things will catch you unexpectedly. One such episode is when her mother was working for a widower farmer, and he popped the question. But her mother was convinced that her husband was coming back from “the gulag” in Siberia, and declined. She reported that he understood, but promised, “I will ask you again next year.”
I had to stop to breathe. I don’t know why that moved me so much.
But it is Giselle’s varied and often harried experiences that draw you in. Having to watch a Russian soldier bayonet a young mother in the crotch for fighting off his attempted rape and then stab her baby in the eyes with his bayonet has to be a life-changing trauma.
And then, on the other side of that same railway car that was supposedly carrying them away from this nasty war that had landed on their doorstep, to freedom, that same soldier turned from his fresh killings to where Giselle, then an 11-year-old child, huddled on one side of her mother while her little sisters held on to their mother on the other side. He raped the mother, who begged the children not to cry or the soldier would “do that to you too.”
To be spared death is not to be spared trauma. Well, it can’t get much more harrowing than that.
Such experiences are bound to mark you for life. That Giselle managed to survive that and more and come out a vibrant, intelligent, successful, full-fledged person speaks volumes about the strength of the human spirit.
Giselle’s descriptions of the exodus of thousands of Germans booted from their homes – twice in their case* – where people died and had to be left behind or die with them, be they old, sick, or just babies – by necessity conjures up the television images of today’s exodus out of Syria and Africa, and the resultant overwhelming population explosion in Europe. And this also in winter, which is coming on in Europe now (in more ways than one). We can thank God that the television exodus is probably the nearest we will come to such experience.
*Once when driven out of their home, by invading Polish army units, they were given ten minutes to get out. One young soldier struck the mother across the back with his bayonet and she tumbled down the stairway. Such brutality was repeated and compounded throughout the war.
Then, just like life, life happened after the escape. So part one, family and life; part two, the war; part three, life on one’s own and on with (a) career(s). Not to mention more attempted rape and a dangerous liaison.
Giselle’s graphic descriptions of places, houses, room, beds, details, including the pictures they formed in my mind of wounds, crying, etc., are splendid.
Personally, I liked the family intro to the book. I had to leaf back to it a few times. But Giselle was careful to remind us who was who throughout. Well done. One up on the Dostoyevskys of the world with that.
And the prewar setup is good.
Have to admit, although Giselle’s writing and her personal touches kept me reading, I found myself impatient to get to the “REAL” part of the story: The war, the escape(s), the trials, etc. etc. etc.
This is a very timely memoir. Read it.
Share the compassion.
Patricia Banks, Artist/Writer from Nanaimo B.C. 2015
In all places, in all times throughout history, victims of abuses and other atrocities have been similarly warned to keep the truth silent, appallingly enabling the perpetrators free reign. History is full of accounts of villains and heroes, but little is known about common citizens, ultimately pawns in the unfolding drama and terror that becomes their day to day existence.
This true story is a welcome addition to understanding a tumultuous time in world history. It fills in the gaps and illuminates the details with unheard stories of one such family told through the experiences of one of its members. It is a tribute to the extraordinary strength, commitment and courage of one woman.
Giselle Roeder’s book is gripping and poignant. She engages the reader, leading them gently by the hand, on a whirlwind journey back through time to relive the events before, during and after the WW2 that have shaped the lives of millions. She brings the truth out of the darkness for the benefit of all. An amazing story of optimism, hope, achievement, survival and triumph, in spite of the odds.
Ed Z, Qualicum Beach, B.C. 2015
Giselle, I read your book, and finished it last week. I promptly passed it on to a German friend of mine to read also. What did I think ? Well, it was an eye opener to say the least ! You are a very brave & courageous woman to have put all your experiences in writing. To say that you are a survivor would be a gross understatement ! I’m sure that there are millions of people worldwide that have no idea what really went on behind the scenes during and after WWII because “We don’t talk about that” ! Thank you for bringing your story to us.
Gerhard S., Vancouver, B.C. 2015.
Finally I purchased your book. I started reading and couldn’t put it down. It isn’t just good it is very good. It is gripping, even though I have heard much of the story from you over the past twenty years. It is good to see the story did not change. It is well organized so that one knows who is who as we meet them over the years of age, old rural bliss, looming disaster, cataclysm and redemption.
You may have started a new genre with this book. It is not often we encounter a book showing fortitude and heroism amongst the despised losers of a bitter war, together with kernels of humanism remaining amongst the unspeakable brutality of vengeful victors when they encounter the only ones left: the innocent. Everyone should read it.
Liza B, Victoria, B.C. 2015
I was sitting at work and it is a little slow right now. Kathy sits across from me. At her desk are numerous Friesens Press books. I grabbed your book “We don’t talk about that” and even though I am only on page 66 I have never been more captivated by a book. By page 20 I had to interrupt Kathy twice to make her read parts out of the book. I have already had to tell numerous people about the book and what is happening. History has always intrigued me and to read about your childhood and your everyday experiences to how even Hitler came to power is fascinating. This book gives glimpses into the war and what was happening during that time that the Press and News never even touched on. I was hoping there was a picture section in the book but I was very happy to find the pictures on your website. I am a huge animal lover and get nervous when I start to read a part regarding animals. At times I have cringed (when the horses were shot during your dad’s first vehicle story) to identifying the bond between a person and animal (you and your horse) to compassion (how your family treated the cats with such love). I just wanted you to know that your book (even though I am not even half done) is an amazing read and I get a little grouchy when work comes onto my desk where I have to stop reading your book. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
No sooner had I written the above than I turned the page into the true horror of the book. I was shocked to know what the Russian soldiers had done to the Germans. You do not hear about that when you read and see the documentaries regarding WWII. As hard as it is to read the brutality of what occurred it has been a real eye opener to events I never knew took place. Thank you Giselle for shedding light on a subject that so many people of tried to bury.
A recent on-line interview by another author, Caron Allan in the UK: 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Survival to Triumph, Dec 22 2014
This review is from: We Don’t Talk about That – An Amazing Story of Survival (Paperback)
It’s been said in reviews already: This is an amazing chronicle. Roeder opens her story in the breathless voice of a child, recounting the wonder days of German farm life before Hitler’s war. The harsh world of Nazism only gradually brushed country life, but closed down more tightly when the war began. Still, the war seemed far away, until the tide turned and the Russian army swept through Pomerania on their way to Berlin.
This is a strong story of endurance, of survival, of incredible horrors that no child should ever witness, and of going forward through tough determination out of the ashes of defeat to personal triumph. The writer’s voice matures with the story. The entire memoir is charged with energy, and with a unique perspective.
We need to remember the consequences of war. He who forgets the past is destined to repeat it. We see this everywhere today. We have not learned this lesson of history. We must.
Read this wonderful book, and remember.
5 out of 5 stars
We should be talking about this., 22 Oct 2014
I Highly recommend this novel to all.
Author of “The Secret Inside”
Ann Victoria Roberts (from amazon.co.uk) 2014
Subtitled, ‘An amazing story of survival’ this autobiography is surely that.GiselleRoeder was born inaGermanprovincewhichafterWW2 became part of Poland. Her story is by turns illuminating, shocking, awe-inspiring and uplifting – beautifully written in a style that simply draws the reader along.The first third of this autobiography tells of peaceful family life between the wars in a quiet farming area.Forthe majority of the war, little seemed to change until the beginning of 1945, when the Russians came.WW2 and what led up to it, most people know about: Hitler and the Nazis, the ‘Final Solution’ and the terrible events of the Holocaust. From the books that came out of the USSR in the 1960s, I’d read about Stalin’s pogroms and the Siberian gulags; about a political system that was akin to the Spanish Inquisition. But what happened in 1945, when the Russians overran eastern Germany – including the Baltic states and the Balkans – I knew nothing of that.GiselleRoeder has enlightened me. I found it deeply shocking to read of wholesale rapes by the Russian soldiers – ordered by Stalin – to demoralise and subdue the German population. This personal story – thethingsshewitnessed and experienced – is told without undue emphasis, and without begging for sympathy, but simply, ‘the way it happened’. And her words carry more weight because of it. I can fully understand the title of this book: ‘We Don’t Talk About That,’since to speak of it is to re-live the horror. And yet people should know – it’s the other side of the coin.The story of her family’s escape towards relatives living on the Baltic coast, put meaning into the phrase ‘displaced persons’. And it proves the sad adage that ‘nothing really changes.’ Her story makes personal current TV pictures of people bombed and/or ejected from their homes, trailing along roads, carrying children,pushinghandcarts, sitting in camps. How her baby sister survived starvation on that journey is one miracle; how Giselle survived diphtheria while on the road is another.But those experiences bred a woman determined to succeed. Her escape to West Berlin is a story in itself; how shewas saved by kindness, andsubsequently abused by her employer is another. But all the time she was striving and learning, acquiring business experience as well as knowledge. Towards the end of the book, an intolerable situation makes another move imperative – this time, it seems, abroad to Canada.If I have any criticism at all, it is to do with the ending, which is abrupt. Fortunately, there is a ‘taster’ of the beginning of the second half of Giselle Roeder’s autobiography, which is (in my opinion) the cliff-hanger on which the first book should have ended. But that is a minor point. As a personal, brave, and extraordinary story, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As a piece of social history it is a valuable document.Thank you, Giselle Roeder, for writing it.
Bob Pickles (from Amazon.co.uk): 2014
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. It is not : it is from the other viewpoint – that of a German family (Pomeranian) caught up in a relentless & ruthless revenge policy endorsed by Stalin himself by rampaging & victorious Russian troops determined to wreak havoc on a nation who so equally ravished their own country & population. Revenge is indeed violently exacted upon the females of all ages by the terrifying & simple phrase “Frau, Komm” . Anyone who knows their history will understand the terror behind these powerful two short words. Not since the Japanese visited their venom on the innocents of Nanking or Manilla has rapine acts of such propensity been perpetrated in so condensed a period or area.
Nonetheless, ‘Gila’ & her family endure, comfort & protect each other through all adversities of starvation & illness, separation & violence in its many forms to seek salvation & safety of a kind in the West Germany of post-war Europe. Gila’s subsequent determination to educate herself & find a satisfying & humanly rewarding career is inspirational to today’s doubting youngsters. If it 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 – a fine testament to the unquenchable spirit of survival & hope with the help of a few ‘angels’ along the way. My only criticism is the abrupt ending which cries out for the developing story of Gila’s emigration to Canada & adventures & subsequent career & personal life there – we all like a happy ending!
Buy, read and learn the balance of history & why the current campaign supported by Angelina Jolie & others against rape in conflict is such an important but seemingly futile message of hope. “Without hope, we are but grains of sand washed into an ocean of despair”.
Ishbel C from Calgary writes: 2015
I want to tell you how much I am appreciating and enjoying “We Don’t Talk About That”.
Joyce I from Nanaimo writes: 2015
Thank you for writing your book “We Don’t Talk About that”.
I loved reading about your relatives, especially your father and was so happy that he came home again. I did not realize that in Germany life under Hitler rule was so bad for his own people. I came from the “other side” so to speak where all we heard when growing up was that the Germans had bombed London. I had not realized throughout my life that the German people were also going through their own hell at that time.
I could not put your book down until I had finished it. I also came through the war years but at a younger age. I was born in 1940 – just in time for the bombing of London. We were evacuated to Wales when I was 2 years old. Our family was made up of five children 3 boys and 2 girls.
I emigrated to Canada when I was 24; stayed a year with my brother in Quebec then moved to Vancouver, B.C.. I married a Dutchman. He was born in Rotterdam, and spent 4 years of the war in a work camp in Berlin, but, as in your book, would not talk too much about his experiences there, only that he was always hungry. He had to find his own way back home to Rotterdam when he became sick with pleurisy and was released.
Giselle J from Prince Rupert, BC: 2015
I just finished reading your book (We Don’t Talk About That) and want to thank you for writing it – and for “talking about that”. I have to admit, I couldn’t put it down for the last 100 pages so haven’t accomplished much in the last 5 hours, other than reading! My parents came to Canada from West Berlin in 1956 and I will share your book with them. When I was growing up in NW BC, we had a German family living two doors down from us. The wife grew up in East Prussia and she too never talked about what happened when the Russians came. My dad was in Berlin when the Russians came and he too doesn’t talk about that. Thank you for breaking the silence!
George H: www.george-hopkins.com from Staten Island, NY: 2015
We recently returned from a trip which included a visit to a work camp in Berlin. I was surprised to hear about the atrocities the Russians performed after WWII when they took over the camp. Your story should be told and read by all. Congratulations and best wishes. “We Don’t Talk About That” is a winner and thank you for sharing it with all of us.
Claudette C from Nanaimo: 2015
“We Don’t Talk About That” is such a courageous act of story telling and yet must be told for all the world to hear and believe the effects of war depicted daily on the news today. We sit safely engaged on a daily basis with the horrific pictures we are shown on television then read Giselle Roeder’s book and our emotions are rocked to the core of our beings; for this story leads us deep inside the world of people subjected to the real life impact of war.
Giselle’s courage & candid telling of such shocking events must not be ignored. Anyone who reads her story will never be able to forget what innocent victims of war have to endure.
This is a call to arms for an end to atrocities carried out in the name of freedom. What appears as a fight for national freedom is shown in this book as an opportunity for committing such atrocities against humankind that do not bear knowing about, let alone telling about as this amazing author, Giselle Roeder has done.
I weep as I read, but must find the courage to continue as the courage it takes to read is dwarfed in comparison to the courage to tell & print the story.
Sue G from the UK: 2015
Giselle, I finished your book a week or so ago. I enjoyed it immensly, though enjoying is probably not quite the right word. I am amazed by your recall of such details (though I guess so many events were quite clearly etched on your memory), and your synopsis of the origins of WWII was the finest I’ve ever read. I can only assume as it finished so abruptly that you have left the door open for a continuation? I shall certainly pass it on to friends to read, and I do hope you have great success with it. I have enormous admiration for you undertaking what must have been a real effort to re-live, and perhaps you have found it cathartic in the process? I shall be very interested to hear other views and comments, so keep me posted.
Eastern Reader (from Amazon.com): 2015
This is a book that you cannot put down. It is the true story of a young woman’s survival through war, famine and serious illnesses. It begins with her account of her childhood on a large farm with her multi-generational family in Germany prior to and during the start of WWII. The true story is told by the author who witnessed horrific events, escaping the threats of arrest and death, overcoming the loss of close relatives, and all of her family property. In spite of or perhaps because of these horrific experiences, she was so resilient that she did not lose her sense of humour for long and grew up learning many skills along the way, to become a self-reliant strong woman. There is a hint at the end of the book that she will start a new life, a little obvious that there will be a sequel and yet, leaving the reader a bit up in the air.
Stephanie H from the UK: 2015
I really want to say how much I enjoyed reading your book. It was certainly a story to tell but your recall is amazing and I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like growing up in those difficult times. Quite an eye opener for me as I had no idea what was going on in Germany, Poland and Russia. Having not been born until after the war it was not something that I ever heard about so that made it all the more incredible somehow.
Thank you again for sending me an autographed copy which will be much treasured and is already in demand by friends who want to borrow it and read your amazing story. The way it finished fairly abruptly makes me wonder if you are planning on a sequel? Anyway, well done for writing it.
Michele G from London, Ontario: 2015
I loved every minute of reading this book. How brave of Giselle to sit down and go through all her memories again, in order to share this wonderfully written book with the world. The quality of a good book for me, is when it can make you laugh, cry, count your blessings, and not want it to come to an end. This book achieved all of those things. I have learned over my lifetime, that everyone has a story and some will share that story and some won’t. I’m glad that you shared your story, Giselle and hope that many have a chance to read it.
Jim C from Nanaimo: 2015
I very much enjoyed your story. You truly were a wonder and a very brave person to boot. Thank you for sharing as it certainly has enlightened me on the times and the things people had to put up with in Europe during those troubled times. Looking forward to the next chapter in your saga.
Suzanne B from Nanaimo: 2015
I finished your book and absolutely loved it. What a life you had, and you have such a talent to write about it. I have learned many things that were never covered by the media. Of course I knew about East and West Germany and the Berlin Wall, but not in such detail and from a personal account.
Congratulations and the best of success. 2 thumbs up.
John D from Qualicum Beach, BC: 2015
I read your book in 3 days. That about sums it up. I was so intrigued by your story that I just had to keep reading. Please let me know when the follow up is published. Thank you for taking the time and energy in the writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Laurie G from Nanaimo: 2015
A totally amazing book, I couldn’t put it down. I laughed, I cried. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I tell everyone about it. I can’t wait for the second book.
James K from Castlegar, BC: 2015
We Don’t Talk About That is a truly remarkable book that reads like the cinematic unravelling of a Steven Spielberg movie. I am reading it aloud to my wife, Marge, and we are now up to chapter 14. We brought Kleenex for our tears. I am obviously so deeply moved by this true story that at times the writing takes my breath away and I have to stop reading. Our hearts are overflowing each day with the author’s courage and initiative as a child in war. The real child depicted in the story certainly was enterprising in her search for food and friendly contacts who might help her family, and as a result, she saved lives.
Celine A: 2014
Hello Giselle, I just wanted to tell you that I just finished reading your book and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I could not put it down. I was disappointed when I got to the end, I wanted to to read more. Congratulations on such a wonderful book.
Jocelyne P from Montreal: 2014
Back from cruise – and LOVED your book. A real page turner. I couldn’t put
it down. Bought it from Amazon and it’s on my Kindle reader on my iPad. I
was wondering about the last page. Is it meant to end with the paragraph
‘puzzled and uncertain’? If so, are you planning a sequel?
[GR: The “puzzled and uncertain” paragraph is part of the excerpt from my sequel.]
Margaret P from Nanaimo: 2014
I started to read “We Don’t Talk About That” and never stopped until I finished it. I found it riveting. Written by this mostly self educated, German by birth author in excellent English, her memoirs of her family and herself determined to survive WW II and the post war years by sheer will and ingenuity, under enormous odds against success, is a testimony to the human spirit’s ability to conquer the odds..
There is a sequel coming and I can’t wait to read it.
Robert F from Winnipeg: 2014
What gripped me is that a woman I have known for 40 years has experienced this first hand and she never told me anything about it. I learned what great length people will go to in order to survive horrors that most people will never experience. I will tell friends about this detailed personalized story about the horrors of war. How the book is very frank in its graphic descriptions about the life of a German family which draws the reader into a personal connection with the author as the book is believable.
Colleen M from Nanoose Bay: 2014
A book hard to put down. How did she ever survive? It relates the author’s life before, during and after WWII. I think the readers will learn things that the average person in North America never learned in school or read in Newspaper; about how the war affected thousands of families, not just the Jews, and not just the Nazis. I like the fact that the book is not “just” about the war. It covers not only the innocent childhood memories and the fears and atrocities encountered during the Russian invasion, but the creation of the two German States, the author’s life after the war and how she survived, became successful, and overcame even more difficult situations in her young adulthood before, finally, making a monumental decision to leave Germany and come to Canada. I recommend the book highly because of learning a part of history that people to this day don’t want to “Talk About” and at the same time for the entertainment value that touches your heart.
Eric M R from Winnipeg: 2014
I was blown away by descriptions of events during the war as seen through a young German girl’s eyes. It opened my mind to what ordinary German families endured and went through during WWII. The book tells an amazing story of an innocent eleven year old girl who persevered through some horrible events during the war and made her into a strong successful woman. The book is one of those that you just can’t put down – like watching a movie.
Geri B from Parksville: 2014
The graphic horrors of war told in a realistic, sometimes even distanced way as experienced by a young girl. I was touched by the ability of the human spirit to do what it takes to survive.
Island bookie (from Amazon.com)
A must read!, May 16, 2014
This book reveals so much of what German women were so reluctant to discuss following the Russian invasion and subsequent occupation of East Germany. It is, as the sub-title says, an amazing story of survival. It will make you smile, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you shake your head in wonder but, most of all, it will cause you to be amazed at the resilience of the human spirit under extreme adversity. Once started it is a book that is hard to put down.
I liked that the author augments her book with a photo gallery and other information related to her book at: http://giselleroeder.com
“A Woman in Berlin” describes the life ofonewomanoverashortperiod of time during the Russian occupation. This book, by comparison, describes the life of a whole family from 1934 to 1963.
Trevor C from Nanaimo:
I have been privileged to read an early manuscript of this gripping story of survival. It is easy to understand the reluctance of so many women to talk about their experiences during and immediately following a war. This author has demonstrated great courage in taking on the task of recording what others will not talk about. The book relates both her experiences as a young child in a war torn country and her subsequent experiences as a young adult including an unwanted affair, being stalked, being confronted by a rapist which drove her to finding escape in emigration.
Linda B from Seattle, Washington:
I just finished this book. It is very good although I have to admit I did find it difficult to read of the experiences from an emotional perspective. This is a great book written by a very courageous woman who actually lived it. Very interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes horrific. A truly incredible story. The author is an amazing woman and I am in awe of her bravery in sharing her story.