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.”

Vimy Ridge: The Battle defining Canada as a Nation

The 9th of April 2017 is an important date in the history of Canada. One-hundred years ago, four Canadian divisions, organised and trained as one fighting force, fought three divisions of Germans who had held the important Vimy Ridge line against the efforts of the French, who lost 150.000 lives in an earlier battle, and, when relieved by the British armies, the situation did not change. The Germans held the ridge. It took the Canadians three days of heavy fighting and a loss of nearly 3.600 lives and over 7.000 wounded until the enemy retreated. For about a week now, television and all social media have been rehashing the history of this battle. It was the biggest and most decisive battle waged by Canadians against the Germans in France.

Watching the news, I asked myself: What actually led to WWI? Was it the assassination of the Archduke of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo as most historians claim? It seems there was much more to it than that. The Emperor of Austria-Hungary had his eye on the Balkan states. He annexed Bosnia and Herzogewina in 1908. After the assassination in Sarajevo the Emperor wanted to annex Serbia but the ultimatum was rejected. It took several weeks before the, then almighty, Austria-Hungary Emperor decided to declare war on Serbia and Bosnia, two revolutionary and terroristic states of the Balkan. The Balkan war was supposed to be all there was, a “small” war about territory that led to the so-called “Great War”. Austria, which was not really prepared for war after a long period of peace, called on their German ally when Russia prepared for fighting on the Serbian side. Russia also allied with the French, and it didn’t take long before the whole world was on fire. Those are the underlying causes as I see it.

I read somewhere “WWI was a political misjudgement…” – a misjudgement that cost around 38 million lives. Does that shock us? For me, it is a much bigger shock to think about the 10.000 casualties of the Canadians fighting and winning the battle of Vimy Ridge in less than three days.

Now, one-hundred years later, we celebrate those brave men, some younger than eighteen and some lying about their older age just to go and fight. A forty-year old miner would have lived if he had not lied about his age and registered as a twenty-eight year old man. It is hard to imagine that in Canada, a country with a population of less than eight million in 1914, 619.000 men enlisted. 66.000 did not return and 172.000 were wounded. The stories we hear on the news are incredible. Many people have diaries written by their ancestors, letters and photos. Everything pulls at our heart strings. Thousands of Canadians have traveled overseas to be part of the 100-year celebration. Newest reports say between 25.000 and 30.000, including thousands of young high school students from all over Canada, attended the celebration at Vimy.

The impressive memorial at Vimy was built to honor around 11.000 dead Canadians with unknown resting places. A competition for the design was open to all Canadian architects, designers and sculptors after 1920. Of one-hundred and sixty designs, two were finally selected by a commission in 1921. William Lyon Mackenzie King, then Prime Minister of Canada, argued for the design by Walter Seymour Allard of Toronto and got unanimous support from parliament. The French donated 100 hectares of land where the battle was fought under the condition that Canada build and maintain a memorial park. Mr. Allard searched far and wide for the right stones and found them in Croatia. The construction of the monument began in 1925 and took eleven years to complete. His Majesty, King Edward VIII, also considered the King of the young Nation of Canada, unveiled the memorial on July 26th 1936 with 50.000 people in attendance.

During his speech regarding the memorial, His Majesty stated:

It is an inspired expression in stone, chiselled by a skilful Canadian hand, of Canada’s salute to her fallen sons.”

 

“Madame Pele – the Fire Goddess”

hawaii-volcano-1 The recent video of a tremendous fiery lava flow into the ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii was making the rounds on many social media sites. (also on my Facebook sites) It’s no secret the lava is flowing all the time anyway. Cruise ships, leaving from Kona, would make sure of sailing past at night to treat their guests to an unforgettable sight. At one time, I was on one of the ships. This new SUPER flow started just after New Year’s 2017. It went on for several weeks until a huge part of the cliff broke off and closed the exit. The massive flow of the boiling, liquid lava found a few new outlets – but nothing to compare with the fireworks of the previous weeks. I wonder what happened that made “Pele” so terribly angry!

You don’t know her? Pele’s mysterious story intrigues me. Naturally, there are several versions but I’ll tell you my take on it. Pele was born and grew up on Tahiti with brothers and sisters and parents who were “gods” of some kind. She had her share of family problems because of her fiery temperament. As a teenager, she seduced her older sister’s husband. Enough was enough and her father threw her out. Her brother gave her a canoe and she found a way to a small group of islands. With her “Pa’oa”, a divining rod, she tried but couldn’t make a “fire pit”. So she went on and lived on Kauai for a short time. Her furious sister, the ocean goddess Namakaokahai, had followed, found and attacked her, and left her for dead.

1024px-diamond_headPele recovered. She went on to Oahu. Here she dug several fire pits. The ocean goddess, her sister Namakaokahai, flooded them to drive Pele away. One of Peles Oahu craters is the well known “Diamond Head” in Honolulu. After a brief sojourn on Molokai, she fled to Maui. We are still in awe of the huge Haleakala crater she built on this island, extinct now for many years but famous for tourists who drive up in the middle of the night to experience an unforgettable sunrise. Tip: Dress warmly! Baby, it’s cold up there…

Namakaokahai, her sister, did not give up. She came to do battle. She killed Pele near Hana where a small hill is supposed to be her grave. Pele’s spirit, now a Goddess, made a home on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa had thirty-three eruptions since

Awesome! The Earth is boiling!

Awesome! The Earth is boiling!

1843, the last one in 1984, is quiet right now but not to be trusted, and Mauna Kea, measured from the ocean floor higher than Everest, often covered with snow, are distinctive volcanic mountains. Pele made Mauna Kea her home and built her final fire pit, high enough that no ocean waves could reach it: the Halema’uma’u crater on the summit of Kilauea mountain. Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanos in the world; millions of visitors visit Pele’s last home year after year. The area of many square miles with several calderas, containing boiling lava, occasionally unbelievable fireworks, and constant fumes of sulfurous smoke, is now a National Park.

The Hawaiians still believe in Pele. To show respect, they talk about her as “Madame Pele”. There are stories about how High Chieftess Kapi’o lani, converted to Christianity in the 18th century, tried to prove that her new God is stronger than Pele. She threw something into the caldera – and was not killed as everybody expected. Missionaries ate the red berries “kapu” (forbidden) for humans and nothing happened. They proved a point and slowly Christianity was accepted. But – Pele is still very much ‘alive’ in the minds of Hawaiians. Some claim they have seen her, either as a tall, beautiful woman or as an old lady with a white dog, begging. If you do not share with her, you are severely punished. For years and years, volcanic eruptions were common and since 1983 a never-ending flow of lava pours into the sea.So far, Pele has added 220 hectares of land to the Big Island of Hawaii. Not only that, a new island is growing under the ocean, and the scientists have revealed that it is already close to showing itself above the waves.

I am fascinated by the lava. There are two distinctive types: the a’a lava, dense, crusty, up to ten meters thick, slow-flowing and the pahoe-hoe lava, fast flowing over the a’a, winding, twisting and finally, when cooling, looking like ropes. Caves and tunnels are created and the most famous tunnel, one even tall people can walk through, is located hawaii-volcano-2on the Kilauea summit. People have built a small community on this mountain: you can stay in an hotel, spend hours in a museum, buy and write postcards and post them right there in a small post office to get the special stamp. Living in harmony with Madame Pele? Hmm, I don’t know.The Hawaiians warn you about ill health or other serious problems if you take any pieces of lava or even black sand from some beaches on the island. I talked to the lady in the post office about it. She got quite passionate and, to convince me, she opened a door to a room full of unopened parcels, shelves full of letters from all over the world. Tourists, who didn’t heed the warnings, had sent back what they took away. I was able to read some of the letters, letters from people who regained their health after having sent Pele’s goods back. A huge pile of lava pieces next to the post office was lava sent back in already unpacked parcels.

Jack's house was spared - he still lives there

Jack’s house was spared – he still lives there

There used to be a road to drive around the whole volcano area. We did that drive once – but a year later, when we came back, the road was gone and meters of lava covered it. A whole small village was covered with lava, but one stubborn man, Jack, refused to leave his house on the hill. Incredibly, the flow of lava divided, surrounded his house and the house remained untouched. A green spot on a mountain of black! The same happened to a kind of spiritual circle. No wonder that superstition is ripe. We used a narrow path from the summit to the crater and were warned not to step off to either side. Sulfuric little puffs came out of the earth and, being curious, touching the ground, noticed it was hot. At one time, a teen had tried to run and pass other walkers on the path, sank into the ground and nobody could help. Depending on the daily forecast, this path and the road to the crater is often closed.

The last time I visited Pele’s home was in 2011. This time, flying over it instead of driving up to it, gave me a new perspective. The Big Island is made up of hundreds of square kilometers of lava flows. It is incredible how people have built villages and even dsc01934cities on this volatile ground, created many farms, beautiful gardens, airports and many new roads. The lava provides a fertile ground once men with their big machines have a go at it. The birds do their thing with droppings containing seeds and one can only wonder about the power of nature: create, destroy, then recreate. But the might of the volcano can not be harnessed. Looking into the crater from above, it’s a boiling gray soup. And, when Pele gets mad, beware!

If you like to see more, click: http://www.picturesandplanetickets.com/2017/02/08/chasin-lavafalls-hawaiian-lava-boat-tours/

Walls and Walls and more Walls?

 

Gate to Dionkelbuehl

Walls can surround you anywhere. You can build a wall around your heart. People build emotional walls around themselves. Your garden may have a wall for privacy. We had a wall built to shore up our garden against landslip. My favourite city of West Vancouver has a Seawall, the most wonderful place for walking or jogging. I have visited a great number of cities surrounded by walls, mostly built during the last two thousand years to keep out enemies or marauders. Surprisingly, many are still in good shape. And last but not least, I have lived and worked in the beautiful harbour city of newest part of wallStralsund at the Baltic Sea with a city wall which was rebuilt after heavy bombardments during WWII. Lest we forget! This wall is not for protection anymore – but primarily for its beauty, history, and tourism. (My guess!) Stralsund is now listed with UNESCO. You find other places with walls surrounding them along the Romantic Road and many other places in Germany. Some even have moats with drawbridges in front of the wall.

Some medieval cities have a small little door next to the big gate which was closed at dusk. A resident, coming home too late to enter through the big gate, had to make himself known to the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper usually lived in a small room above the gate. Giving the right name or password the small door would be opened. During a conversation about religion my old friend Fred had asked me:

“Giselle, do you know how a camel gets through the eye of a needle?”

Fred was a Sunday school teacher. When he asked me he was referring to the Bible, Matthew 19:24. I knew the term but I had no answer. That’s when he explained that the little door next to the gate in the city wall of Jerusalem was called “Eye of the Needle”. During a late arrival with a camel, both man and beast had to crouch and it was very difficult for the animal to get through. Jesus compared it to the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven.

The most famous and longest wall in the world is the ‘Great Wall of China’. I have climbed this wall to the highest point as the only woman of my China Tour group a few weeks after the horrific happenings in the year of 9/11. The trip to China was the most interesting trip I ever did. Climbing the wall started out easy enough but got harder as the stairs got steeper and narrower. With my western shoe size, I had been walking sideways. At one point – by just inches – I almost got the boot of the man in front of me in my face. Respectfully, I put a few more steps between us.

2-image1The part of the ‘Great Wall’ my group traversed starts not far from Beijing and was built to keep invading armies out. It runs on top of a steep mountainous landscape. Invaders would be seen early and would hardly have a chance before being destroyed from above. Needless to say, the views are stupendous. The ‘Great Wall of China’ is supposedly one of the very few constructions on earth seen from space. It took many Emperors, soldiers, and criminals over 2000 years to build it. Most of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and, naturally, it has been repaired constantly ever since. It measures 8,851 km (or 5,500 miles) but in ancient times, all the different sections together stretched over 21,000 kilometers.

Another well-known wall to most of us is the infamous “Berlin Wall”. It was built by the German Democratic Republic (DDR) during the night of August 13th, 1961. To this day it is a puzzle how nobody had known and nobody ever saw or heard the trucks bringing masses of rocks, blocks, barbed wire and fence materials to the different locations. To build this wall was the only way to stop people from fleeing to the west. Parts of the wall ran along the middle of city streets dividing neighbours, families or friends living in houses on either side. Imagine a wall with glass pieces and barbed wire on top where we have a yellow line to divide the traffic. Thousands had fled the DDR every single day (I was one of them) and more were trying to escape after the wall was built by digging tunnels, even constructing a balloon, swimming across lakes and needless to say, many lost their life trying. The East German police had strict orders to shoot to kill.

image2-002-1The Berlin Wall was just one part of what became known as the “Cold War”. After the Berlin Wall had closed the biggest ‘hole’ to stop the escapes, construction of a wall with mine fields, and guard towers was built around the entire communist controlled part of Germany. It was probably the only wall ever built to keep people “in” and not to keep the enemy “out”. Just as nobody knew that this wall was going to be built so nobody expected it to come crumbling down during anyone’s lifetime. Incredibly, during a huge mass demonstration on the eastern side of the wall when everyone expected the Russian tanks to crush them, nothing happened and the East German police, guarding the wall, put their guns down. The people stormed the wall, started hacking away at it and once a section broke down, the rush to get through before all hell would break loose, filled the night with screams. Screams turned to laughter as people were met by the waiting crowd on the western side with hugs and tears. With music and song punctuated by champagne corks popping, they started dancing on the wall. The night turned into the party of all parties, never experienced or dared to hope for, uniting people and families after nearly thirty years of being kept apart.

Brandenberg Gate

Brandenberg Gate

On June 12th, 1987, at a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, President Ronald Reagan had called out to Mikhail Gorbachev,

“Tear down this Wall!”

It happened unexpectedly on the 9th of November 1989. It was the end of the Cold War, the unification of the two Germanys and it started the break-up of the mighty Soviet Union. Twenty-seven years of friendship, rebuilding and a never experienced quality of life for many countries followed. Today, we ask ourselves what may lie in our future now.

Donald Trump promised during the American election campaign to build a wall along the Mexican border. Would it become the most infamous wall of all the walls in the world? From the English songstress ‘Adele’ to Pope Francis and many others, cries like “Don’t build walls, build bridges” are heard. According to Donald Trump, his will be the highest, the meanest, and the longest wall ever. Will it rival the Great Wall of China and will it be seen not just from the ‘Moon’ but from ‘Mars’ as well!? Just kidding…

Halloween – Ghosts and Goblins

Pirate Day

I couldn’t believe it! It was only the middle of September when I saw the first Halloween costumes for sale. Placed close to the entrance the sales rack had stopped a number of children in their tracks. Excitedly they checked the costumes and called:

“Mom, this is exactly what I want! Come, take a look. Isn’t this cool?”

I couldn’t help watching them. With rosy cheeks they would touch this one and pull out another; they started begging their parent to buy the one they liked best. They didn’t listen to Mom saying,

“Let’s go to other stores too, you might even find something better.”

No, it had to be right now! Many little boys want to be pirates and most little girls want to be princesses. Just a few years older and they want to be witches or devils or scary ghosts and even appear to be skeletons. It is amazing how many choices there were. What I couldn’t believe were the prices. They were rather high. When my kids were small we made the costumes at home since we couldn’t afford to buy any. I don’t even know if one could buy ready-made ones in the olden days because we never checked. Times surely are different.

dsc03802Next to Christmas, Halloween is big business with the highest turnover during the year. I read that in the USA alone people spend over six billion dollars for candies, decorations, and costumes. There is also the pumpkin business, fields of large and small pumpkins by the thousands and huge cases full of pumpkins in all the food shops. When I was a kid my mother would make a desert out of the flesh and if we were very good she would allow us to carve one for a candle. We collected and dried the seeds and ate them. We did not know then but I now know that pumpkin seeds are very good for your health because of the high content of protein, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. They make the best snack and are ‘antioxidant scavengers’ – busy to improve your immune system. A little-known secret is the enhancement of men’s sexual health.

Have you ever ask yourself what are the roots for this festivity? The history goes back about 2.000 years to the ancient Celtic festivities called “Samhain “. The Celts believed the ghosts of the dead came back on the evening before November 1st, their New Year’s Day, to haunt and scare them. They would light bonfires, wear costumes to fool the ghosts into mistaking them for their own kind and, to prevent the ghosts from entering their house placed food on the steps. In the 9th century, Christianity had created an ‘All Souls Day’ and the evening before was  ‘All-Hallows Eve’ and  eventually became Halloween or Hallowe’en.

Halloween came to America through the Irish immigrants and evolved during the last few hundred years to what it is today. It is big business for costumes, candy, pumpkins and all kind of decorative ghost items. A time for scary ghosts and superstition, apple bobbing (which goes back to the Roman times) and a much anticipated day for all the children, young and old. Don’t break a mirror on Halloween, don’t step on cracks in the sidewalk and don’t meet a black cat! I remember that I would not cross the road if a black cat had crossed it from left to right. It is bad luck! I would rather wait for another person to cross before I dared to do it. If the cat crossed from right to left you were not just alright but would be lucky!

halloween-costumesHave fun but be wary on Halloween! Make sure your children are safe and check their  harvest from trick-or-treating for needles in apples and tampered chocolates. It is sad but a fact that some bad ‘witches’ are still around. They are full of hate and resentment of  all the fun and don’t mind hurting innocent children.

 

 

Thinking is bad for you – it bruises the brain

Chilcot reportSo what is next? I keep asking myself this question and I don’t know how to answer it. There is so much going on in the world it’s almost ‘overkill’: The refugee crisis, the Syrian war, the beheadings of innocent people, mass-shootings on home soil, gun control (or lack thereof), terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul. A few days ago it was ‘Brexit’ and now it’s ‘The Chilcot Report’. Does all this digging into the past bring results? It’s shocking for sure to get to know what really happened. What if ‘they’ hadn’t invaded Iraq? Was ISIS born because of it? Was it wrong to kill Sadam Hussein who was a dictator but had “law and order” in his country before all hell broke loose? Is the Chilcot report saying, “Now look what you did! Don’t do that again…” Despite finding fault with certain people, no criminal charges are expected to be brought forward. Even if – would it change something? Doesn’t it ring a bell for what happened AFTER 1945? Churchill had warned “this war is (and later again was) the easiest to avoid…” but nobody wanted to, or did, listen to him. And history writers have a ball writing more and more books about all of it.

Iceland crowdI was talking to a friend in Germany yesterday. Soccer became the main focus of our hour-long telephone conversation. Not politics, not family dramas, not health issues. No – SOCCER! The game where 22 grown men chase a ball was, and is, the most important issue in Europe right now! The fine games the Icelanders played and how important it is now for Germany to win. ‘She’, my friend, has to watch the games because her husband couldn’t bring himself to do so, even if he is the greatest fan. Why? Because he would get a heart attack if he watched it from beginning to end. He was always waiting in the next room until she would tell him “it’s o.k. to watch now…” Discussion of other world affairs was brushed aside with “Oh when the news comes on we switch the TV off… All the politicians do is form new committees and talk and talk and have discussions but there is no end, no solution. It’s all talk…”

Bruised brainSomewhere I read “Thinking is bad for you, it bruises the brain.” So I’ll stop thinking. I’ll play with some proverbs and quotes. YOU can try to attach them to whichever news story YOU think they fit:

“…the rats are leaving the sinking ship.”
“…they want their cake and eat it too.”
“Politicians…promise to build bridges even if there are no rivers.” Nikita Khrushchev
“…talk is cheap.”
“Politic is not an exact science” (Bismarck)
“Politic ruins the character…”
“Follow the three ‘R’s’: Respect for self, respect for others, responsibility for all your actions.” Dalai Lama. (Hah! Responsibility? What’s that??)
“Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people who want to be important.” T.S.Elliot
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“It is better to be un-informed than ill-informed.” Keith Duckworth

Let me finish with something you should never do: Putting off till tomorrow what you can do today.

“When I consider life, it’s all a cheat;
Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on and think tomorrow will repay.
Tomorrow is ‘falser’ than the former day. – “   John Dryden

Have a good day anyway! Enjoy it because we don’t know what tomorrow brings! Laughter is the cure for a lot of ills. Does it always reach the soul? No. But we can pretend. I remember a silly little joke:

Deep in the south of Texas, George asked his drinking buddy: “See those three guys at the bar?”
“What about them?” wondered Jack.
“I really don’t like the one of them ”
“Why? Which one?”
George draws his gun and shoots two of them. “See the one left sitting there? That’s the one I don’t like.”

This Book Drives Me Crazy

Have you ever read a book that very “severely” took over your whole being? So much so that you were grieving for all the countries and all their people involved? That you were fighting a depression threatening to take you down, reducing you to tears at times knowing full well you are reading a history book. You lived during that time in history as a child and could not do or have done anything to change what was to become history. And worst of all, you feel you are part of that history and never knew what was going on behind the scenes.

How was it possible that the wool was so cleverly and cruelly pulled over the eyes of all the people? To only let you know what you were supposed to know? And what you heard on the ‘verboten’ radio stations was just “enemy propaganda”? And learning that for people who suspected something it was safer not to know? But, “they knew enough to know not to know”. (This is a quotation from one of Lynn Alexander’s Schellendorf- books) Ordinary people were trying to survive day by day. My memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” tells what it was like to live under the Nazis until 1945, then, after our eviction, for weeks on the “road to nowhere” with millions of other evicted people – next to the Russian war machinery on their way to victory – surviving rape, murder, starvation, and disease and leaving the sick or dead next to the road. After some kind of order was established during the following years and Germany carved up into four zones (Russian, English, American and French) I lived in the Russian part for ten years as a teenager, enjoying some kind of ‘peace’ until I was driven to escape as so many hundreds of thousands did. And life in the “Golden West” brought its own challenges, new beginnings and living as a second class citizen. And after it was all over I was thinking I had it bad and had nightmares for years.

But these last two weeks, reading the book I mentioned at the beginning gave me the feeling I was a victim. I had never thought of myself that way. Our life was living part of the war but now I see that we also were part of the extortions, concentration camps, evictions. How could a handful of men at the top wreak so much havoc? By reading this book it is hard to understand that nobody was ever able to kill Adolf Hitler, how the people around him were afraid of each other and conspired against each other to get closer to the ‘Führer’? And how Goering, who was considered the ‘second’ man in Germany, could give everything a self-effacing twist during his interrogation at the Nuremberg Trials that one almost felt for him? Gifted with an incredible memory he, for a time, dominated the proceedings and even joked about it. When admonished he burst out “Don’t you see that all this joking and horseplay is only comic relief? Do you think I enjoy sitting here and hearing accusations heaped on our heads from all sides? We’ve got to let off steam somehow.” The culmination of his extraordinary life was cheating the court and the judges by poisoning himself ten minutes before he was due to be hanged as the first of the remaining Nazi officers.

GoeringMillions of people like you and me, we are just “grains of sand” in the larger picture of the world and the people who rule it, no matter where we live. The title of the book I am talking about and that gave me high blood pressure and at times, Parkinson-like shaking that I almost gave up on it is “Goering – The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader”. The authors are Roger Manvel and Heinrich Fraenkel. The bibliography of the research done and the dozens and dozens of diaries, books by other writers and papers fill several pages at the end of this book. If you are a WWII history buff you ought to read it.

First Review of “Forget Me Not”

It’s interesting for me to find the first review of my short story book ‘Forget Me Not’ on Amazon UK. Even more interesting is the fact that the few stories about life in East Germany seem to hit a nerve with this reviewer. Is it because there is so little known about it? Is it because people who lived through it, or escaped, never talked much about it? And why was that? Did life seem ‘almost normal’ at the time when we lived through it? And further, was that because it was a whole lot better than during the last months of the war with the Russians roaming about to find and rape girls or young women? What on earth is ‘normal’ about parents who are afraid to have a conversation around the dinner table at home? Because they may have been of a different opinion than the daughter who studied law and she might ‘report’ her parents? Because the growing young generation was brainwashed in the youth organisation (equivalent to the Hitler Youth) in schools and universities and they truly believed in Communism. But then there were the hundreds of thousands who escaped until the Berlin Wall was built over night and the whole country was ‘enclosed’ like a ghetto. Still, people risked their lives even after that.

I have made no secret out of the fact that every story in ‘Forget Me Not’ has a valid reason to be included in this ‘Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories’ and how each one will lead to discussions or deep thoughts of your own. Be it the wisdom of a grandmother to explain the unfair portrayal of ‘stepmothers’ in fairy tales, an un-expected ‘adoption’, the desperate wish for a baby, the triumph over conquering cancer, the turmoil of wars world-wide up to this very day, superstition, internet love and marriage in old age or surprising happenings during travel.

I will not attempt to review the ‘Review’ and let you judge for yourself:

4.0 out of 5 starsTravelling through life

By Ann Victoria Roberts on 9 Feb. 2016

A lovely collection of memories from Giselle Roeder. Childhood tales from her German family, circa WW2, to recent experiences in modern-day Canada, the stories reflect on life-lessons relevant to us all. The message that comes through is to listen to your inner self, and obey prompts that could lead to better things – prompts that might even save your life!
I found her reflections on the state of East Germany during the 1950s & 60s particularly informative. All most people know of that era was filtered by the TV news, so the author’s personal view gives it a whole new dimension.

‘Hope you’re not superstitious?’ relates an other-worldly experience that will find echoes with many people, myself included. And although I’ve never visited Hawaii – a couple of stories will no doubt prompt happy (and maybe no-so-happy?) memories amongst those who know the islands well.

The travel-tale to which I related personally comes towards the end of the book: ‘Too Bad it’s Canada’ – the title a quote from some anonymous visitor which made me chuckle. I was privileged to visit Vancouver some years ago, and remember its stunning situation, the breath-taking offshore islands and the warm welcome of local people. Some years before that, I was aboard a merchant ship visiting Tasu, one of the Queen Charlotte Islands – also mentioned by the author. Happy memories!

In a long and fascinating life, Giselle Roeder has achieved success from what was surely a most inauspicious beginning. That beginning was recounted in her memoir, ‘We Don’t Talk About That,’ a book I found profoundly moving.

The short stories in ‘Forget-Me-Not’ show just how far she has travelled since – in every sense. Short stories are more difficult to master than either novel or memoir – and I gather this collection is a first for the author, hence my award of four stars rather than five. But these are a light rendition of a long and fascinating life – ideal for taking on a journey!


…or have it on your night table and just read one story before going to sleep! I am surprised a busy writer like Ann Victoria Roberts has read and reviewed my short story collection. Maybe it was because of my memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About That’, the book she found ‘profoundly moving’. And she is not the only one who seems to be expecting the sequel and happens to get ‘Forget Me Not’ – which is only the ‘bridge’ to the sequel I am working on now. No more excuses! Most stories in ‘Forget Me Not’ should be part of it – but I wanted to tell them to give my readers something NOW and there are still so many more stories to fill more pages than I am allowed to write.

Thank you, Ann Victoria Roberts.

Finally – It’s Here!

Forget Me Not
List Price: $11.95 US
Add to Cart

Following the publication of the eBook version I am so happy to tell you that print versions are now available from CreateSpace (Amazon). To order click on Add to Cart.

I know you will enjoy these short ‘true’ stories. As the title of the book also makes a terrific gift I wish you fun with it.

Forget Me Not – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories

Authored by Giselle Roeder

A thousand ‘Forget-me-nots’ have lined my path. From adoption, babies, cancer, dating, depression, dogs, earthquake, escape, grandmas, kayaking, love, Olympics, politics, from superstition, war to weeping angels and many surprises in-between – these stories are part of me and part of the people who touched my life. During the time we spent together – sometimes only days or hours – we shared our experiences and memories. I remember them all, some with laughter and affection, others with sadness, but they live on in my heart. Wander a mile or two with me along the winding path of life, and let me share my stories.
Each story, thought or memory in this ‘Bouquet’ carries a message and all lend themselves to reading alone or in a group. They are independent of each other and surely incite discussion.
What people are saying:
Giselle Roeder broke barriers of personal pain in her memoir ‘We Don’t Talk About That’. In this ‘Bouquet of stories’ she shares her thoughts about world events and tells of people who greatly influenced her. Each story makes you think and incites discussions. It includes several not to be missed surprises! – Barbara Lange, Winnipeg.
Giselle writes compelling stories. After reading her memoir – which I would place next to ‘Anne Frank’s Diary’ – her present book is a delightful ‘bouquet’ of stories. I am still waiting for the sequel to ‘We Don’t Talk About That’ and it seems that ‘Forget Me Not’ is somehow a bridge between the two. – Bob Pickles, UK History writer.
I really enjoy reading Giselle’s stories. A change from her memoir. – Carol Dunaway, British Columbia, a voracious reader.

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