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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Books I read in 2015

Book buyingI hope I remember them all! Many were e-books – I could read them in a doctor’s waiting room, on the bus, in an airplane, on the beach and even in a coffee shop. My little Kobo is easy to read in dim light and surely easier to carry in my purse than a physical book. But I do love physical books! I love having my huge book case full of them, standing in front of it, touching the backs, reading the titles, remember the stories each one told. I still have some I want to read again, others – but not many – I haven’t read yet. Each year I sort out the ones I know I’ll not read again and donate them to the Rotary Book Sales Event. They hold one sale in spring and one in fall in a shopping mall. Last year they sold so many books they could bring close to $400,000.00 to the bank. Every cent goes for good causes.

With which book did I start out in 2015? I cannot follow a ‘timeline’ but I’ll mention the titles and authors and surely will give you my honest recommendation by placing little stars *** next to them. (Six stars mean I’ll read again) It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a different taste in topics – but we all do follow our hearts desire in what we choose, right? The one or the other book may have more or fewer stars on Amazon but this is me, personally.

  • Louisa Elliot ******, Liam’s Story *****, The Master’s Tale *****, written by the English Bestseller writer Ann Victoria Roberts. I can just say one word: Engrossing.
  • The Officer’s Code *****, The Versailles Legacy *****, The English General *****, The Ghosts of War *****. My opinion? You learn a lot of WW history while being fascinated by the private lives of the characters. These books by Lyn Alexander could be Canada’s answer to ‘Downton Abbey’. Really!
  • The Night I Danced with Rommel ****, by Elisabeth Marrion. Enlightening.
  • The Nazi Officer’s Wife ****, how one Jewish woman survived the Nazis in Germany. Written by Edith Hahn-Beer. Heart wrenching. One aspect of the Jewish survival you may never have known.
  • In the Garden of Beasts *****, The American Ambassador in Hitler’s Berlin. Eric Larson weaves a compelling story based on an incredible amount of research. You can’t help but feeling ‘part of it’.
  • A Woman in Berlin ***, a diary of a journalist trapped in Berlin during the last few days of WWII. Intriguing because the author remains ‘Anonymous’.
  • Last Train to Berlin ****, an account of a PoW trapped in Russia – too useful to the authorities to let him go until four more years after WWII. Hans Peter Marland.
  • The Gift: Redemption, book III of the Gift Legacy ****. I saw an excerpt and since kayakers were involved and the setting was Vancouver I read it. I had NEVER read any ‘Thriller’ before but I was ‘gripped’ by the flowing story. It even led me to read the next book of the ‘Gift Legacy’ – Pennance by the author J.P. McLean. What an imagination!
  • Paris 1924 ***, a fascinating account of life in Paris by the same author of Wolves among Sheep ***** which I have read twice. James Kostelniuk has never been in Paris but reading along, you feel you are there!
  • I was Hitler’s Chauffeur **** by Erich Kempke. It sheds a totally new light on Hitler. It ‘rattled’ me and kept me awake for a few nights, thinking instead of sleeping.
  • Hitler – The Memoir of the Nazi Insider who turned against the Fuehrer by Ernst Hanfstaengle. After reading this book, starting at the very beginning of Hitler’s rise, I am flabbergasted by how little is really known.
  • Edge of Eternity **** – the 3rd book in the trilogy by Ken Follett. The first two, Fall of the Giants ***** and Winter of the World ***** are books one can’t put down. This last one was a bit disappointing. Too much talk about sex when not quite appropriate. Maybe it is what many readers like? The story, set after WWII is based on reality and one relives what was happening.
  • The Help ***** is a book I recommend highly. Kathryn Stockett tells a superb tale of a colored servant in the southern US..
  • North of Normal **** is a shocker. A girl’s life, growing up within the ‘hippie’ culture – unbelievable for someone like me, never having had a taste of it. She made it to becoming an international model, wife and mother. I met her, sitting next to her at an author’s reading event. How could she have turned out so ‘normal’? This book is the memoir of the author Cea Sunrise Person.

Last but not least I had to re-read We Don’t Talk About That – An Amazing Story of Survival WWII. I needed to ‘refresh’ my mind for an important presentation at the university. I can’t believe I wrote this book. I still feel humbled by one of the reviewers on my website, who said ‘This book is not just good, it is very good.’

Every book I have read in 2015 added to my knowledge or enjoyment. Now, at the beginning of 2016, I am reading All The Light We Cannot See, by author Anthony Doerr, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It is considered one of the ‘best books of 2015’. “Moonrising”, Ann Victoria Robert’s newest book is on my Kobo. Can’t wait to read it. I love Ann’s mastering of the English language. Music to my ears.

There are so many more books I’d have loved to read but I am also a writer. I am told ‘the day has 24 hours and the night has 12’ – but for me, even 36 is not enough to get everything done I want to do.

Forget Me Not 3D image (2)My new book Forget Me Not – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts and Memories – will be available through Amazon etc. as e-book (Kindle, Kobo and more) as well as soft cover. It will hopefully be released within the next few weeks. It makes a terrific gift item (see the title!), contains over 50 stories, each one tackling a common problem from adoption, stepmothers, politics, war, cancer, internet love, dogs, travel, extra-ordinary people and more. All stories are carrying a special message inciting discussions and lend themselves for reading within a group.

Stay tuned for more.

Part 2 – “The Water Doctor”

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Early Sanitoria in Woerishofen

Can you imagine the triumphant reception when Father Kneipp returned from Rome to his small little village? Not excommunicated, but praised by the Pope? The simple folks at home had trouble pronouncing and calling him ‘Monsignor’ – but he just laughed and said ‘don’t even try, I am what I always was, your ‘Father Kneipp’. He had been sent to Wörishofen by the Archbishop to hide him away, to get him away from the ‘water splashing’ and just be the Father Confessor to the nuns of the existing convent in a small village in the middle of nowhere. These nuns were mainly second and third daughters of rich aristocrats who couldn’t be “married off “, a privilege reserved just for first born babies, sons to inherit and daughters to marry other heirs. The nuns had spent their days singing and praying and were shocked when Father Kneipp told them “Ora et Labora” – pray and work, because work is a form of praying. He ordered them to tend the overgrown gardens, plant and harvest vegetables for the convent’s dinner table and establish an herb garden. They had to perform kitchen duties and clean their own quarters. Tears and complaints about ruining their soft white hands in dirt and sun did not result in suspension from work; pretending to be sick or having a sore back resulted in being treated with water.

The convent was close to bankruptcy despite owning fast stretches of land, meadows and acreages, forests and streams. Father Kneipp found the acreages and meadows were “sour” but knew the farmers would not accept his advice, the advice of a priest, who knew how to change it. Therefore he invented “Fritz” and wrote booklets about “Fritz, the successful Farmer”, “Fritz the Bee Keeper” and several others. The advice was followed and the land became rich and fruitful, the farmers were happy and the convent thrived with “Fritz’s” help.

Despite his book “My Water Cure” to keep them away, health seekers and especially poor people kept coming. The laundry room of the convent became the first treatment center. The odd items used in this “Wash House” are displayed in a specially built hut at the ‘Promenade” in what is now ‘Bad Wörishofen’. Several nuns and handpicked men became helpers and the first therapists. A few curious doctors asked permission to attend Father Kneipp’s hour of seeing people and hoped ‘to trip’ him. The deep knowledge of the human condition and his uncanny right diagnosis, but especially his healing success puzzled them. Some stayed on to learn, others went home all over Europe to start their own ‘Kneipp Spa’. An ever increasing stream of visitors with no accommodations aside from hay barns enticed entrepreneurs to start building hotels, guest houses and restaurants. Kneipp had written more books. He used the royalties and the donations freely given by the wealthy to build two sanatoria, the “Sebastianeum” and the “Kneippianum” and a wonderful “Children’s Hospital” where a mother or father could stay with their sick child until ‘cured’. Kneipp, once upon a time a very poor boy, was now considered “rich” but in truth he did not own anything. He donated those buildings to different catholic brotherhoods (i.e. the Benedictines) to run and take care of other health seeking brothers. There is a rumor the “Sebastianeum” was empty on many nights – and since one entrepreneur had built a hotel for nuns close by that’s where the brothers could be found… Don’t take my word for it! The Children’s Hospital was given to a convent and run by nuns.

Presnt Promenade Bad Woerishofen

Promenade Bad Woerishofen

I have stayed in the now, available for both sexes, “Sebastianeum” (168 beds) several times. I always felt close to Father Kneipp as all his advice and his teachings are followed there. I consider him to be one of my spiritual fathers. The “Kneippianum”, still run by nuns today, was developed into a highly specialized clinic for heart disease, employs the best doctors; it owns all the diagnostic machines and tools to diagnose and treat patients scientifically, always complemented by Kneipp therapy.

Let’s go back to Kneipp’s history. He saw up to 200 patients a day. He treated everybody the same, calling them by their first name, rich and poor. He ordered everybody to go barefoot and split wood for exercise, including the Archduke of Austria as well as the Maharadsha with forty attendants from India. Kneipp invented the sandal to give the feet the much needed ‘air’. He visited the Children’s Hospital daily. He fulfilled his duties in the convent as Father Confessor for the nuns as well as his duties when he was voted in as the village priest. He was always available for the farmers who now trusted his wisdom about agriculture. He was called to many surrounding villages to treat or spiritually help the ones who could not come to him. He held daily lectures in an open area about the different aspects of health, often attended by up to 5.000 people. Pearls of wisdom about each aspect he was ranting and raving about made it into our day:

“Fresse and saufe wollet se all” = you all want to eat and drink like pigs but nobody wants to die. When you feel you have eaten you have already eaten too much.”

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Bad Woerishofen has many fountains – kids love them!

Part 3 will deal with his treatment system as it was developed and used to this day.

German Unification Day

Tree re-unitedThe People of Germany have a special cause for celebration today! It’s their “Unification Day”. East and West Germany were two countries since the close of WWII. They were united in 1989 and are happy to be “ONE COUNTRY” again. For me, having lived through WWII and seen the total devastation but emigrated to Canada in 1963, it is absolutely amazing what and how much the people of Germany have achieved. From saving and cleaning each brick from the rubble their cities were, rebuilding totally destroyed ones and now enjoying one of the highest living standards in the world. My sister tells me not to be blinded by the luxuries visible because despite all, there are many pensioners and  unemployed who have trouble making ends meet with the high cost of living and expensive rents. And still, the country is a strong pillar in the European Union, maybe even the strongest.

When I saw the photo of this tree this morning, placed by someone on Facebook, I couldn’t help but think of the divided Germany and the long years it took to grow together again. Just as the tree shows the healthy growth on top of the united two halves, so does Germany. Let’s hope the roots are strong enough to hold up the ever growing ‘crown’.  For me, – the 5th of October is also worthy of memory. It was the day I escaped East Germany. To this day my heart beats faster just thinking about it. Hundreds of thousands escaped to the ‘Golden West’ risking life and limb. Finally, they built “the wall” to keep their people ‘in’, not to keep unwanted people ‘out’.

For you, who want to know more about the history and rebuilding of Germany since WWI, through WWII and the after effects without reading large history books pick up my compelling book “We Don’t Talk About That” with the compressed political background easy to understand and, as some readers say “understand for the first time” why and how it all happened. The story you’ll read is one of an ordinary German family which stands for thousands of others who lived through the same trials and tribulations but to this day ‘don’t want to talk about that’.

German flagThe Germans have a very good reason to celebrate their special day. Nobody, absolutely nobody, ever expected it to happen; to be able to climb, dance on or hack at, scrape and tear down the Berlin Wall, without any shots fired, without another war happening.

TO BE UNITED AND BE ONE WONDERFUL COUNTRY AGAIN…

Books, Books and More Books…

Next to dogs books are my best companions. They don’t fight with me and when they ‘annoy’ me I can just close them and put them away. The material I have read might go around and around in my head; sometimes I understand but always I want to know more and I open them up again a day or a few hours later. Even a book I don’t totally like I will finish because I know there must be a reason the writer wrote it. I dissect the story. I sometimes think about how I would re-write it, or parts of it. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. I want to tell you of the books I have read so far this year. Most of them have a connection to my own book “We Don’t Talk About That”. My writing created an incredible thirst in me to know more about war history, especially WW I and WW II. So I started reading instead of writing my next book.

“The Officer’s Code”

officers-code-lyn-alexander-paperback-cover-artLyn Alexander’s way of telling a story puts you right into it. You identify with one of the characters and you become that person. In this book you re-live the life of a young English man who could not satisfy his father since he did not like to study law and take over the family practice. He failed and as punishment was sent to Germany to study in Heidelberg and “prove” himself. He married a German girl, changed his name to his mother’s German aristocratic name ‘von Schellendorf’ and fought on the German side during WWI. An incredible story based on fact and fiction .

Versailles Legacy“The Versailles Legacy”

This is the second of four books in what is known as “The Schellendorf Series” by Lyn Alexander. It puts us in the picture of a Germany in tatters and the impossible hardships imposed on the country by the ‘Versailles Treaty’ after the war is lost. The German Representatives argued the stipulations laid on Germany would be counter-productive. A young Austrian WWI corporal, Adolf Hitler, promised jobs and bread and peace for all Germans and his hypnotic speeches swayed many mistrusting Germans to vote for him because they had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The years between 1920 and 1939 lead to WWII.

English General“The English General”

Once you read those first two books you cannot help but want to read the third one. The establishment of Hitler’s ‘Thousand Year Reich” brought many changes. The old military, the Reichswehr, with the former generals in charge tried everything to stop the new developments but one after the other mysteriously disappeared or was killed. They also plotted to assassinate Hitler but he always got away. One of Hitler’s close allies established the “Brown shirts”, known as the SA which numbered in the hundred-thousands already during the 1936 Olympics. The young Englishman became a German General and deeply ingrained within him was “the Code of honour”. We see him struggle with blackmail by his birth country while once again fighting for Germany during WWII.

Ghosts of War“The Ghosts of War”

This, the fourth book in the ‘Schellendorf Series”, finally helps us understand a lot of what happened when the Allied Forces entered Germany. Imprisonment, lies, deceit, interrogations, and, to top it all off, the Nuremberg Trials where the blackmailing English arranged that the famous lawyer, the father of our by now beloved General defends him. His return to England, the ups and downs during the years after 1945, and his secret visits to Germany.

I never mentioned General von Schellendorf’s wife but she plays a huge part throughout all four books, love, deceit, lies, divorce, her re-marriage and abuse by her demented father. At the end of book four we hope for reconciliation and maybe a joint new venture in Heidelberg. Once you read these books and you travel to this wonderful city you’ll know it. These four books feel so “real” that you think you lived through it all. In time I’ll read them again.

Night I Danced with Rommel“The Night I danced with Rommel”

Elisabeth Marrion wrote this heart wrenching memoir of her mother’s life. Married to a soldier who fathered a baby every time he was on leave, her mother had to look after and somehow provide food for five small children. Dealing with the bombing of her hometown of Hildesheim, and being a hands-on woman a lot of neighbors relied on her. When her husband was transferred to Africa to fight alongside General Rommel she was relieved of the scary thought of him being killed in Russia. As the story moves on General Rommel’s Regiment happens to be stationed in this city for a few days on their way to France and she was singled out by him to do the first dance during a party the towns-people organized to honour him.

Nazi Officers Wife“The Nazi Officer’s Wife”

Two authors, Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin told the story of Jewish women who married Nazi Officers to save their lives. In many cases the husbands had no idea they were Jews. These women were known as “U-Boats” or “Submarines” living normal lives when they were everything else but normal. This story is gripping, has been made into a movie, documentaries and has received worldwide accolades. It is hard to believe what the author, Edith, has endured during the time of the Nazi take-over of Austria to the end of the war living in the Russian occupied Germany. I had no idea that these women even existed and was touched to my deepest soul after reading this book.

Garden of Beasts“In the Garden of Beasts”

Eric Larson does not need an introduction. In this book he tells the story of the American Ambassador to Berlin during the early years of Hitler’s reign. The book is based on hundreds of letters to the American President, the diaries of the daughter and one is overpowered by the incredible research Larson must have done over several years to write this book. It is rather a lengthy book and towards the end I felt as if I myself went through WWII again. Exhausted.

Louisa-Elliott-Book-Cover2“Louisa Elliot”

How I loved this book by Ann Victoria Roberts, a gifted writer! The novel is set in York in the 19th Century and involves a family drama that sometime just takes your breath away. Despite the fact that it has about 700 pages (e-book) I was sorry when it ended. Not a surprise to me when I found out that it sold over a million copies when it first came out. Luckily there was another book for me to read following this one, called

Liam-Story-Book-Cover-20121“Liam’s Story”

Also a big book and I tell you, this one occasionally makes your blood boil. How can a writer write books that you simply cannot put down? How can she make you identify and suffer with the protagonist? How does a brain like Ann’s work to come up with these tales just because she happened to find a small diary of a family ancestor? Each novel can stand on its own but read “Louisa” first…

MasterstalecoverSMALL-e1427439366841“The Master’s Tale”

Another Ann Victoria Roberts book – this one is based on her research about Captain Smith, Captain of the unsinkable “Titanic”. She portrays the rich and famous guests, the interactions of many of them, love triangles, affairs, and intrigues. When the ship hits the iceberg you can hear the cries, you will feel the cold water and you see the listing of the big ship from your life boat and finally see it disappear as if it had never been.

Gift of Penance“The Gift Pennance”

Jo-Ann McLean writes ‘thrillers’. I have never read thrillers and cannot recall how, or when, I read a couple of chapters of this book on Linkedin, Amazon (Look Inside) or perhaps came across Jo-Ann’s website. Because it involved kayaking I wanted to read more. The story is set in Vancouver and since I know and lived in this fair city I was intrigued. When I started reading I realized I had never ever read a book like it, totally fictional and an imagination I can only marvel at. Some scenes in it caused me to contact her (bless the Internet!) and ask what her family or her husband thinks about some of the scenes. This book is part of a series, the previous one is the “Gift Legacy” but I have not read it.

“North of Normal”

North of NormalCea Sunrise Person took seven years to write this shocking memoir of her childhood, growing up during the ‘counter culture’. Her grandfather moved the family from California to the North Country wilderness. They were growing pot, smoking and selling it, living off the land, fishing and wildlife. Periods of plenty changed with periods of hunger. Little Cea’s home was a tipi/tepee shared with her very young mother and a number of other adults who thought nothing of nudity, open sex, changing partners. Cea invented her own games and amused herself without contact with other children until she had to go to school. Seeing the first pair of underpants and a fancy frilly dress made her realize that there was another life out there and she had only one wish: To survive the crazy life she was living and her ‘crazy family.’ After her book was published her friends asked her: “How did you ever turn out so normal?”

“The Glass Castle”

Glass CastleI had no idea what living in the sixties for the people who chose to live the ‘free life’ was like and I must admit that the book “North of Normal” had deeply disturbed me. Friends, whom I told about it, encouraged me to read ‘The Glass Castle” – a similar book by Jeannette Walls. The language is not quite so vulgar because Jeannette’s parents were actually educated, but they chose a life of nonconformity, poverty and their children had to fend for themselves. When hungry the older two went through garbage bins and ate what others had thrown away. Their clothing was bought in Thrift shops. They were dirty, they smelled and other children did not want to have anything to do with them. Jeannette could be compared to Cea in ‘North of Normal’ as both girls were trying to get an education and create a better life. Both succeeded. Paramount bought the movie rights to this book. It has been a bestseller for years and Jeannette has been interviewed repeatedly.

We Dont Talk About That“We Don’t Talk About That”

This is the book I am re-reading now. It came out in April 2014, I have read it before, but I am surprised how it “gripped” me again. Another one of those books “hard to put down.” I am so sorry not to have more time to read. But I have to write. My readers are constantly reminding me and asking “when is the sequel coming out? Are you writing it? How far into it are you?”

I have given you a number of fantastic books to consider reading. None of them will disappoint you. So, – find a cozy corner and READ books – books – books. Live in a different world for a while, a different time zone, on a different continent or even a different dimension. Enjoy!

#Escape from your country? #BerlinWall #EastGermany

EscapeCan you think of any good reason to escape from your country? I am not talking about criminal acts causing you to hide from being caught or trying to avoid punishment. No, I am talking about not being able to breathe anymore, not being able to talk openly, always being afraid to say the wrong thing, even to your own family.

About 60.000 people escaped almost monthly from East Germany to the West for many years. A number of them lost their lives when shot by other East Germans, maybe their brothers, cousins, or friends, – boys who had grown up since the war ended in 1945 and became part of the East German Police Force.

The day I escaped, it was October 5th 1955, over 16.000 registered in the West. In my case, it was West Berlin. The two shots fired after me could very easily have hit me but I like to believe the young police man missed on purpose. Maybe he lost his life because of it. Their order was to “shoot to kill.” Maybe he was severely punished. Maybe he could prove that he did NOT do it on purpose. Two Berliner men pulled me into a moving train. Luckily the train was not stopped as a result of my escape.

image2-002-1To stop the exodus the “Berlin Wall” had been built over night August 13th 1961. Nobody, absolutely nobody, knew about it and people wonder to this day how the government could have organized it. The Wall went straight down the middle of streets for some kilometers. Families or friends were cut off from each other. If you had been visiting in either East or West Berlin, maybe just across the street, you were stuck, you could not return. Days later the people living in the houses along the wall on the eastern side were evacuated and all the windows bricked up. The rest of the country was fenced in with miles and miles of barbed wire and a wide strip of mined no-mans-land. In order to see footsteps another wide strip of raked sand was added later. Towers for sharp shooters were built. East Germany became a large prison with life going on as if everything was Berlin Wall-2all right. But nothing was all right. People risked their life by building tunnels, balloons, micro-aircraft, even shooting wires across a street and became escape artists above the search lights. One young police man even stole an armored police truck and made it across the border and, despite being wounded and finding himself in a hospital bed he was happy because he made it! According to reports thousands got shot, many were wounded but they just did not give up trying to reach what is not even fully appreciated by the populace of western countries: Freedom.

Have you ever thought of freedom? What freedom means, to you or your family, your friends? It is something we don’t think about because it is something we take for granted.