Interview for VIU Elder College Lecture

EscapeI was interviewed by Gregor Craigie from the On The Island program on CBC Radio One this morning. The interview is reproduced in this YouTube video: https://youtu.be/ax9-0rcdSbk

The lecture takes place at 10:00 a.m. on Nov 7th at the Nanaimo campus of VIU.and is entitled “My Escape from Germany after WWII”.For details see: https://www2.viu.ca/eldercollege/courses.asp#sss

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!

Upcoming Special Event

I am proud to be included in this event at the West Vancouver Memorial Library

West Van Library logo

 

 

For immediate release
In My Own Words to chronicle four memorable memoirs at Memorial Library
Thursday, June 11, 2015, West Vancouver, B.C. – One grew up off the grid in the wilds of BC. Another helped a woman with Down’s syndrome write her Cinderella story. One spent her formative years in East Germany during the Second World War. Another wrote lovely letters to his children about his experiences as a father and lawyer. Join us for these and other stories at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24 at In My Own Words, a memoir panel featuring four eclectic and fascinating local writers, moderated by celebrated author E.R. Brown.
“We’re always excited to celebrate literary talent,” says Information Services Department Head Pat Cumming. “For this panel, we gathered an entertaining range of personalities, adventures and stories. Having the always enigmatic E.R. Brown on hand to moderate the panel is the icing on the cake. It’s going to be a great night.”
– In North of Normal, Cea Sunrise Person recounts the story of her wilderness childhood, her unusual family and how she survived both.
– David Roberts wrote Letters to His Children from an Uncommon Attorney after his daughter convinced him to write his stories down “before he dies.” The result is this at times humorous, at others harrowing, memoir of a father, husband and attorney.
– Writing with Grace, by Judy MacFarlane, explores the challenges and perseverance of an aspiring writer with Down’s syndrome as she tries to fulfill her dream of writing a book.
– In We don’t Talk About That, Giselle Roeder tells the often hushed story of growing up in Second World War Pomerania and her post-War move to East Germany.
– Moderator E.R. Brown is the author of the Edgar-nominated Novel Almost Criminal.
All of the authors participating in the panel are available ahead of time for interviews and photos. Please contact David Carson at the phone number or email address below to make arrangements.
More information about the Memoir Panel is available on our website.
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Media Contact David Carson, Communications and Event Coordinator 604.925.7407 dcarson@westvanlibrary.ca

Two Interviews #BookPromotion #SkinCare

I want to thank Tracy Koga and Shaw TV in Winnipeg for sharing two interviews made during my recent book promotion in Winnipeg. They appear on my YouTube page but you can also see them here:

Interview 1First interview about “We Don’t Talk About That”
https://youtu.be/jh_e43m0xyo

 

and here:

Interview 2

 

Second interview about Giselle’s Skin Care
https://youtu.be/7vk9s6VLyE4

This Happens When You Talk About It! #Winnipeg #BestSeller

I was on a book promotion in the prairie city of Winnipeg which owns the reputation of being one of the coldest cities in Canada. Can you believe it was 15°C above on March 13th when I arrived, 18°C two days later and reasonably warm during the whole week I was in “Friendly Manitoba”. No snow in sight but lots of sand used to sprinkle the slippery streets earlier and now the wind blew it around. Everything was muddy and grey and holy. Sorry, I mean to say “pot-hole-y”! The day after I left it snowed again. The snow makes everything look so clean. It makes a beautiful cover-up – at least for a while.

One thing the Winnipeggers still do is read a lot of books: real books, not e-books. Many told me “I like to feel a book, look at a book, leaf through it, put it down and pick it up again. I like to have it on my book shelf or on my night table.” I hardly ever saw one person walking out of one of the three enormous book stores where I was autographing my book with fewer than two, three or more books. The stores where open ‘til 10.00 PM and people walked in as late as two minutes to ten and shopped. Does the climate have something to do with this? Do the prairie people still know how to relax at home with a glass of wine and a good book? You tell me!

I was interviewed on CJOB Radio and had a lively conversation with the charming host, Greg Mackling. An hour long TV interview was taped by the Shaw crew of “go! Winnipeg” and it will soon be available on YouTube. Book readings, autographing and lots of discussions about my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”, the story of ordinary German families before, during and after WWII filled my time. The members of a Rotary Club where I was the luncheon speaker were very attentive and another Rotary Club wanted me at their meeting as well, but my time was already totally booked.

Best sellerWhen I came home I had lost my voice. But I had lots of fun. In one of the biggest and architecturally most beautiful and largest book stores, McNally Robinson’s my book became a “Bestseller” and I hope it will remain so and be displayed on the bestseller table for a while longer. In both the very large Chapter Book stores, people were already waiting for me despite the fact that I always come half an hour earlier than expected. And they stuck around, wanting to catch every word of every discussion I had with one of them. Amazing! For seventy years I “Didn’t talk about it” and now I can hardly “shut up” with people around me.

Everybody wanted to know more. Did I open a can of worms? Is it based on real interest or is it rather the sensation “Thank God it didn’t happen to me”? After reading my book they write to me. “It reads like a Spielberg movie” said one. Another said “I look at my eleven year old granddaughter and just shiver to think…what, if, when, how can I protect her?” Still another sent me an e-mail “Are you alright? I just need to know…”

And dozens of readers of “We Don’t Talk About That” are telling me their own or their parents’ or grandparents’ stories of their life during WWII – how little they were told and now they can relate and want to hear more. “I wasn’t interested when I was younger and THEY wanted to talk about it, and now they are gone and I have nobody to ask anymore. Your book is a huge eye opener. While reading it I was with you every step of the way.” Still another says “When they talk about the probability of WWIII on the News I switch the TV off. I don’t want to hear or think about it.”

The last comment came from one of those Europeans who had experienced ‘close encounters’. To stick one’s head in the sand like an ostrich will not help to avoid or protect any one. It’s like the few of the leading Germans who knew how futile World War II was likely to be, knew what was happening all around them and still did not believe it. To save their life they did not talk about it. One of their mottos was something like “I know it’s better not to know what I think I know or might not even know.” I found this phrase in one of Lyn Alexander’s books “The Schellendorf Series,” – four books spanning the time from before WWI to the Nueremberg Trials after WWII. For us today it is not healthy to be ignorant or pretend not to know.

A WWIII with sophisticated weaponry will not be happening in just certain areas of the globe, – all continents will be affected. Don’t say “what can we do about it?” – think! You have voting power; but I’m with you. I also think that we, the ordinary people, will be caught in the middle as always, will not be able to stop the politicians if they put their minds to it. After all, we don’t go around shooting the people whom we don’t like or with whom we do not agree. Like the Texan in the bar pointing to three others and saying “I don’t like that guy.” When asked “which one” he shot two and said “See the one sitting there? That’s the one I don’t like”. Sorry. Just a joke I heard. Life isn’t like that.

 

Book Launch – #Winnipeg

Book Promotion in Winnipeg for “We Don’t Talk About That”

March 13. to March 20, 2015

will find me negotiating the frozen, hopefully not too snowy streets, in my old hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

McNallyBook reading/signing – McNally Robinson, March 15th from 2:00 p.m.

I look forward to meeting a number of you when I visit the McNally Bookstore on Sunday, March 15th to read selections from my book and sign copies. – http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-14067/Giselle-Roeder—-Book-Launch/#.VOyrCi4eorg

CJOB Radio, Dahlia Kurtz will interview me on March 16th from 2.00 to 3.00

Dahlia Kurts is scheduled to interview me on her afternoon radio program “The Show With No Name” on CJOB Radio 680 AM

Dahlia KurtzShe will remind you that I was the founder of ‘Giselle’s Professional Skin Care’ years ago and also the host of the Cable TV Show “Giselle’s for Skin & Health’ which run for 9 ½ years! CJOB was also the station where I was interviewed after my “Health Books” were published.

 Chapters Polo Festival in Polo Park – hosting the book launch/signing March 19th 6-9 PM

Cahpters logo“We Don’t Talk About That” has made quite a splash internationally and dozens of readers have told me “I couldn’t put it down.”. I would like to see many of you come and help Chapters and me make this event festive and exciting.


 

Do you belong to a group who might need a speaker for a meeting during the above mentioned dates? Any other bright ideas to make my week in Winnipeg successful? Please contact me by e-mail: giselleroeder@hotmail.com  I appreciate your input.

Updates to this announcement will be posted here. Please click on “Follow” to receive updates by email.

Winnipeg

Winnipeg – Photo Credit: AJ Batac via Compfight cc

Paradise… #PearlHarbour #WWII

Sunset from our balkonyWhere is YOUR paradise? Try imagery; – when they tell you in a relaxation class or even for pain relief that you should imagine a beautiful place, let your thoughts fly there, remain, feel the sunshine, see the flowers, hear the waves – where are your thoughts going? Do they go to the mountains, to the sea, or to deep forests? Mine always go to the Hawaiian Islands. For me Hawaii offers ALL facets of beauty, it’s not just a feast for the eyes, the scent of the flowers please my nose, freshly cut pineapples make my mouth water, the warm sand under my bare feet and the sun on my back make me feel good but it is the serenity, tranquility and the sense of the “Aloha” that encompasses all of this in its people in the parts of the Islands that are still truly “Hawaiian”. To truly soak in the “aloha” don’t go where the action is, – look and find the quiet areas. Once, I was under a black velvet night sky with trillions of diamond stars close over my head that I thought I could touch them. It was so endlessly dark and sparkling but it was the unearthly stillness that got to me. I couldn’t help it but I wanted to kneel down and melt and become part of it all.

Does this make sense? It’s hard to explain. I went back to the same spot on the Big Island several years in a row but I have never seen the sky so near and never again had this almost out of body experience. It left a longing in me and I wonder if it will ever be fulfilled.

Ka'anapali - one of the 10 most beautiful Hawaiian beachesI love old movies. Purely coincidence: I happened to come across the movie “From here to Eternity”. A happy lighthearted soldier’s tale – until, – did you guess it? No, I don’t think so. ‘We Don’t Talk About That’ anymore. Until the Japanese planes appeared like a swarm of hornets and disrupted breakfast on a Sunday morning with many of the soldiers not even up or still in underpants. The scenes of the filming brought back memories of my first visit to Pearl Harbour many years ago. Taken totally by surprise thousands of young men were killed by an attack from a country with whom the US was not even at war. Most of the US Naval ships were destroyed on this fateful Sunday, December 7th 1941. And the USA who had diplomatically tried not to get involved in WWII was drawn into it and the rest is history.

By writing my memories of WWII down in the book published in April 2014 “We Don’t Talk About That” my friends always comment what a relief it must have been for me to “get it all off my chest”. I must admit that the opposite has happened. I have never thought about it as much as I do now and I have never been more interested and involved in war history as I am now. The more I think and read and follow the news and see the larger picture I do see many seemingly small incidents that have had large consequences. It’s almost like a network of roots branching out in every direction. I can’t help asking myself “what would have happened if …?” How would our world look today?

If you have not read my book yet, – do yourself a favour, click on Bookstore above and order it NOW! It will make you think and see how the past plays “catch-up” if we don’t become more alert. Besides, – “We Don’t Talk About That” makes a terrific gift for many readers who appreciate a book “that you just can’t put down…”

Over the River and Through the Woods #WeDon’tTalkAboutThat

Just over a year ago I wrote about a play we had seen at the Chemainus Festival Theatre entitled “A Pretty Girl”.about a family torn apart just prior to World War 2. This past weekend we went to another of the Chemainus Theatre’s excellent productions. This one, “Over the River and Through the Woods”, is described on the theatre’s web page as a Family Comedy with the following outline:

Over the River

Over the River and Through the Woods

Meet Nick – a single Italian-American from New Jersey – and both sets of his meddling grandparents over a series of Sunday dinners, as they try to sort out his love life and their destiny through pasta and wise-cracks. This heartwarming and hilarious family comedy plays with old world values, new family traditions and the differences between the generations. Tengo famiglia!

It is indeed hilarious. It was so funny that I would love to return and hear some of the lines that were drowned out by audience laughter. The play also has a poignant ending which caused me to reminisce on my own transitions in life. Nick in the play wants to take up a promotion offered to him on the other side of the country. Despite the fact that both sets of his grandparents emigrated from Italy to the USA to seek a better life they cannot comprehend Nick’s desire to separate from them in order to fulfill his own dreams in a different part of the same country.

Oh, how I wish I could have left my home in East Germany because of a desire to find a better life. Instead I was obliged to flee before finding myself and my family subjected to the Communist regime’s brutal bureaucracy. I escaped to the west without any job prospects, without knowing what life had in store for me, without knowing if I would ever see my parents again. As it transpired I was fortunate. I did find employment and I did see may parents and other family members a number of times before they died.

Granny

Granny

In the Chemainus production there is a moment at the end when Nick implores his last surviving widowed grandmother to join him and his new wife and expected baby in Seattle but she refuses. This scene brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of my own Granny when we were evicted from our house in Stresow for the second time and she refused to accompany my mother and her four granddaughters. Had she reached the end of her tether? Did she know that at her age she might not survive the long trek on the road to nowhere? Did she just want to lay down and die after all the suffering to which she had been subjected and had witnessed? Would we ever, ever, see her again? You will find the answer to those questions when reading my book “We Don’t Talk About That”

Book Reading – Parksville #WeDontTalkAboutThat

Book reading ParksvilleDespite the very rainy weather we had a good gathering in the Council Chambers at Parksville Library today. One lady who came to hear what I had to say remembered my home town, Stresow, where I spent my childhood and, in further discussion, it became evident that she came from the very same town where my father was born. What a small world it is. She confided that she had escaped rape by having short hair and dressing as a boy.