Ruins of Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany

Visiting the ruins of Hanstein takes us back to medieval times - Castle Hanstein near Bornhagen, Germany in 2012 More »

Vietnam War protestors demonstrate - Wichita, KS, 1967.

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Solingen, Germany after the bombing, November 1944. - Stadtarchiv Solingen

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My grandmother Grete with her sisters in the early 1920s in Germany.

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B17 Bomber above German Airfield in WWII

U.S. Bomber flies above German airfield in WWII. More »


On the Path of German-German History

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Visiting the German-German Border Museum

Sign of museum The other weekend while visiting friends, we took a road trip to the former east-west boarder between Hessia (west) and Thuringia (east). Near Bad Sooden Allendorf, right on the original border, lies the first border museum of Germany, Schifflersgrund. The wind blew and it was freezing cold, making it easy to imagine how dreary life must have been, when the two Germanys were still fenced off against each other.

East Germans were told that West Germans wanted to invade the country and therefore the fence was necessary to keep them out. Of course, it was the other way around. The fence held its East German people captive in a giant prison. The entire boarder was fortified with an eight-foot fence, mine fields, automatic shooting machines, no-mans land, soldiers and observation towers. The East German government spared no expense and resource to protect its sick communist regime.

Just five years before the wall crumbled, a east German man who’d been working on the boarder fortifications for years drove his earthmover to the fence, climbed across and was shot dead a few feet from reaching West German ground.

propaganda signage former east germanyThe displays at the museum include photos of politicians deciding the fate of Germany after the war, of men in uniform patrolling the border, but more importantly of every-day Germans whose world was divided over night, Germans in handcuffs for trying to escape to freedom. Even two months before the wall was built, the East German government assured its people, there wouldn’t be a wall. That was just one of many giant lies. You’ll also see a lot of equipment used to enforce the ‘prison,’ including cars, trucks, helicopters. Along the entire wall ran a stone path suitable armored tanks.

east german border patrol carOld folders and newspaper articles, postage and signage show some of the propaganda fed to the East Germans. In a separate hangar are pieces of the Berlin wall and a political timeline about the former East and West German leaders in meetings and then in 1989 at last, reunification. The formerly cordoned-off Brandenburg Gate in Berlin overrun by globs of happy Germans. It must have been amazing to be part of this history. Sadly, at that time, I was already in the U.S. and watched this momentous event from afar.

If you visit Germany, I’d recommend visiting one of the boarder museums for a taste of German-German history.

Next time:

woman in front of castle ruinsRevisiting Castle Hanstein

Remember my time-travel adventure, Escape from the Past, based on the history of Castle Hanstein in Thuringia? Well, I was nearby and couldn’t resist visiting the amazing ruins again.









What I Truly Wish for in the New Year

Had you asked me a year ago whether I’d expect a lot of surprises in 2017, I would’ve said no. However, last year brought a lot of change, some fun, some difficult and some shocking. Let’s do the fun part first. My new novel, Surviving the Fatherland, received several awards and became a #1 bestseller in the Amazon historical category. But it’s just a category, not the NY or USA Today bestseller list, you say. Correct, though this particular category is large and contains many famous writers. In any case, I was humbled to be in such company.

moving container with furniture

Our container before take-off in the U.S.

The difficult part was our move to Germany. After spending 30 years in the U.S., my American husband, daughter and I reduced the contents of a four-bedroom house to fit into a 20-foot container. This project lasted several months as we agonized over what to keep and what to give away. Luckily, we sold our house in a day. When the sale fell through because of financial issues of the buyer, we sold it again—in a day. Finally, at the end of August we took a one-way flight to my hometown, Solingen.

Woman and man in front of a wall smiling

Celebrating New Year’s Eve

The initial move-in, German bureaucracy and arranging technology was trying, but we managed to get settled into our new apartment without too much fuss. Then came the shock. In early November, my husband suffered a stroke. He was not a candidate but a fit, normal-weight man who loves riding bicycles in the mountains and has blood values, most people would kill for. With this new diagnosis, our well-laid plans evaporated. Within three weeks my 88-year old father also suffered a stroke and I moved into the twilight zone.

old dog lying on her bed

Mocha waiting for her man to return from the hospital

I realized I had been very lucky until now, our family mostly being spared serious illness. This new reality made me face our fragility as a couple and a family and pose the question, what would be next. It was uncomfortable to say the least. As I drove to the hospital every day, my moods swung between anger, sadness and worry.

I’m happy to report that as of the New Year, both men are doing quite well and are back on their feet, albeit with lingering numbness. We hope that the continued rehab will speed up their recoveries. For me, I’m grateful—grateful that the strokes weren’t worse. Grateful, I had friends and family close to support me. But I’m also hopeful that 2018 will offer a chance to settle into our new lives, but more importantly health and peace.

And that’s what I wish you, dear readers, for the New Year: health and peace and that you accomplish what you set out to do. Finally, I want to express a heartfelt thank you for reading my books and supporting me!