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 »


Category Archives: bunker

A Great Reading and Upcoming Books

woman standing next to treeLast weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the fifth ‘Literary Hike’ in the beautiful Vorwerk Park in Wuppertal. Under cloudy but dry skies eight authors and their roughly twenty guests walked and enjoyed beautiful settings together. At various picturesque sites throughout the park authors presented stories and poems.

Since the German translation of ‘Surviving the Fatherland’ called Vaterland, wo bist du? will be published this month, I read a section from the new book. We also had the pleasure of listening to Michael Völkel’s music and ballads, both entertaining and fun.

A New Novel Set in WWII

book title

New Cover

When Hitler decided to mass-evacuate Germany’s children in 1940, he had a lot more than their wellbeing in mind. He had a purpose for those kids, particularly children eleven and older. Sold to parents as ‘vacations to protect from bombs and nourish their minds,’ the real goal was to train boys as future soldiers and girls to become mothers. Many camps were strictly organized and schedules began before seven am and lasted all day, strapping children into tightly regulated timetables. School time was restricted to four hours a day—less later in the war because of lack of teachers—and afternoon activities increased to include war games and competitive sports.

I wrote an exciting novel with two youth protagonists, fourteen-year old Hilda who is in love with her neighbor and best friend, fifteen-year old Peter. Here is a little intro:

When They Made Us Leave tells the heartwarming love story of two teens who are separated when they’re forced to attend separate evacuation camps. Each confronted with terror and cruelty as well as unexpected kindness, they must rise above to survive the war and find each other once more.

book cover german

New Cover German version of ‘Surviving the Fatherland’

Both characters have deep wounds and secrets they must work through while dealing with the ever-increasing threats of war and the atrocities they encounter in camp. I’ve also worked in some great historical info I found while researching the dozens of books, magazines and other resources.

VATERLAND, WO BIST DU? Available now in bookstores!

The new German version of SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is now available in bookstores and online.

I’ve also been working hard preparing the publication of Vaterland, wo bist du? in paperback, hardcover und eBook. Expected publication will be later this month. Because of language, this edition targets the German language market. I’m hoping to do a number of readings and presentations.

Why we Need Reminders

WWII bunker in Solingen

One of several WWII bunkers in Solingen

Walking through my hometown, Solingen, in Germany, you’ll come across some old structures. I don’t mean historic districts like Gräfrath, after WWII the only preserved part of town. No, I’m talking about bunkers (bomb shelters).

One could ask why there are still around? Too expensive to remove? Would we use them again? I doubt it. If there were ever another war, I think it’s pretty clear that enemy weapons would level everything including bunkers. No, I think these bunkers serve another very important function.

They remind us.

WWII bunker in Solingen

Bunker Brühl neighborhood in Solingen – Courtesy Solingen Stadtarchiv

Bunkers are Monuments

They remind us of the NS dictatorship, the war crimes of Nazis, the suffering of the common people under Hitler’s rein. They are monuments. Ugly, large and difficult to ignore. Which is a good thing. Because I feel these days, 73 years after WWII ended and the war’s children are dying out, many younger people don’t know and worse, don’t care. Right wing politics are on the upswing. In Europe and on a very large and dangerous scale in the U.S.

Under the current president, right wing propaganda is growing and supported. Many parallels can be seen to the 1930s in Germany. Why can’t we learn from past mistakes? Why is that term ‘history repeats itself’ so common?

I wish bunkers were standing all over the U.S. right now to remind people what fascism means. My mother, Helga, (picture below) spent horrific times in the bunker while the town around her was destroyed.

A Definition of Fascism by Merriam-Webster

a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

a young girl standing in a garden with a bunker behind her

Helga, ca. 1944-1945 – in the background on the left: Bunker Brühl

Of course, there’s so much more to it, but you get my drift. I urge you to speak with your friends, neighbors, family, kids and grandkids about the worst war in human history and what led to it. Discrediting and banning the media, discrimination, fear mongering, racism, isolationism, saber-rattling, destroying alliances and more. Much more.

Here is an excellent and short explanation about WWII fascism and how Hitler came to power.