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: Challenges

Surviving the Fatherland

book cover surviving the fatherland by annette oppenlander

The cover of my new WWII novel.

In a few weeks I’m going to release my new novel, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND (now on pre-order at Amazon). It’s been fifteen years in the making, an emotional journey of sifting through the messy past of my family. Set in war-torn and postwar Germany, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the story of my father and mother coming of age in Hitler’s Reich, the most horrific time of German history. Despite its harsh setting and struggles, it is a story of adventure, of love and hope, and ultimately of triumphing against the odds.

The story has gone through many changes and dozens of revisions. In the original story, I included several chapters about Lilly’s father, Willi (Vati). To be able to write authentically I read a number of books about Russian gulags. As it turns out, none of those chapters made it into the novel.

a young couple posing in front of a house

My mother and father around 1950

I also contemplated adding more photos to the novel. In the back matter, you’ll meet all the major characters. These portraits are not nearly as interesting as some of the group photos I found in my parents’ albums. One of my favorites shows my parents around 1950 when my mother was eighteen.

I’m also planning to add study guides because I think that much of the information in the book is worthy of discussion. Each character’s struggles and conflicts are not only real, they show some of the lasting effects of growing up as war children.

A True WWII Adventure

cover image for novelette 47 Days

47 DAYS – A novelette about two teen boys defying Hitler’s Reich

I’m thrilled to share with you the release of 47 DAYS: The True Story of Two Teen Boys Defying Hitler’s Reich. 47 DAYS is a 13,000-word novelette, an excerpt from the upcoming full-length novel, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND.

Based on my father’s experience as a youth in World War II, the story takes us into the last months of the war. The ‘Reich’ is crumbling, but Hitler frantically throws the last warm bodies into battle: old men, the injured and feeble, and all 15- and 16-year old boys. With the Allies and Russians spreading across German soil, it is a wasted effort. Hitler well knows it is too late and that the war is lost. But in his insane mind he justifies discarding the youth of the country. If Germany can’t win, they can all go to hell.

This photo shows my father, Guenter, around 1940.

Guenter ca. 1940

Helmut, ca. 1942-1943

My father, Günter, and his best friend, Helmut, were among those teens, drafted in March 1945. They were told to travel 200 kilometers south to report to the Hitler Youth Office in Marburg and jointedly defend the fatherland. Without training, without weapons. My father and his friend decided it was a bad idea. They chose to think for themselves and disobey. The cost was their lives because being caught meant certain execution.

At the time nobody knew how much longer the war would last. And so the task of hiding and eluding became a race for survival. Not to mention the turmoil, Günter and Helmut must have felt every single day. Had they done the right thing? Would they get caught? Well, they almost did. And they almost died.

I chose to publish this novelette separately because I wanted to share the conflict and threats these boys endured for disobeying orders. If you are interested in historical action/adventure and the state of Germany in the last months of World War II, this story may be of interest. I also believe it would be beneficial for high schoolers studying German history.

Pre-order an ebook or paperback at your favorite retailer.