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: Family

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.

 

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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!