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: German German History

When You Know, You Know!

After the lull I mentioned in my last blog post, I have found my new story. Well, as much as a pantser can know at the beginning of a manuscript.

Two Failed Tries

photo of middle-aged man with glasses

My grandfather Willi

I’d been thinking about a couple of narratives for a while. The first had to do with my grandfather, Willi, who also is Lilly’s father in ‘Surviving the Fatherland.’ He’s not a super likable character because he entered the war quite willingly and sort of abandoned his daughter (my mother) when he didn’t have to. In 1945, three days after Germany capitulates in Europe, he’s taken prisoner by the Russians and spends the next eight years in captivity.

After I began writing the manuscript, I noticed that I couldn’t get excited about it. The work didn’t flow and it was a chore to sit down and write. I think I’ve figured out why. I don’t particularly like my protagonist because my grandfather was a complicated man. To do this story justice, I’d have to step way back, create some distance and develop a character who isn’t so close to the real man. That’s extremely hard and potentially takes years as I had to do this with my parents in ‘Surviving the Fatherland.’

The second story I considered writing was a somewhat true happening about an ill-fated sailing tour in 1984. Because of a terrible storm, human error and plain naiveté, I almost died on that trip. However, this story did not feel right either. For one, it’s not truly historical and for two, it involves me.

My Next Novel

2 children lean out of a train, being watched by two adults

Courtesy Bundesarchiv 183-H30202, Hannover

So, I stumbled across another idea, I’d considered a while ago, but hadn’t had time to explore much. In September 1940, Hitler decided to send ALL German children from infant to age 14 to the country. The Kinderlandverschickung (KLV) or Children’s Evacuation Program was immediately realized and as early as October 1940, the first kids left. Officially, this voluntary program was to keep children safe from bombs, provide adequate instruction through accompanying teachers and assure fun activities, including sports, crafts and games. Unofficially, Hitler had other things in mind.

  1. He wanted to separate children from the influence of their parents, from youth organizations, and churches.
  2. He also wanted all-out access to the young minds to bend them to his will, indoctrinate the boys to become Nazi soldiers and the girls to become mothers to bear more Nazi soldiers.

Children’s Evacuation Program in WWII

Courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B04116 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The KLV was a monumental effort, and in many ways succeeded to keep children away from the ever-increasing bombings by the RAF and other Allies. However, many children did not want to go and were forced. Many parents did not want their children to go and were manipulated through media and outright threatened. Of the millions of children who went (it is estimated that more than 2 million children participated, but exact numbers are unknown), many suffered terribly as evidenced by eyewitness reports.

four girls playing with a ball

Courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B03553 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Bed-wetting, illnesses, lice infestations, cruel teachers and zealous Hitler Youth leaders, who btw were supposed to lead all camps for the 10-14 year-old children, are testament to the problems KLV children experienced. There are many others, including inadequate quarters, nomadic conditions, when kids had to move through four, five and even seven camps, and the lethargic oversight of the KLV organizations. Especially, in the later part of the war, those kids staying in camps in the east, often barely escaped the advancing Eastern front. Some never made it home.

As you can see, the KLV program provides ample ‘breeding ground’ for my next story. I don’t have a title yet, but I have my two protagonists, Hilda (13) and Peter (14), best friends and neighbors.

I will share a few tidbits as I go. For now, I’m having fun.

Happy Easter!

A Happy New Year to All

I look back on 2018 with utmost gratitude. A year ago, my husband and father suffered strokes within the span of three weeks. I spent months worrying about their recovery, watched tentative steps grow into wobbly walks. Neither man is fully recovered, yet they’re moving, talking and exercising.

My father just turned 90 and is still able to live in his childhood home. And I’ve enjoyed spending time and taking care of him because for thirty years I lived 5,000 miles away and only saw him for a few days each year.

book cover image of where the night never endsIn June I was able to finish the German translation of SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND and I recently completed my seventh novel, WHERE THE NIGHT NEVER ENDS, a prohibition era historical romance (light on romance). After my editor gets done with it, the book is scheduled to release in March 2019.

I’m thankful for all my readers, many thousands who read my books, who have written amazing reviews and supported me. You make it possible for me to do what I love most. Thank you!

Looking ahead to 2019

books about german POWs in WWIIMy next project is the true story of my grandfather Willi (Wilhelm) who was taken prisoner by the Russians in May 1945 and spent the next eight plus years in gulags in Siberia and the Ural. To do a thorough job I’ve got to research life in a prison camp.

photo of middle-aged man with glassesIn the 1960s the German government commissioned a study about prisoners of war (POW). They looked at soldiers who’d spent time in French, British, U.S. and Russian camps. They analyzed food, social structure and behavioral changes in captivity. They researched how hunger affected men. Findings were collected in ten volumes of which I own several. Now it’s time to get busy and try to grasp what it was like to live or more accurately subsist in a Russian gulag.

I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and successful New Year!

It’s time to get busy.