A few days ago as I was working on the prequel I tried to think of the funnier (funnier = is this a word?) memories of 1943. Nothing came to my mind because there was not much fun.
However, I did remember something from 1947, but it does not fit into the time frame of my books..
At that time a sister of my father lived in the USA and she sent us a “care” package to Germany . It was filled with all the goodies: flour, sugar, chocolate, Crisco, soap, and a shirt for my father. And then, my, brother who was 10 years old at that time, pulled a strange item from the package. It was made from brown leather and kind of oblong, oval , if you will. It looked like a ball but it was not round. It had a small paper note taped on the side ” For the boys” my aunt had penned on it.
My brother looked at it from all sides. “Horst, look at this thing, what is it?” He asked me. I could not answer him. In all my life I had never seen anything like it. We rolled it around on the floor and then tried to kick it to each other, but because it was not round it rolled nilly willy wherever it wanted.
After a while we decided that it must have been a ball at some time. We figured that some other heavier package must have squeezed our package during the long sea voyage to the point that the round ball lost it’s shape. If we could find a way to press it back into shape we could perhaps be able to play with it. However we had no press or vise to bring any pressure to bear. The only thing we could think of was to take a board, place it on the ball and then sit on it. I remember my brother sitting for hours on the weird shaped thing.
“Take a look, Horst. Is it round yet?” He would ask. “No, not yet, Peter. Sit on it some more.”
Here I was, 17 years old and having looked death in the face more than once, able to extinguish phosphor canister bombs with a sand filled paper bag, survived the Mongols as well as the SS, but I had never seen an American football or had any idea what this stupid leather thingy could be.
After other children started to tease my brother, he gave up sitting on it and threw it in the garbage.
I have literally read all three of your book in three days! When I saw the books I read a little about them and I realized that they would give me insight to the thoughts I have had while talking with my relatives about that period in Germany. I have been researching my family all of which, except my father lived through the war in Germany. Wonderful books!! I have visited Germany many, many times and accumulated photos, history and stories from my aunt and uncle since my first visit in 1972. They were all adults during the war my Aunt married in 1942 and died at 95 this last January so I know much about life for her as an adult during the war but not from a child’s view or younger persons point of view. Thank you for the insight. I am a combat veteran of Vietnam and understand clearly how war can put children in situations far above their age. Thank you for your stories and hope to see more.
Heinz P.S. I am left handed.
Wow, you made my day.
The fact that a Vietnam combat veteran read my three books in three days is something I never expected to hear. Thank you very much for your compliments. And also “Thank You” for understanding that growing up under these circumstances was vastly different than growing up today. You mentioned that you visited your German relatives and that my books aided your thoughts about their experiences. Hopefully some of the described details connected with the stories from your family. In my new book “Partners to a degree” you might even find some “mind triggers” related to your experience in Vietnam. Thanks again, for reading my books and I wish you and yours a joyful Christmas season..
P.S. I am glad that you, being left handed, did not had to grow up under the German believe system.
My brother is also left handed and did you knew that the stigma against left handed people, in Germany, lasted well into the Fifties?
Dear Mr. Christian:
Thank you so very much for writing these three incredible, insightful books. They certainly tell more about WWII than any other book I’ve read and from such a totally unique perspective.
At the end of Trust to a Degree, you mentioned another sequel, but so far I’ve been unable to find Partners to a Degree. Is it available yet?
Thank you again.
Thank you for your kind comments and I assure you that they are very much appreciated. As an author it is very satisfying to read that my attempt of conveying difficult times somehow succeeded. In regard to your question, well Mary, I am still working on the book “Partners to a degree” it and I hope that it will be released by the end of February 2014. The events I describe are now almost 70 years past but never the less they are true and I hope that they will provide you with some interesting reading. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate and ask. I’ll be more than happy to answer. In the meantime I wish you and yours a peaceful Christmas season.
Loved your book “Children to a Degree”!
I will be looking to purchase the other two since your story has captivated me!
But you had Gen. Paulus surrendering in 1942 when he actually surrendered on January 31, 1943.
Thank you for your very nice comment.
And, thank you for pointing out a flaw in my time line.
You are right that Gen. Paulus surrendered in January 1943.
You must be a very attentive reader to notice that I had the conversation between the boys and the Grandfather in 1942.
This is not really an excuse for my error, but for explanations sake, Rory, I am writing from memory and I remember distinctly the words of the grandfather,
But, I did not check my time table and I thank you for pointing it out to me.
I also found several mistakes in my spelling, even after two (2) different editors. It happens, but, I will pull the book for a day or two to correct these mistakes
including my time line.
Wishing you an enjoyable 2014.
I am also a Vietnam veteran and just finished all three of your books, and loved them. Personally I would make them mandatory reading for all 14 year old boys today if I could. I think you have alot that could be taught to them.
It is nice to hear from another Vietnam veteran and I am honored that you like my books.
Yes, sometimes I think that I should send the book “Loyal to a degree” to a school administrator and ask him if he would be interested to give me an hour to talk to their history class.
It would be interesting for the children as I am one of the few who lived through 1945 and is still around to talk intelligently (or so I think) about these times.
One the other hand I am sure that you, as a Vietnam veteran also have interesting stories to tell about a terrible war.
It was all about survival, wasn’t it?
And today? Does it matter anymore?? It’s a loaded question, isn’t it?
I am an American citizen since 1959 and I like to thank you for your time serving our country. Take good care of yourself.
I read -and bought- all three of your books [and left a review on Amazon.ca 🙂 ] I’m eagerly waiting for Partners!
Please write more about the early years. I find it fascinating. And the KLV camps. Those children became the adults of later years. It was their experiences that shaped the country, and the world, later.
I very much admire your balanced perspective and narrative. I would like to know more about all the other characters in the book too. What happened to them? Did he ever find Peter again and the 40 missing boys?
Tell me more! 🙂
Thank you for your great efforts: I do not think it was easy writing those books, but thank you for doing it.
Thank you very much for leaving a review on Amazon and for your comments on this website.
Please, believe me when I say that it is very much appreciated.
No, I never found out about Peter and the missing boys from the train to Kottbus.
We didn’t know until much later, how active and successfully the Polish underground sabotaged the rail road tracks.
However, this does not necessarily mean that this particular train got sabotaged. Communication was non existing. There were many, many children, lost in the shuffle between the merging forces. They were unable to take care of themselves. Many died.
But, fortunately many got adopted by well meaning people. Hopefully some of the children from Peter’s group found a home. If you read my books you will notice that I sometimes describe people I met and worked with and then I never mentioned them again. Simply because I never saw them again.
Amira, I am writing exactly the way it was. Situations changed from day to day and never to the better. The headlines read that Germany surrendered.
The price of the lost war, however, was paid by regular people, like you and me.
Now, on the upbeat side you are also correct. Yes, the surviving “children” rebuilt a Germany into one of the strongest member of the European Union.
Your last sentence of your comments really surprised me because it showed a great insight on your part. You are very astute to think that writing these books is not an easy task, especially if you wish to write it ‘balanced’ as you put it.
Let me put it this way: “I still think that 3:00 pm does not mean 2:55 pm or 3:05 pm.” And, I know that you understand.
Thank you, Amira. Very much.
On reading the comments above from other people, I would like to say: Yes, it does matter today. It will always matter. There are always wars somewhere. Always people trying to survive from day to day. The countries that are not at war still have governments. It is important for all of us that we remember and remain aware. Wars have roots before they have shoots. And like weeds, they need constant attention so that they do not overrun the gardens -our life.
Thank you for chiming in on this subject.
You are very right by saying that weeds need constant attention.
Very well stated. Thank you so much.