Wow, I do receive fan mail from many readers and I wish to thank all of them for their genuine interest and comments about my books.
With some of my readers I correspond on an almost daily basis. (And, you know who you are.)
However, the following is not really what you might call “fan mail”. But, I have to consider it as such because what else it is?
Well, a reader copied me a letter which he emailed to his friends. That’s all. Just the copy of his letter and I received his consent to publish it here:
Ya orta read tha book “Children of a Degree”by Horst Christian. Electronically you can read tha intro to it ifen you search tha enternet. Tha book is free if you have a way to download it to your electronic reader or cell phone. Just be aware that there are 3 more books. I have three of tha books now. I just electronically loaned tha second book to “mom” and then most likely ta Mark, so it wont be available fur a few days ta borrie fur readin. Ima just startin tha third book. Tha books are easy reads, but ya just caint puttem down. Ah do own book 2 in paperback but az itz signed by tha author ima keepin it close and it aint fur loan.
Tha secon book is called “Loyal to a Degree”. Its needs to be retitled to “From Outta tha Fryin Pan and into tha Fire” as that’s where the second book literally begins and then ends. Ah caint believe Karl is still alive! Read book one fur free than determine ifen ya want ta continue. Ah bet ya will. Alan, as you grew up in England durin WWII ya need ta read it as your peer, the author, grew up in Germany durin tha same time and now you both live in CA. What a different life!
“Thank you, Ray”,
I commend the strength and resolve you’ve shown to put your personal trials into words so that others may “Never Forget”… I read my first historical novel of the Danish resistance when I was 13 (in 1975), and never forgot the haunting tale. I’m sure it helped shape my values for life. I look forward to repurchasing your series in paperback for my boys to read (ages 18 and 15). Like most American students, WWII was a major component of their history classes, but I don’t believe they’ve read accounts by lads their age, and certainly not from the German side of the war.
My grandfather served as a medic at the Battle of Normandy, but he was a very quiet man and only told me a few snippets. I learned about the liberation of Paris and he shared the limited French he learned there. 11 years ago before he passed, I proudly wheeled him onto stage at the Memorial Hall in Dayton, Ohio to receive his Medal de Jubilee from France, and a smart salute from a U.S. 3 -star general. He died soon after watching the World Trade Centers collapse. I always wished he didn’t have to see that tragedy, another colossal piece of evidence that over the entire span of mankind’s history, no matter how many young men and women offer the ultimate sacrifice, eventually another forceful evil will arise.
I strongly share your thought of introducing this series to our schools. I love how Karl and Harold are child-like enough not to be jaded about “sides” – they are just trying to survive while keeping their values in place! So they were able to identify the good (and the bad) in Germans, Russians, Tatars, officers, volunteers… The boys humanized everyone, and that’s a wonderful lesson!
I have a dream of bringing something similar to history classes. I love the musical “1776” because it puts faces and personalities on America’s founding fathers. Most students do not realize how hard it was just to AGREE to write the Declaration of Independence, and how every man in that room feared hanging for attending the meetings of Congress. Most students associate 1776 with parades, hot dogs, fireworks, and picnics. 1776, like your books, brings this extraordinarily important piece of history to life, so that a student can feel the pain, courage, and personal difficulty of living during those times. Only through remembering, tolerance, teaching, and perseverance can we combat mankind’s impulse to war.
On a lighter note, I am a professional Master Canner. Simply put, I make preserved foods and sell them. Americans like jam very much, but I’m always so tickled by European literature when it refers to the joy of jams, marmalades, and preserves! I laughed till I cried at poor Karl’s reaction to the “milky green jam” that turned out to be herring jelly! I think it was foreshadowing: Karl could never be adopted by the Kommissar and become Russian because he could never have survived the Russians’ dependence on seafood for existence!
Thank you, thank you for sharing your story. I finished the second book and look forward to the third. I must not buy it for at least a week, though, as strawberry season is beginning, and I must get some work done! Book three will be my reward for a good long week of work!
Sonya (yes, a Russian name)
You left me such a pertinent and long comment that I am nearly paralyzed by the very thought of answering it.
First of all thank you very much for your interest in my books. Regarding your boys and their history classes I can tell you from my present experiences as a speaker to history classes at a local high school, that the students showed a great interest in my talk and I was called back by several classes for an “one on one” question and answer session.
Therefore I hope that your dream, of bringing 1776 to live, will see reality.
With a constant effort and stick to it, you should be able to accomplish this and it will be equally rewarding for the students and for you too.
Go for it!
So, you are a Master Canner and I like to buy some of your jelly, if you promise to use real sugar. ( I am pushing now 85 but I cannot imagine a day without plenty of sugar.) Coming to think of it, I will contact you by email in regard to your jellies.
But, Herring jelly? Thank you very much. Once was enough.
Harold, on the other hand, acquired a taste for seafood. Accordingly to him, poor Alex died of food poisoning, supposedly fish.
I wish I could have warned him.
Take good care, Sonya,
I enjoyed all four books. I read one right after the other and couldn’t put them down. I look forward to your new books about Harold’s experiences in the Soviet Union.
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my books.
Nancy, I am truly sorry that I did not respond earlier. We are living on a small ranch in northern California and the fire season is upon us. This means that we are presently busy with fire prevention work, such as bush clearing and maintaining a fire safe belt around the the home.
But, Harold’s first book is nearly finished and I am sure that you will many unexpected details in his story.
Thanks once more, Nancy,
All the best,
I was very intrigued when the epilogue strongly implied that the ‘Karl’ character was based on Horst himself. I was surprised that he became a baker. I do not mean to disparage that craft but I would have thought he would have gone into a more intellectual profession. The intellect, resourcefulness and initiative that Karl demonstrated seems more in character with a medical doctor, lawyer or even a western ally intelligence service.
Regards, John D McLean
Thank you for your pertinent comments and also for your kind review on amazon.
Regarding Karl’s decision of becoming a pastry chef, you have to consider the circumstances of 1945 in Germany.
Karl’s father was unemployed and a higher education at that time was simply not an option for Karl.
Furthermore many of the men returning from war were wounded and physically unable to continue in their precious occupation. This resulted in massive retraining and re schooling programs. For this very reason young people were discouraged to enter an occupation or profession which could lead to competition for the re educated adults. After entering the USA as a pastry chef ( a vast difference from a baker ) Karl availed himself of higher education and left the pastry trade in 1967.(As a side note: John, you were not very far of target.)
Thanks again, John, for reading my books and taking the time to respond.
All the best to you,
Thank you for writing these wonderful books! I read all three in a week and couldn’t put them down. I have some German ancestory and studied German in college, but was suprised with some of the details I didn’t know about WWII Berlin. I had no idea that women who wore makeup ‘schminken’ were frowned upon as whores. I was also surprised about people wearing sandals being catagorized as drifters. I couldn’t imagine a hot summer day living here in NJ without my flip flops.
I really enjoyed learning about this time in history from a German boy’s point of view as I read many from Jewish persons point of view and even a German woman. It was shocking the contrast in kindness and humanity vs. cruelty from all sides. I loved hearing about the character, Alex. I wish I could see a picture of him. I picture him looking like Andre the Giant who was famous for his role in the movie ‘A Princess Bride’. I also am amazed at the respect children showed for their parents and grandparents. I noticed this when I lived in Austria at school for a short time. Thank you thank you thank you for making me love to read again.
mit freundlichen grüßen,
Due to your pertinent comments I am clearly able to see on which subject and level I have been able to connect with my readers.
Thank you very much for taking the time to help me in this regard.
Your comment about the flip flops and not being able to imagine living ( in the summer time) without them really hit home because it is still a much misunderstood subject and I will write a separate post about them.
Yes, in an all boy’s class and school, in Berlin, a female teacher with lipstick was definitely considered a whore. At least by the boys who had been brought up by a parent who thought of this face painting as a bait for the oldest profession on earth.
You are right, Alex was a true soul and a character all of his own. Hard to think about him, now after 70 years, without becoming sentimental. His whole life story would probably be good for a book of his own. In spite of him being kind of primitive, he had a sense of loyalty second to none. (And, he hated the Soviets who had killed his parents, as Harold found out, later on.)
Ali, you mentioned respect for the elders ……. yeah, what happened?
Some of the things you mentioned I will address in later books.
Thank you, Ali,
und freundliche Gruesse to you too.
I just finished “Children To a Degree” and truly loved it. I have all four e-books on my Nook, so can only loan each one once to another Nook owner 🙁 . Actually, it would be more beneficial for my friends (and you) if they buy their own copies so they can keep them. I didn’t know of new books about Harold coming out so I will forward to them! I always archive pertinent, relatable, reference-worthy books and ones I love like this one so I can go back to them when I wish.
My main reason for writing such a long missive is a question: What does ‘to a degree’ mean in your titles? Does it mean the boys are only loyal/trust/partners up to a certain point? Or does it mean that everyone in that country and circumstances had to be loyal, trusting or partners conditionally and cautiously because of the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis?
I am 72y.o. and can remember the 1940s well. Thank you so much for adding to the enrichment of my life through your writings. I wish I could have met you, but I no longer live in California. To your good health and God Bless you.
Thank you for taking the time and commenting on my books.
Yes, “to a degree” is supposed to mean: “Loyal, but only to a certain degree” or Partners, but only to a certain degree.
I have an old rancher friend, he is now well into his Nineties, and in a discussion about his farm hands he once told me:
“Horst, everybody is honest, to a degree”.
This comment inspired me to name my series the way I did.
Joan, I am pleased to read that you found my books to be interesting and I will post on this website when my next book will be published.
I am working on it.
Thank you for your blessings and the same to you,
I just finished all four books and I have a newfound respect for Germans. I am 51 years old and never even took the time to research WWII. For that, I am ashamed of myself. I have often looked at all of the information about the Concentration camps as what WWII was all about, but your books have enlightened me. War, between whoever, is for those that seek to “Rule” over others. To see who has the best. I am extremely blessed to live in the United States and never have had to see, or much less live, through war on my doorstep. For that alone I thank you for giving us a chance to see it through a child’s eyes. I just happened upon this book and I am so very grateful that I did.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the horrors that children have gone through and I pray that many more people will read these books and feel the same way.
Peace, NOT WAR!
Thank you for reading my books and taking the time to post a comment.
You are definitely right to feel blessed to live in the United States. I traveled a lot and I can assure you that there is no other place like it.
Sure, it is not perfect, but for that matter …. very few things are. And, politicians come and go, some are more up to the task than others. But compared to other countries we are way ahead of whatever comes second.
Be good to yourself, Regenia, I wish you well,
I don’t know why, but I just now subscribed to your Newsletter and have now read all of the posts to date, 8/24/2015. In your reply to Joan Linville you answer the question I have had about the “TO A DEGREE” in your titles. Please continue to send me your Newsletter, as I am interested in what your other readers say about you and your writing, and I learn more about you from your answers.
Nice to see you here.
Congratulations on the first sales of your new book:”Herr Mr. Manalli”.
Thanks for joining me here on my web page.
All the best for your future success,
I just finished reading all 4 books in under a week and really enjoyed them a lot. I have always loved history and growing up in the United States we tend to be taught only 1 side of the story when it comes to WWII. This really enlightened me to a lot of things I wasn’t aware of.
I did have a question for you. Did you ever find out what happened to Peter and the boys on the train?
Thanks for your interest in my books and for your question.
No, I am sorry to answer that we never found out what really happened to Peter and his group.
During the time the Soviet forces surrounded Berlin there where countless acts of sabotage committed by the Polish underground and missing trains were never reported. Despite my efforts, after the war, to follow leads, I could not find a trace.
In addition I have to point out that during the last months of the war and also in the months afterwards, there was total chaos in the Soviet occupied Germany. And ….. “total chaos” are just words. Living through it was entirely different.
As a “western” reader in 2015, you are simply unable to equate this to anything you ever experienced in your cultured world.
Should you have any more questions relating to this time period, please do not hesitate and ask.
I will endeavor to answer.
Thanks again and take good care,
I really enjoyed reading your first book! I have never read anything from a German child’s experience during that time and I want to thank you so much for the window on the past I had yet to see open. It will be awhile before I can purchase books 2 & 3 as my husband just lost his job and we’re penny pinching, but as soon as I can I plan on doing so to see what happens with Karl, Harold, and Peter!
I really like the idea of “the switches are set in advance.” It applies to so many things, the first one I thought of is God’s plan that the Bible says has been already mapped out in advance! Of course there are many more comparisons. My grandfather was a train engineer and that switch analogy never came to me. The “connect the dots” game was ingenious of the Grandfather and applies to many things also! I really want to explore the idea of “believing vs. knowing.” That was powerful to me. What a wealth of information, he was a wonderful role model.
Thank you for an excellent read!
Hello, (again) Glenna,
Thank you very much for commenting twice on my stories.
And, a special “Thank You” Glenna, that you are also reading between the lines.
You mentioned that the “believing vs. knowing” issue caused you to think about it.
And, yes, the switches are always set in advance, you can see them very clearly if you are willing to be observant. It’s your choice.
It might interest you that I am writing a small booklet about the teachings of my Grandfather and I will let you know when it is ready for publication.
In the meantime I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas season.
Ich verstehe kleine Deutsch. ich learne Das Deutsches Sprach im Der Schule 1945 in Baltimore, MD. Nur meinen Wortbuch ist sehr kleine..
Well, I still remember a little after so many yrs. it was a Catholic school and the cooks were Sout Platte Schwestern. so I could always use, Schwester, bitte, geben sie mir ein stuck kuchen. ah those were the days.
When I was due to get out of the Marine Corps in 1953 they said if I would re-enlist they would send me to the Russian language school. I thought that would mean being sent to the embassy in Moscow. A former CIA friend said, no, probably to Turkey to intercept Russian radio. I’m glad I turned them down. I’ve had a wonderful life, marriage, kids, grandkids & great grandkids. Had I stayed in the Corps I feared I’d be in another war. Korea was quite enough.
I stumbled on “Children. . .” quite by accident on Amazon. Sounded interesting. Read it almost nonstop. ordered the rest. now starting on Book 4.
These books have been read almost non-stop. you are a gifted writer. Your history has certainly been a source for the books. I have read a number of WW2 books, including Mein Kampf in both English an German — using the English to aid in reading the German. this was in 1954. Still could handle the Sprach fairly well.
In any event, I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your writing. When I feel as though I have known the characters, and worry about how they do, am emotionally involved with them, you have done the best a writer can do.
I will leave it at that;
Auf Wiedersehen,’ Karl”.
Well, you certainly retained a lot from your German language courses.
I am emphatic for your plea for a piece of cake as I enjoy anything sweet. Life without sugar would be pretty hard for me.
You made a wise choice by declining the invitation to attend the Russian Language school. You are correct: One war is more than enough for anybody.
(at least in my experience).
Ray, I really appreciate your kind compliments. You “made my day” and I sincerely thank you for it.
Auf Wiedersehen mein Freund, bis zum naechsten Buch, (Good bye, my friend, until the next book),
Horst, would you be kind enough to clarify the whole “silver eagle cap badge” question please.
Maybe it’s in the books and I missed the explanation.
Karl wears a SECP. It impresses his HJ peers. It seems to irritate some adults. In the final days it apparently becomes potentially life-threatening.
I don’t get it. No where on the website could I find any clues.
PLEASE KEEP WRITING!
Thank you and I hope you are in good health.
Thanks for your question regarding the “silver eagle cap badge.”
Quite frankly, it meant not much. It only signified that the bearer was a sub leader in the school evacuation program.
Sure, it was impressive to the kids that participated in the program.
And, yes it irritated the teachers who had no camp experience, but needed assistance.
And, in the final days, Karl got rid of it for the same reason that some of the commanding officers all of the sudden changed into civilian clothing.
Everybody was afraid that the Russians would capture them, and then use any excuse to single out individuals.
Thanks for your kind wishes.