An Unleashed Imagination
HOW IT STARTED
I didn't know I was going to be a writer. My internal dialogue kept referring to the "reader" side of my life. "You aren't a writer, you're a reader."
That is until I heard a family story about my elderly cousin and her journey in Germany during WWII. It took me to my knees. For ten years I looked for someone to write that story because I couldn't do the monumental task of writing a book - and a book about Germany during WWII! That was inconceivable. I knew nothing about it other than a brief month of instruction in ninth grade about European wars.
I remember once when I was about twelve, asking my grandfather at a family dinner, "why German's allowed Hitler to take control of the country and move against the Jews." I truly didn't understand. The rhetoric against Germans was pretty standard back then.."all German's were Nazi's."
My grandparents met in the United States, from Germany, in the early 1920s, as most immigrants did, looking for a better life. They worked hard and made their way.
But, that day, at the table, my grandfather's face boiled with intensity, while my mother's eyes rolled back at the shock of my question. He got in my face with a tirade of good things Hitler had done in the 30s that I knew nothing about (putting people back to work after WWI, building roads, building factories, building the country back up), but he couldn't or wouldn't answer the question about the Jews.
Later in life, I found out that my grandfather had only met one Jewish family back in Germany, and he had the unfortunate experience of being cheated over the sale of a horse that came up lame the day after he bought it. In his mind, all Jews were "shysters". How my world might have changed had his experience not been so awful at the time.
When he calmed down, I found out more. How truly horrific things were in the 1920s for families. There were no jobs, money had lost its value, and food was scarce if you could even find it. Most families had one child as it was all they could afford. So, the focus was on that one child and its future.
Hitler was smart...he knew a way to take control of the country and its citizenry. He took control of the children. After school programs soon were infiltrated by nationalism programs of singing, athletics were encouraged, country pride was returning and if you wanted your child to advance in any educational opportunity, they must be in good standing - you had to be in good standing as well. No one wanted to step out of line for fear that the opportunities for their child might be squashed.
I guess that the intensity of that moment, when my grandfather locked his one good eye on me, leaned forward and exploded all over me in a verbal lashing, stayed with me in the gray matter. I wanted to know more, but no one wanted to bring it up again with him. My grandmother would speak little on the subject.
But then, in my thirties, in Germany, I met Gerti, my third cousin. She was "Aunt Bea, from Mayberry RFD personified," a kinder, gentler woman who couldn't do enough for you. I asked her about a photograph of her father taken during WWII and then,
"What did you do in the war, Gerti?" That question changed my life and took me to my knees.
"Not much, nothing really," she said.
I looked through the family photographs, "How old were you when the war started?" I asked gently.
"Fourteen, but back then it was all service-oriented. Home life programs, community service, industrial service... required programs with the BDM," she replied. "Oh, you'd know them as family life; I worked as a Nanny to an officer's family, worked in a post-office after school, worked in an ammunition factory on the line and then there was that awful farm service where I worked in the farm fields."
"The BDM?" I asked.
"The female branch of the Hitler Youth."
That's when my knees gave way....but she didn't notice and continued.
"I later worked for the Wehrmacht in the Communications Division, working the teletype. And, was in Berlin when it fell, barely making it to the American sector where I was identified by my top-secret clearance and kept for several months by the Americans." She continued to stir the pot on the stove while she talked.
"But, it was the time after the war, and finding my way back to my parents that I remember most."
"You were a Nazi?" I asked.
"Oh, no. We didn't have many Nazi's here. Maybe one in all of Anbach (a small town of 200), but I met several over the years in service.
The room spun and I had trouble getting off the floor. "How could SHE be a Nazi? ..What? What was she talking about?"
Little by little, I got her to tell me more of her story. There is a collective silence by many Germans about the war. They don't talk about it. But this kind woman told me her journey.
I'm confident that I've done service to her story in GERTI'S WAR, how it was for everyday Germans at the start of the war and what happened afterwards. It's my soul story...the reason I started writing.
After twenty years of writing screenplays, I'm now switching gears to novel writing ... action-adventure stories with a cryptid or monster twist.
I hope you'll join me on the journey.
Brace yourself...My imagination will take you into a different dimension.