Month: February 2016

Excerpt from ‘Escaping Hitler’

Thought it about time I gave my many followers, who have not yet bought Escaping Hitler, a taste of the book.  I hope you find it interesting.  If you would like a copy (U.K. only) do email me at and I can give you the options of how to receive your signed book (both by me and Joe) at a discounted price.

This section is set in Germany during early 1939. The italicised opening is a direct quote from Joe during one of my many interviews with him.

Cross Countries

‘I thought, “If war breaks out then I’ll never get away.” I was determined to get to England before the shutters came down. I would try and get over on my own. Of course I couldn’t tell my parents. They wouldn’t have allowed it.’

Günter’s paternal grandfather Heimann died of a heart attack on 28 February 1939. At the age of eighty-five he never recovered from the shock of his arrest on Kristallnacht. His body was returned to Meudt for burial, grave number 36 in the Jewish cemetery. Although still recuperating from his illness, Alfred took his young son to attend the ceremony. As an orthodox Jew, Heimann was buried in his tallit, the neckband removed and one of the fringes cut off, symbolising that once dead a Jew is no longer obliged to observe the rituals and customs of his religion. Günter stood amongst the adult mourners, joining the traditional chanting of the El Malei Rahamin, a prayer reassuringly declaring that the deceased is now ‘sheltered beneath the wings of God’s presence’. The sensitive child shed a tear for his grandfather as the simple wooden casket lowered into the grave to the rhythmic beat of the spoken Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.

After three or four weeks of recuperation Alfred received a visit from a member of the Gestapo.

‘I think you are fit enough to work now.’
‘But I’ve not found any work yet.’

‘You don’t need to. You’ll be building the autobahns, and there is a lot of digging to do.’

Alfred was attached to a forced-labour unit living in caravans on the roadside miles from Koblenz. He was allowed to return home at weekends only if he could afford his fare, which wasn’t often. Expelled from school, with no father, no friends and reluctant to venture out, Günter had little with which to amuse himself, apart from watching the endless columns of Black and Brownshirts marching through the streets below. To ease the tension he made music on his new violin, losing himself in the moment.

Rumours were circulating in the Jewish community that a group of people in Great Britain had successfully lobbied their government to allow the immigration of more refugees, specifically children between eight and sixteen thought to be under threat from the Nazis. They would enter England on temporary travel documents and re-join their parents once the crisis was over. A £50 bond was required for each child and they would make the journey in sealed trains. Volunteer families and financial donations were actively being sought in Britain. Those children for whom sponsors could not be found, would be housed at Dovercourt, a holiday camp on the east coast of England, until a foster home could be found. Above all the refugees were not to be a drain on the British State.

Whilst there was no way out for Alfred and his wife, it was crucial to offer their son a future. They asked Günter if he would like a chance to go to England. The boy did not hesitate. His application was lodged and the wait for a response began. Sometime in February 1939 a brown envelope arrived from the Jewish Refugee Committee in London. The letter was brief and to the point: ‘We can now confirm that Günter is on the list and you will be advised when a seat is available for him on a Kindertransport out of Cologne.’ Günter read the letter over and over, excited at the prospect of escape. It became his ‘special treasure’ and lived permanently in his trouser pocket.

Excerpt from Escaping Hitler by Phyllida Scrivens February 2016


Gunter Stern as a young child in Nickenich
Günter Stern as a boy


Reminder of how to get your signed copy of Escaping Hitler

With Escaping Hitler standing at No.1 in Jarrold’s list of best-selling national titles this week, I thought I’d remind you how to get hold of your copy direct from me, guaranteed to be signed by both Joe and the author (me!).  Exciting few weeks coming up, Norwich Writers’ Circle tonight, The Norfolk Club and Wymondham Heritage Society next week. During week of 29th Feb we are appearing at Norwich Community History Club, Mercedes Owners’ Club East Anglia and Walsingham History Society.  Joe’s story goes ‘on the road’!

1. TO GET YOUR COPY:  EITHER mail a cheque payable to Mrs P Scrivens at 7 St Lucia Court, 38 Yarmouth Road, Norwich NR7 0EQ along with your home address and telephone number and I will mail a book out to you along with a receipt. Special discounted price of  £19.50 plus £4 p&p.

2. OR call me on 01603 300212 and quote me your credit or debit card details  I have a Paypal machine so I can take cards over the phone. I will then mail your book.

3. OR email me at and I will email you my bank account details by return so that you can pay electronically. Once it is cleared I will mail your book.

All books will be mailed in a cardboard mailer which can fit two books. Postage the same price for two books as for one.

4. OVERSEAS FOLLOWERS: Unfortunately postage from the UK is very expensive in small quantities. I would advise you to order from either or from Pen and Sword Books website at Pen and Sword can send out signed copies if you request this at the end of the online ordering process.  It is also available on Amazon Kindle and other online bookstores.

And having read, please post up a review on You DO NOT have to have bought from Amazon to post a review and every review counts…!  Thanks everyone.


Escaping Hitler No.1 in Jarrold’s National Bestsellers List

Today is yet another Red Letter for Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future as it appears at number 1, top of the best selling list from Jarrold’s Bookshop in Norwich, England, as published in the Eastern Daily Press, 13th February 2016.  This is beyond exciting.  When my debut book was published I would fantasise about being No. 1 in the Local Books listing, never imagining that it would be considered a National title.  Fantastic progress in just four weeks.  Thanks everyone who has bought the book so far.


EDP and Eastern Evening News cover Escaping Hitler Launch

On Friday 5th February, the day following the book launch of Escaping Hitler at Jarrolds in Norwich, both the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News carried this story by journalist Lauren Cope about the event.  So grateful for local support, coming at me from all quarters!  Joe and I are speaking at the Norwich Synagogue this afternoon!  And now that Escaping Hitler is available on Kindle, many more people will soon learn about the life of Joe Stirling.  Wonderful.




Launch of Escaping Hitler 4th February 2016

My thanks to Jarrold book department in Norwich for a spectacular book launch and signing last evening, Thursday 4th February.  I had the joy of launching my debut book in front of over 200 history and book lovers, including family, friends, local historians, writers, academics and followers of my subject Joe Stirling.  I spoke from a podium, using a hand microphone for about 45 minutes, before inviting 91 year old Joe to join me for a question and answer session.  Unusually I aimed my address at honouring those in the audience who gave up their time over the past four years to share memories of Joe with me. Joe was amazing answering half a dozen questions and we both enjoyed the unexpectedly strenuous task of signing over 60 books for those buying a book on the night.  An evening never to be forgotten and with over 25 public speaking events in my diary throughout 2016, there are many more opportunities to share Joe’s story and to sign and sell books……