Month: May 2016

Eastern Daily Press publish story from Germany visit

There was a wonderful piece published in the Eastern Daily Press last Friday (27th May 2016), written by leading feature journalist Rowan Mantell, telling readers about my recent trip to Koblenz and Nickenich promoting Escaping Hitler.  I hope you can read it.  Already this weekend I have received a book order because a gentleman in Diss read the piece.


Koblenz visitors to Norwich today

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting again with Günter Hahn from the Norwich-Koblenz Friendship Association, who was  my translator from the Bundesarchiv Escaping Hitler book  event in Koblenz on 11th May (far left of photo).  He is visiting Norwich for just two nights, along with the Oberbürgermeister of Koblenz, Prof. Dr. Joachim Hofmann-Göttig (far right of photo).  It is the Lord Mayor’s first visit to Norwich, a trip which has included a concert at the Cathedral (where he met Joe Stirling), a trip to the Sainsbury’s Centre at UEA and lunch at the Britannia Cafe next to the Prison!  The Lord Mayor was delightful and I gave him a copy of my book, signed by both me and Joe of course!  I hope he has a longer stay in our fine city on his next visit to Norwich.



Perfect Father’s Day Gift

Sunday 19th June is Father’s Day in Great Britain so there is still time to buy your signed copy of Escaping Hitler as the perfect gift for Dad. A boy’s own story of despair in Nazi Germany which changes to one of hope and determination, success against all the odds. Joe Stirling’s full life has been dominated by family, his pioneering travel business, community work, his year as Sheriff of Norwich and his 50 years plus with Lions Clubs International.  The book also includes many anecdotal details of the history of Norwich over five decades.  I have been touched and delighted with people’s comments about this biography of a Kindertransport refugee who escaped Nazi Germany and finally settled in Norfolk.  It is available on, from Pen and Sword Books, from Jarrold Book Shop in Norwich or to buy a signed copy (by both the author and Joe Stirling) take a look at the instructions on the Menu tab on this website. £19.50 plus £4 postage (U.K. only)  I look forward to hearing from you.


Joe Stirling reading his own biography!

Anniversary of a very special Wedding

On 21st May 1946 Joe Stirling married his sweetheart Jean Skitmore in St Mary’s Church, Attleborough.  They were both in Army uniform.  Only three years earlier the groom’s birth name of Günter Stern had been officially changed by the British Army to Günter Stirling. The young soldiers in the barracks dubbed him Joe and the Jewish Kindertransport boy from the Rhineland village of Nickenich has been called that to this day.

In Church that day in 1946,  Joe was sadly the only representative of the groom’s side but Jean’s family turned out in force from the Norfolk villages and towns around Attleborough.  Today it is 70 years since that momentous occasion, a union that would produce four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (more on the way!). The couple were happily married for nearly sixty years, but sadly Jean passed away after a long illness in 2002. Joe misses her every day.  Today I am thinking of them.

Joe and Jean on wedding day


Huge Welcome for ‘Escaping Hitler’ in Germany

Last evening, we arrived home from the promotional trip to Germany, exhausted but delighted by the welcome we received both in Koblenz and Nickenich. Before either of my presentations, Victor and I found the Stolpersteine (Stumble stones) for Joe Stirling’s parents, set into the pavement outside their last known address in Koblenz and laid a white rose in their memory. It was a touching moment.

On Wednesday 11th May I spoke to an audience of about 70 people at the prestigious Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive) in Koblenz, hosted by the President of the Archive, Dr Michael Hollmann and the Kulturdezementin (Head of Culture and Education at Koblenz City Council), Dr Margit Theis-Scholz.  The Chairman of the Koblenz-Norwich Friendship Association, Günter Hahn, valiantly acted as my interpreter. The equipment for my presentation was ‘state of the art’, the Rhineland wine and huge pretzels were delicious and we met many people interested in Joe’s story.  I am most grateful for their support.  The very next day the local newspaper, Rhein-Zeitung carried the story.

On 12th May we arrived in Joe’s home village of Nickenich where we met with Jutta Hansen, local historian and the Town Mayor, Herr Gottfried Busch. Jutta took me for a walk around the village where I could still see signs of the farming village as it was in Günter’s childhood.  Herr Busch then treated us to dinner at our hotel.  During Friday we spent some time at the beautiful Maria Laach (ancient monastery) on the shores of the Laacher See (both of which feature in the early part of Escaping Hitler) where we were thrilled to find a poster for my book event on the tourist board by the lake!  During the late afternoon we helped prepare the room in the Nickenich Pellenzhalle for the evening’s presentation.  This went well beyond my imagination – more than 80 people – mostly locals but some from Andernach and a couple from Luxembourg,  people all fascinated to hear from the man himself (on video on a huge screen) what exactly happened to that little Jewish boy, Günter Stern, once he had disappeared from the village with his mother Ida, on the morning following his father’s arrest on Kristallnacht in 1938.  Joe’s family remains part of the folklore of the village, his parents’ names commemorated in the wall of the church.  My words were translated into German by student and Nickenich resident Jessica Hansen and people were clearly moved by Joe’s story.  Again, the local press were in attendance and the story is now in print.

In total from the two presentations I signed and sold 44 copies, each signed in advance by Joe Stirling.  Considering the book is in English this was an amazing result and in both Koblenz and Nickenich I now have people actively seeking a German publisher who will work with Pen and Sword Books to translate and publish the book for a German audience.  Fingers crossed!  Meantime, here are some photos to give you a flavour of this most satisfying trip to Joe’s homeland.



Packing for Germany

This weekend is all about preparing for our promotional trip to Germany on Monday.  I am proud to be taking little Günter Stern’s (now known as Joe Stirling of Norwich) life story  back to his roots in the village of Nickenich and the Rhineland city of Koblenz.  I have been invited by the Mayor of Nickenich, Gottfried Busch to give an illustrated talk on Friday 13th May in the Spiegelsaal (Sports Hall) of the Nickenich Community Centre known as the Pellenzhalle.  Two days earlier I will be presenting Escaping Hitler to the people of Koblenz, the twin city of Norwich, at the prestigious Federal Archive.  On both occasions I will be working with a translator, as sadly my German is rudimentary!  I am grateful to Herr Günter Hansen from the Norwich-Koblenz Friendship Association for his help in Koblenz, and to Jessica Hahn, a student at Trier University and resident of Nickenich for her help in Joe’s home village. This is an incredible opportunity to let the audiences know exactly what happened to that little Jewish boy after he left his homeland on a Kindertransport in July 1939.  I am excited and nervous in equal measure!!!

The photos show the village of Nickenich, the Pellenzhalle, the Federal Archive in Koblenz, an article from a Nickenich newspaper and the poster that is apparently on lampposts all over the village!