I am so excited about a new research lead that I have to share it with you straight away! A week ago Joe received a call out of the blue which led to a flurry of emails between a lovely doctor called Hubert in north Germany who it turns out was born in Nickenich. His father, Heinz was in the same school class as Joe and that the two boys were friends. Hubert’s mother, Maria Becker is now in her eighties but remembers little Günter and his parents well. This morning I received some wonderful old photos from Hubert. Here is one of his grandfather Peter Saftig (the taller and younger of the two on the mowing machine). This is from the 1930s. Apparently Peter would regularly go to the local pub to play Skat, the German national card game, with Günter’s father Alfred, presumably after a long day in the fields or at the Cattle market! I will not reveal any further touching memories from Nickenich at this stage – I don’t want to spoil the book for you! But I am exceedingly grateful to Herr Doktor Becker for his generosity in sharing his parents’ memories with me and Joe.
Today I am looking at Joe’s time in Portsmouth with his wife and new baby. I found this wonderful photo of Joe as a fresh faced young soldier and thought I would share it with you. Following Joe’s recent 90th birthday celebrations I have found so many other contacts and photographs – this biography is getting out of hand! Just today I have sent a collection of photos over to the publisher at Pen and Sword for the cover design despite there still being over a year before publication. This is certainly proving a learning curve!
Have now received the signed contract from Pen and Sword Books. It is really happening! My debut book…. I now have 21 days to produce some blurb (technical term apparently!) for the back of the book, some biog about myself and some ideas for the cover including old original photos. After that it is the long write up to my deadline of end March plus loads more lovely people to interview. If you are interested take a look at my publishers website at:
Exciting news today – Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams) has agreed to write a foreword for Escaping Hitler:A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and A Future’. Her mother, writer and poet Vera Brittain, was at Oxford University with Günter’s first British guardian. Also Joe was part of the team that helped fight Shirley’s first by-election in Harwich back in the 1950s. I wrote to her recently and today I had the result! I am delighted.
One of the most rewarding aspects of researching and writing the biography of a person who is still living, is getting to know people he loved but are who no longer with us. After three years of interviewing Joe I am now writing up the story of how he met his wife Jean. I have been able to learn about her parents and siblings and have now found some lovely photos to complement the words. Jean died just over ten years ago after nearly sixty years of marriage. Joe still misses her very much. The photo shows Jean in the ATS at Bramley Camp in Hampshire during WW2 where she was a Ammunitions Examiner. Jean is top left. What an attractive group of young women……
Quite by chance I found a book online the other day – a memoir covering the little Gloucestershire town of Lydney during WW2, the very place Joe (as Günter Stern) spent three years from 1940 – at the evacuated Yardley Grammar School from Birmingham. It is … Continue reading Amazing Coincidence: Günter’s Chemistry Teacher
I found this wonderful story about Clement Freud when researching Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow yesterday. Joe was sent there for further combat training after he joined the Royal Warwickshires during WW2. Apparently at one time Clement Freud was called up to join the Royal Highland Infantry at Maryhill. The story, from the Scottish Herald dated 4th June 2013, goes like this:
Thousands of soldiers passed through Maryhill Barracks over the years, not only in wartime but during national service. Broadcaster and author Clement Freud, grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, told the story of reporting for duty at Maryhill Barracks accompanied by a chap whose name was read out after Freud’s as “Jung”. Thinking of the other eminent psychotherapist Carl Jung, Clement cheerily told him that was the most amazing coincidence, the two of them arriving at the same time. His fellow recruit listened to him impassively before eventually saying: “My name’s actually Young.”
I am delighted to announce that my debut book, the official biography of Norwich resident and past Sheriff, Joe Stirling, will be published by Pen and Sword Books in January 2016. Follow my journey as I continue to research and write Joe’s remarkable story of courage and determination. As a German Jew in the Rhineland, young Gunter Stern at fourteen, decided he could wait no longer for his Kindertransport ticket to arrive; he had to get away if he was to survive beyond his teens. One night he left a note for his mother and set off on foot across through four countries…..