Tag: Biography

Joe Stirling is 95 today!

Happy Birthday Joe!  Today, 18th October 2019, Joe Stirling, the subject of my biography Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books, 2016) is 95 years old.  I first met Joe in 2011 and never imagined our friendship would last as long as it has.  I visited Joe this afternoon in his Norwich Care Home to find his two lovely daughters, Jane and Johanna, sharing his day with him.  We had tea and cake with candles, gifts and a loud rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You.’ Joe continues to keep a keen interest in how my writing and public speaking careers are progressing and is always proud to hear about it when I have share his life stories with new audiences in Norfolk.  Many Happy Returns Joe!

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New illustrated presentation from Phyllida Scrivens launched in Norwich

Last Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, I was excited to launch my brand new talk.  I spoke to the members of the popular Out & About Club, a social Club for the over 50s, held at the Congregational Church on Chaplefield, Norwich.  Joe and I have many friends there as we have spoken about his life on two occasions, and last year I delivered my Lady Lord Mayor’s presentation.

This new talk is called ‘When the Past Collides with the Present: remarkable true stories of coincidence, luck and fate while researching biography in the modern age.’

I include those ‘behind the scenes’ stories discovered while researching for Escaping Hitler, The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich and other biographical work.  I show original photographs (some shown here), all illustrating personal moments of “Can this really be happening?”, “Where did you find that?” and “Are you sure that is true?”   As a biographer, I find that once you put yourself and your discoveries ‘out there’, people come back to you, generously offering finer details, corrections, fragments of stories to add to your research, people you thought you would never reach. The unexpected connections, many because of our wonderful research tool, the internet.

The talk seemed to go down well.  I look forward to sharing it further with other Norfolk groups, such as the Women’s Institute, History Groups etc., starting with the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth on 1st March.

http://www.events.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/public_events.aspx?id=5605

Maybe join me there?

 

 

ESCAPING HITLER FOR CHRISTMAS!

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I don’t think I can ignore CHRISTMAS any longer!!!  If you are considering gifts for the relative or friend who has everything, or someone who loves to read, especially if they are or have been Norwich residents, then Joe Stirling’s biography should be well received….  you can order a hardback copy, signed by both author and subject direct from me by contacting me at phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com.  I can take credit and debit payments on the telephone and I will package the book up safely, mailing it out by first class post.  The price is £19.50 plus £4 postage and packing.  I look forward to hearing from you! PLEASE SHARE!!joe-stirling-2

Incredible list of speaking engagements for Escaping Hitler 2016 & 2017

 

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Mindful that in early November Joe and I will be undertaking our final speaking engagement of 2017, to the good ladies of the Hopton-on-Sea Women’s Institute, I thought I would take a look through our visits since Escaping Hitler was published in January 2016.  I was amazed at the number of groups I/we have spoken to, resulting in nearly 300 signed books sold following the talks.  If you then add in sales directly from book exhibitions and individual readers approaching me online or via the telephone, total direct sales amount to 891 and counting!  Unbelievable.  I thought you might be interested in seeing the list of talks, the vast majority of which were in Norwich and surrounding area. (Photo taken at Norfolk Record Office on 8th February 2017) Thanks to all those who have invited us.  We  already have 11 dates in the diary for 2018!

ESCAPING HITLER 64 Speaking Engagements in Norfolk and beyond during 2016 and 2017

 

Norwich Ladies Luncheon Club
Old Catton Women’s Institute
Official Launch at Jarrolds Department Store, Norwich
Norwich Synagogue
Belton Women’s Institute
Norwich North Liberal Democrats
Norwich Chamber Music Club
Wymondham Heritage Society
The Norfolk Club
Norwich Community History Group
Out and about Club
Mercedes Benz Owners Club evening
Walsingham Historical Society
East Anglia Women Networking Group
Brooke Women’s Institute
Lions International Regional Conference, Colchester
Sunday Assembly, Norwich
Association of Jewish Refugees
Mid Norfolk Family History Society
Rotary Club of Norwich St Edmund
Attleborough Public Library
Koblenz Federal Archive, Rhineland
The village of Nickenich, Rhineland
Great Hospital Group
Townswomen Guild Central Norwich Group
Mulbarton Words Week
Townwomen’s Guild Eaton Group
East Anglia Festival of Culture, Lowestoft
Wymondham British Legion
Recycled Teenagers Group
Norwich Business Women’s Network
Norwich Inter-faith Group
Liberal Democrat Regional Conference
Time Travellers Meeting, Heritage Centre, Forum
Sprowston History Group
Norwich Lunchtime Women’s Institute
Bure School, Aylsham
Norwich Ladies Luncheon Club
UEA Retirement Group
Paston College, North Walsham
Norwich Labour Party History Group
The Norwich School
Norfolk Record Office
Aylsham Library
Vale Probus Club Ladies’ Lunch
Koblenz Norwich Friendship Society AGM
Unison Trade Union Retired Members Norfolk Branch
Wymondham Sixth Form College
Salvation Army Ladies’ Fellowship
Mid Norfolk Family History Society
Civil Service Retirement Fellowship
Easton Women’s Institute
Maddermarket Theatre for Performance of Kindertransport
Beccles Probus Club
Lakenham Townswomen’s Guild
Catton Townswomen’s Guild
Mileham W.I. Near King’s Lynn
Holt Women’s Institute
Thetford Society
Get Together Group Norwich Theatre Royal
Brooklands Care Home, Taverham
The Probus Club of Wymondham and District

Broadland Housing Association, Dereham

Cringleford W.I.

Joe meets son of former schoolfriend Heinz

It was a red letter day yesterday in the life of Joe Stirling when we met for lunch with Dr Hubert Becker from Friesland on the North Sea coast of Germany.  His good friend Neil Jordon was hosting Hubert for a few days in Norfolk, and they took the opportunity to arrange a first time meeting with Joe.

Hubert was born in Nickenich, Joe’s home village in the Rhineland, in 1963 and when I was writing Escaping Hitler, Hubert was in touch with me, sending photographs of his relatives in the village and retelling anecdotes from his mother who still lives there.  Some of these now appear in the book.  Hubert’s father was Heinz Becker, a boy in Joe’s class at school (Joe was then Günter Stern) and his Uncle Peter was the best friend of Günter’s father Alfred.  Are you following this?!  Keep up!  Peter appears on a photo that I show at every public talk – he is the second from the left on the plough. Peter died in 1973, having been the Mayor of Nickenich, two days before his Golden Wedding celebration.

Young Heinz appears in the Nickenich village school photo from 1932 – he is the one in centre at the front with the pudding basin fringe! (Günter is seated, front, far left in white socks)  In his adult life, Heinz felt guilty about the fate of the Sterns during the Holocaust and how his schoolfriend had to flee to England to escape Nazi atrocities. As his life was coming to an end in 2000 he made his son Hubert promise to seek out Joe Stirling and ask his forgiveness for how the village failed to act during the darkest hours of Kristallnacht.

And yesterday in Loch Fyne in Norwich, Hubert was able to fulfil that promise.

 

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Link to Joe Stirling on You Tube

The summer season is  ahead and normally our presentations and public speaking events would be drying up.  Not this year!  18 months after the publication of my debut biography Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books 2016 & Skyhorse Publications New York, 2017), our diary has a further six engagements to September, four in the autumn and three in 2018!  This is mainly because Joe is so compelling when at, nearly 93, he tells his own story to audiences all over Norfolk.  For those who have not yet seen this film, do take a look and you will see what I mean!  For details of how to buy your signed copy direct from the author, do look at the menu section of this blog.

 

75th Anniversary of the Jewish Deportation from Koblenz & chance encounter with the past

Today, 22nd March 2017, is the 75th Anniversary of the deportation of over 300 Jewish people by the Nazis, from the Rhineland city of Koblenz, to their ultimate murders in the death camps in Poland.

Travelling on those trains were the parents of Joe Stirling, subject of my biography Escaping Hitler. Their names were Alfred and Ida Stern and I remember them today.  

But I have an amazing co-incidence to share with you.  In February this year Joe Stirling and I gave an illustrated lunchtime talk at the Norfolk Record Office, a wonderful venue for historians, genealogists and researchers. Amongst our audience was a young couple from Dereham in Norfolk.  They told us before the talk that they were there because Ilan’s family had Koblenz war-time connections.  I began the talk, and quite unusually included a slide of the Balduinbrücke, the main bridge across the Mosel in Koblenz.   After we had completed our usual book signing, Ilan and his wife Anne approached our table and Ilan spoke directly to Joe.

He said that he was an Israeli Jew, Ilan Schönewald, whose family had originated in Koblenz.  He had reason to believe, from listening to my talk and matching the details with those from his family folklore, that his great-grandmother BERTA SCHÖNEWALD, may be been on that same deportation train on 22nd March 1942, heading to her death in Sobibor death camp.  It was if the past had reached out to cling to the present, bringing both Ilan and Joe together for a brief moment in honour of their close family members who had shared their last days in the most gruesome of circumstances.  We exchanged numbers, Anne promising to email me photos of Berta.  Once home, I double checked my research material, like a conscientious biographer (!) and found in a German newspaper report from 1992, the 60th anniversary of the deportation, the list that contained the names of Joe’s parents and step-grandmother Sabine.  Sure enough, Berta’s name was also on the list.  They had been together over that dreadful period, most probably both thinking of their children (Berta of her daughter escaped to England and Alfred and Ida of their son Günter (Joe) also safely in England).

It is co-incidences and remarkable encounters like these that make biography such a fascinating and rewarding genre.  RIP Alfred, Ida, Sabine and Berta.