Tag: Günter Stern

Tonight is the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht – remembering the Sterns

Tonight, 9-10th November 2018 is the 80th anniversary of the so called ‘Night of Broken Glass’, when Hitler’s Nazi Party instructed the brownshirts to burn the synagogues, break the windows of all businesses and many homes, loot the contents and most devastating of all, arrest all Jewish men and boys over sixteen years old, incarcerating them in political concentration camps.  Alfred was sent to Dachau, a notorious camp in the cold Bavarian Alps.  All Jewish children were immediately expelled from their schools and life would never be the same again.  Joe Stirling has vivid memories of that terrifying night.  I want to share with you some illustrative photos along with the stylised prologue from Joe’s biography Escaping Hitler (Pen and Sword Books 2016), based entirely on Joe’s recollections, told to me when I first interviewed him in December 2011.

0035 No.10 Hintergasse

No. 10 Hintergasse, Nickenich (taken in 2013) The Stern family lived in the upper flat of this house

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Ida and Alfred Stern taken in about 1936

Hintergasse 1930s

The Hintergasse Nickenich in early 1930s

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Ida and Alfred Stern on their wedding day in 1923

Visitors

 

It happens so quickly. Loud hammering on the door at around four in the morning. Günter instantly awake. His father’s heavy footsteps on the wooden stairs. The boy creeping from his body-warm bed, joining Mother at the top of the staircase. More banging. Raised angry voices. The door swinging open, rusty hinges straining under the force. Three or four men bursting over the threshold. Uninvited. Invading their home. Strangers, from Andernach or even Koblenz, clutching cudgels and brandishing revolvers.

‘Alfred Stern? Get dressed. You’re arrested.’
‘Arrested? What have I done?’
Günter flinches as his father takes a violent blow across the face. Two menclimb the stairs, pushing past woman and child. Roughnecks turning out drawers and cupboards, throwing contents to the floor, trampling over china and glass. Ida and Günter stunned, silent, shaking. Her husband pushed through the door and onto the cobbles of the Hintergasse. Ida’s throat opens and she screams out:

‘Where are you taking him?’

No reply. Just the muffled sound of Alfred’s anguished objections to being treated as a criminal. He fought bravely for his country. He was wounded four times. He was awarded the Iron Cross. Soon his cries and the marching feet are no longer audible and the night is still once more.

 

(Extract from the opening of Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future by Phyllida Scrivens.)

Escaping Hitler reaches the Reichstag!

I was delighted and proud to hear that last week the Mayor of Nickenich, my good friend Gottfried Busch, had presented a signed copy of Escaping Hitler to the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Andrea Nahles, when she was on a visit to the region.  It is wunderbar to think that my book might well cross the threshold of the historic Reichstag in Berlin.  I do hope she enjoys reading about little Günter Stern,  his escape on the Kindertransport from Nazi Germany and his long and illustrious future.

BOOKS BOUND FOR NICKENICH

Delighted, proud and pleased to be parceling up 15 signed copies of Escaping Hitler, to be sent tomorrow by carrier to the Ortsgemeinde (Town Hall) in Joe’s birth village of Nickenich in the German Rhineland.  The Mayor, Herr Gottfried Busch has ordered the books as gifts for his special Civic guests.  I am delighted to be able to fulfil this order and to know that yet more people can now learn about the life of that little boy who left their village with his anguished mother the morning after Kristallnacht after watching his father being arrested by the Gestapo.  The family would never be seen in the village again.

We were fortunate to take the book to Koblenz and Nickenich in May this year, giving an illustrated presentation to an audience of over 80 people in Nickenich, and signing no less than 40 books, many to people whose parents and grandparents had known the Stern family during the 1920s and 1930s when they were an integral part of the community.  These photos show me with Burgermeister Herr Busch at the signing and views of the village illustrating the importance of farming in the past.  The houses do not have back gardens, they have rear yards with former barns and shelters for animals.  It was like stepping back in time. Thank you Nickenich.

 

 

Escaping Hitler Presentation at Mulbarton Words Festival June 2016

I am indebted to Terence Burchell from Mulbarton near Norwich for this video of me speaking to a lovely audience at Hanover Gardens, Mulbarton in June this year, as part of the Mulbarton Words Festival.  I hope some of you will take 30 minutes of your lives to watch as I describe the early life of Joe Stirling, Kindertransport boy and former Sheriff of Norwich, as well as a little about how my debut biography came to be published by Pen and Sword Books in January.  In January 2017 this remarkable man’s story will be available even more widely when Skyhorse Publishing of New York publish and distribute my book to the book lovers of the U.S.A.  To purchase a signed copy directly from me take a look at the menu on this WordPress blog to find my contact details.  Many thanks….

SIX MONTHS ANNIVERSARY OF PUBLICATION OF ESCAPING HITLER

 

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SIX MONTHS AGO today, 5th January 2016, my debut biography Escaping Hitler (foreword by Shirley Williams) was published by Pen and Sword Books.  I will never forget the incredible moment when my first 200 copies arrived in six boxes at my house! And when I first presented Joe Stirling with his personal copy!  Since that date so much has happened to me and to the book that I felt this was an appropriate moment to share the phenomonal achievements so far.

Over 30 published articles and reviews including local Archant publications, the Journal from the Association of Jewish Refugees, Lion Magazine and the Rhein Zeitung, regional newspaper for the Rhineland around Koblenz.

Grand official launch at Jarrold Department Store in Norwich on 4th February with 220 people in the audience.  We signed over 50 books that night!

Appeared in Jarrold’s National Bestsellers lists for five weeks running, including No.1 during week of February 13th 2016!

29 Public and private talks and powerpoint presentations including two in Germany (Koblenz Federal Archive and the village of Nickenich).  Seven more in the diary between now and July 2017.  More welcomed!

Escaping Hitler appears in Norfolk Libraries. Waiting lists build up to borrow copies.

403 followers on Facebook and 112 on Twitter

542 copies sold directly from me and Joe, 297 of them signed and sold at our speaking engagements.

From the initial 1300 print run Pen and Sword is now down to the final 200 in the warehouse.  Plans for a further hardback run and a little later for a softback.

In March this year New York Publisher Skyhorse bought the option to publish and distribute Escaping Hitler onto the U.S. market. Projected date for this is January 3rd 2017. I have recently received my Authors Questionnaire in order for us to work together on a marketing plan.  (This was beyond my wildest expectations!)

Escaping Hitler entered for two major Book  Awards – watch this space!

And finally, as a result of the marketing successes so far, I am now contracted to Pen and Sword for a second biographical book: My Lady Lord Mayor: The Seventeen Female Lord Mayor of Norwich 1923-2017.  Estimated publication end 2017/early 2018.

So more work ahead!!

My sincere thanks to everyone who follows this blog, my Facebook page and my Twitter feed, and especially those who have already bought and read the book!  Without your support the statistics would not look nearly as good!

Don’t forget – by clicking on the menu at the top of this page you will find full details of how to order your personally signed copy directly from me. The book makes a great gift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on new Koblenz contact

Yesterday, amongst all the gloom of the Brexit vote, I received one ray of sunshine.  This first photograph is of the lady whose family moved into Görgenstrasse 6 (second photo) late in 1939, the same block of apartments in Koblenz, Rhineland, where Ida and Alfred lived since January of that year, when Alfred was released from Dachau.  Ida and Alfred Stern, as you will recall, are Joe Stirling’s parents who perished in the Holocaust. By the time the new family moved in, Günter Stern (Joe’s birth name) was in England, having arrived here in July 1939 on a Kindertransport.  Following my recent book events in Koblenz and Nickenich, directly resulting from coverage in the local Rhineland newspaper, Rhein-Zeitung, I received this email from Hildegard Rockenfeller.  I quote:

“My mother is the daughter of Anna and Anton Marzi living in Koblenz in Görgenstraße 6 during the 2nd world war. She vividly remembers Alfred and Ida Stern who were living on the 3rd floor in the same house by then. My mother is 90 years of age by now, she didn’t know Joe Striling personally, he already had gone to England when my mother and her family moved into the house in Görgenstraße 6. My grandparents had 4 children, 3 sons and a daughter, my mother. One of my mother’s twin brothers also was named Günter. The twin brothers are still alive, her eldest brother Kurt died in 1999. My grandfather Anton was a shoemaker and had his shop on the groundfloor in Görgenstraße 6. My mother always speaks with great respect of Alfred and Ida Stern, she liked them very much.”

I hope that both Hildegard and her mother enjoy reading about Joe’s escape from Nazi Germany and that his biography will bring back fond recollections of Alfred and Ida Stern for Hildegard’s mother. May their memory live on.

 

IMG_0472görgenstr. 6

My First Literature Festival

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking to a room full of eager book lovers, all of whom had bought tickets for the Vintage Tea Party with Phyllida Scrivens, as featured in the programme for Mulbarton Words Week, a festival of all words, spoken, read or sung.  Take a look at their Facebook page for more information.

https://www.facebook.com/Mulbarton-WORDS-WEEK-1544591919114625/?fref=ts

The audience was attentive, knowledgable, inquisitive and friendly! The cakes were delicious and the tea refreshing.  I sold a number of copies of Escaping Hitler and came away with many accolades for both my presentation and my vintage dress!