Tag: Holocaust Educational Trust

TODAY, 27th JANUARY 2018 is Holocaust Memorial Day. Sharing BBC film on Joe Stirling.

Last evening, 26th January 2018 BBC Look East (Regional News programme) showed a short documentary created by Senior Reporter Mike Liggins,  on the Kindertransport , featuring Joe Stirling’s story in his own words, using some of the photographs that appear in my biography Escaping Hitler. The piece is introduced by Stewart White and Suzie Fowler-Watt.  For the full story of Joe’s remarkable life and his contribution to Norwich over seven decades, plus more photographs, check the Menu drop down for details on how to order your copy, signed by both Joe and me.

 

REVIEW OF ESCAPING HITLER ON MOMZINGA.COM

Quite by chance yesterday I came across this online review of Escaping Hitler on the U.S. site Momzinga (the American version of Mumsnet).  I was so excited by Katie John’s unique spin on the story that I requested her permission to reproduce it on this blog. Some of the finer details are not exactly correct, but her opinion is loud and clear and for that I am grateful. Always good that one year on, American readers are still discovering Joe’s story.

ESCAPING HITLER; Enthralling, Amazing Story of The Boy Who Walked Out of Germany

by kjohnsinxs@yahoo.com  (Momzinga.com)

ESCAPING HITLER—Should be required reading for every American child!


Besides having a great title, Escaping Hitler, written by Phyllida Scrivens, is an enthralling book. It starts out kind of dull with telling Gunter’s parents’ history. But then suddenly it becomes enthralling, reading page after page having to find out what happens to Gunter, a Jewish teen who walks out of Germany to a new life.

You will be amazed at how innocent people were back in the late 1930’s and 1940’s and how people are not like this today. So many people helped Gunter get out of Germany when Hitler’s men were rounding up Jews to put them in prison, beat them up, starve them and ultimately kill them. He leaves his parents behind at their urging and starts a new life at 14—alone!

Paralyzed with fear, I wondered how a child could walk, swim and take a train ride to a new life. I kept reading as fast as possible to find out what happens to Gunter Stern. It was so amazing to read how so many people openly welcome this complete stranger into their homes, helping him get out of Germany across the countryside. After he wades across a river, a German guard yells at him to get out of the water, and ends up helping this thin teenager. He literally allows the teen to stay at his home for a week and speeds along the process of getting him out of Germany by a train, where Jewish-German kids are placed with relatives or with total strangers, getting them away from the Nazi’s.

It was so unreal reading how trusting people were back then. Gunter ends up living in England as his parents are eventually taken away to a prison camp in Poland and killed. Gunter is an innocent fourteen year old who makes a new life for himself.

Scrivens’ numerous research has gone into this remarkable book telling exactly what the Nazi’s did to the Jews. At the beginning they took any male over 16 out of their homes and put them in makeshift jails. Gunter’s father thought this would never happen to him, because he was a WWI hero, but he was horrifically wrong. It is incredibly horrible learning exactly how the Germans go about taking control of their people. As I read I was horrified at what was happening, but I had to find out what happened. History repeats itself, so that is a scary thought, which propelled me forward.

It is remarkable how so many people helped Gunter and how respectful they were of him and how respectful he was of them. He lived in stranger’s homes, and he worked in fields and grew stronger eating a diet of healthy food. Escaping Hitler is a beautiful and unreal story of the ultimate horrible reality. Escaping Hitler is a story you will not soon forget, it is that brilliantly told.   Momzinga.com.1-003 Gunter ID card front

 

 

 

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.

Another Chance to see Joe in action!

Nearly one year since this short film was broadcast on Mustard TV in Norwich, here is another chance to see Joe in action as he is interviewed and filmed in his own home. Just follow the link below or copy and paste into your browser.  With so many more followers on Facebook than this time last year, this is an opportunity for the ‘newbies’ to see this delightful piece of footage, filmed just before Holocaust Memorial Day 2016.  Since the filming Joe has two further great-grandchildren, has turned 92 and is looking forward to the publication of his biography Escaping Hitler in the USA by Skyhorse Publishing of New York.  If you would like to buy a copy of his book, signed by both Joe and by me, maybe as a Christmas present, you will find details of how to order on the Menu section of this blog.  Enjoy!

Escaping Hitler: Joe Stirling’s story of Holocaust survival is preserved in print

 

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HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY 2016

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.  This morning I attended the annual Civic Service at St Peter de Mancroft Church in Norwich.  The ancient church was full, with Joe Stirling as a special guest in the front pew.  The service, organised by the Council of Christians and Jews, took the traditional format and included the thought-provoking poem allegedly written by Pastor Martin Niemoller after WW2.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

Last year Joe Stirling was chosen to light a candle to commemorate 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.  Here is a photo recording that day.  This year instead, we had a display of Escaping Hitler at the back of the church and following the moving service we sold twelve copies and raised a lot of interest.  The book is dedicated to Alfred and Ida Stern, Joe’s parents, who were murdered in Sobibor Death Camp in 1942. Today in Church Joe and I honoured them.

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Work of the Holocaust Education Trust applauded in the I Newspaper

Today in the I newspaper, journalist Sarah Cassidy writes about teaching of the Holocaust in our UK schools.   Joe Stirling visits Norfolk schools, talking about his escape from Nazi Germany and how his parents perished in Sobibor.  In this thought-provoking article Year 9 pupil John Soben, 14, said ‘Of course, we have learnt that 6 million people died, but having someone who’d actually been there telling you what it was like makes it much more real’.  I relate particularly to the words of Anita Parmar, Head of the LFA (Lessons from Auschwitz) project who says, ‘I think it is about dehumanising all the people involved in the events of the Holocaust.  When you read about the Holocaust in text books, it can seem unreal because it seems so horrific and on such a large scale.  We want to look at the individuals.’ And that it what I have tried to encapsulate in Escaping Hitler. I worked hard at keeping the issues to a human scale, citing experiences of four children during Kristallnacht, not dwelling on the unimaginable fate of Günter’s parents, instead focussing on their final night in Koblenz, amongst friends, courageously awaiting their inevitable fate.  If Joe’s story can help children relate to the Holocaust then our job is done.  You can read Sarah Cassidy’s article in full at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/auschwitz-school-trips-are-helping-children-fight-discrimination-at-home-a6674351.html

Günters parents who died in Sobibor summer 1942
Günters parents who died in Sobibor summer 1942