Tag: Phyllida Scrivens

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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Joe’s friend Marian becomes Sheriff of Norwich May 2019

I am delighted to announce that Joe Stirling’s friend Dr Marian Prinsley became the new Sheriff of Norwich last Tuesday at a traditional ceremony in City Hall.  I was thrilled to be invited by Cllr Judith Lubbock, my chapter 15 in The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich, to attend the 2019 Mayor-Making ceremony at Norwich City Hall last Tuesday.

I met up with several of the former Lady Lord Mayors who feature in my second book and was delighted to discover an overlap with my first biography, Escaping Hitler, as Dr Marian Prinsley from the Jewish community in Norwich was made Sheriff. Marian is a good friend of Joe Stirling, the subject of this book, and I have met her on several occasions. Marian made an excellent speech which uncovered some close parallels with Joe’s experiences. Both were from Jewish families; Joe’s ancestors from Germany, and Marian’s from Russia. Both came to England escaping possible persecution when they were 14 years old, both marrying and settling in Norwich. The following day I visited Joe and told him all about the Mayor-making and he was delighted to hear that his friend Marian was now wearing his gown and hat, as worn by him in 1975-6. I wish both Vaughan and Marian an excellent year of civic service.

 

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The new Lord Mayor of Norwich, Vaughan Thomas, with his wife, Lady Mayoress, Vivien Thomas, and the new Sheriff of Norwich, Dr Marian Prinsley, with her husband, Peter Prinsley, on the City Hall steps. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY (EDP)

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?

 

 

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.

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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

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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.)

Happy Birthday Günter/Joe!

Today, 18th October 2018, Joe Stirling (born Günter Stern), the subject of my biography Escaping Hitler, is 94 years old.  I called in to his home in the Unthank Road Norwich this morning to give him his card and found to my delight that he had visitors – his nephew Paul Skitmore and his wife Sarah. (Paul features in the book as a child)  Joe, although tired, was on top form.  Tonight, instead of accompanying me to speak about his life to the good ladies of Thorpe End W.I. in Norwich, he will be dining out in the city with members of his close family.  I wish him a happy birthday evening.

Joe and me with his birthday cards!

Sad to announce death of Gottfried Busch, Mayor of Nickenich

Both Joe Stirling and I were saddened last week to hear of the sudden and premature death of Gottfried Busch, the honorary Mayor of the Parish of Nickenich, Joe’s birth place in the Rheinland.  Herr Busch had been a member of the local council since 1989 and honorary Mayor (Ortsbürgermeister) since 1992.  He was well loved in the village and followed this blog with a keen interest.  It was Herr Busch who invited me to visit Nickenich in the May of 2016, five months after Escaping Hitler was published.  We found him a delightful generous man, who welcomed us and offering us his hospitality.  The photo shows Herr Bush and I following my presentation to the people of the village.  A few weeks later I received a bulk order for the book, to be given out as gifts to visiting dignitaries.  I was honoured to supply them to Nickenich Council.  Herr Busch died on 17th May 2018, at  sixty-nine years old.  He leaves his wife Lydia and children Sebastian, Patricia, Marco and Leandra.  Joe and I send our condolences to the Busch family and to the people of Nickenich.

 

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Biographer Phyllida Scrivens and former Mayor of Nickenich, Gottfried Busch in Nickenich during May 2016.