Tag: Shirley Williams

Happy 90th Birthday to Shirley Williams

 

Today, 27th July 2020, is the 90th birthday of Baroness Crosby, known to all as Shirley Williams.  I would like to honour this fact and send my good wishes to this wonderful lady, who was kind enough to write the foreword for Escaping Hitler back in 2015.  There were a number of reasons why I approached Shirley for this task – firstly her mother, celebrated writer Vera Brittain, had been a close Oxford University friend of Freda Free from Birmingham (via Russia), who ‘fostered’  young Günter Stern (aka Joe Stirling) when the 14 year old arrived in Britain on a Kindertransport from Nazi Germany, on 19th July 1939.  Secondly, and most significantly, in 1954 when Joe was working for the Labour Party in Norwich, he was drafted in to help a young woman, Shirley Catlin, in her ill-fated attempt to win her first by-election, standing for the Labour Party in Harwich. Decades later, as a Liberal Democrat, I was honoured to meet Shirley more than once at Conferences and was delighted to discover that she remembered the energetic activist from those Harwich days.  She readily agreed to write my foreword.

And so we arrive at 8th April, 2015.  Escaping Hitler is almost complete, a General Election is imminent and Shirley Williams is due to visit Norwich to give the Lib Dem troops some much needed encouragement.  I ask if I can bring Joe Stirling to Chantry Hall to meet Shirley for the first time in over 60 years.  It was all arranged and the reunion happened as I’d hoped.  The press were there to cover the political story, but in the event became far more intrigued with these two mature people, friends from long ago, chattering together as if they had never been apart.  It was one of my proudest moments and an occasion that Joe and I often returned to in our conversations for years afterwards, until sadly he passed away in February this year.

Thank you Shirley Williams for being a constant inspiration to so many.  Many Happy Returns!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical contact from the Past in Koblenz

As a result of the recent articles in the Rhein-Zeitung in Koblenz and surrounding areas, on my book events in Koblenz and Nickenich, I have received an email from a lady called Hildegard.  She lives about 20km from Koblenz and when reading her newspaper recognised the last known address of Alfred and Ida Strern, the Jewish parents of Günter Stern, now known as Joe Stirling, the subject of my book Escaping Hitler.  Hildegard’s mother, now 90 years of age, moved with her family into the same block of houses,next door to the Sterns, some months after little Günter had climbed aboard his Kindertransport to freedom. Over her life Hildegard’s mother had often spoken of the Jewish couple who were taken away by the Nazis in 1942, remembering them fondly, especially her neighbour Ida.  Hildegard has now requested to buy a copy of my book for her mother to read about what happened to Ida’s son, the boy she no doubt spoke about often.

Wonderful enough to receive this email, but even better, Hildegard has now kindly sent me a photo of the block of houses in Görgenstrasse, Koblenz, from the autumn of 1939, shortly after her mother moved in with her parents. It is believed that the Sterns lived on the upper floor.  This is a wonderful image from the past. I would like to share with you now the photograph, alongside the one of how the building looks today.  Outside the house  there are now two Stolpersteine (engraved brass plates) in honour of Alfred and Ida.  This journey with Joe just keeps on giving.

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Huge Welcome for ‘Escaping Hitler’ in Germany

Last evening, we arrived home from the promotional trip to Germany, exhausted but delighted by the welcome we received both in Koblenz and Nickenich. Before either of my presentations, Victor and I found the Stolpersteine (Stumble stones) for Joe Stirling’s parents, set into the pavement outside their last known address in Koblenz and laid a white rose in their memory. It was a touching moment.

On Wednesday 11th May I spoke to an audience of about 70 people at the prestigious Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive) in Koblenz, hosted by the President of the Archive, Dr Michael Hollmann and the Kulturdezementin (Head of Culture and Education at Koblenz City Council), Dr Margit Theis-Scholz.  The Chairman of the Koblenz-Norwich Friendship Association, Günter Hahn, valiantly acted as my interpreter. The equipment for my presentation was ‘state of the art’, the Rhineland wine and huge pretzels were delicious and we met many people interested in Joe’s story.  I am most grateful for their support.  The very next day the local newspaper, Rhein-Zeitung carried the story.

On 12th May we arrived in Joe’s home village of Nickenich where we met with Jutta Hansen, local historian and the Town Mayor, Herr Gottfried Busch. Jutta took me for a walk around the village where I could still see signs of the farming village as it was in Günter’s childhood.  Herr Busch then treated us to dinner at our hotel.  During Friday we spent some time at the beautiful Maria Laach (ancient monastery) on the shores of the Laacher See (both of which feature in the early part of Escaping Hitler) where we were thrilled to find a poster for my book event on the tourist board by the lake!  During the late afternoon we helped prepare the room in the Nickenich Pellenzhalle for the evening’s presentation.  This went well beyond my imagination – more than 80 people – mostly locals but some from Andernach and a couple from Luxembourg,  people all fascinated to hear from the man himself (on video on a huge screen) what exactly happened to that little Jewish boy, Günter Stern, once he had disappeared from the village with his mother Ida, on the morning following his father’s arrest on Kristallnacht in 1938.  Joe’s family remains part of the folklore of the village, his parents’ names commemorated in the wall of the church.  My words were translated into German by student and Nickenich resident Jessica Hansen and people were clearly moved by Joe’s story.  Again, the local press were in attendance and the story is now in print.

In total from the two presentations I signed and sold 44 copies, each signed in advance by Joe Stirling.  Considering the book is in English this was an amazing result and in both Koblenz and Nickenich I now have people actively seeking a German publisher who will work with Pen and Sword Books to translate and publish the book for a German audience.  Fingers crossed!  Meantime, here are some photos to give you a flavour of this most satisfying trip to Joe’s homeland.

 

 

RHINELAND BOOK TOUR PROGRESS

Today I received a copy of the poster as being displayed now in the Rhineland village of Nickenich, where Joe Stirling, the subject of Escaping Hitler was born in 1924, then named Günter Stern.  I am travelling to Koblenz on 9th May to speak about Günter’s biography first at the Koblenz Federal Archive on 11th, followed by an illustrated talk in the Pellenzhalle in Nickenich on 13th May.  I will be working with a translator on both occasions – another first for me!  I wish I had studied harder at my German lessons!

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First published Review of Escaping Hitler in Let’s Talk Magazine

To my delight, on pages 40-41 of the April edition of Archant’s Let’s Talk Magazine published today, I found a wonderful two page review of Escaping Hitler.  Leading journalist Derek James has written an excellent summary of Joe’s remarkable story, leaving the reader wanting more….  hopefully this will prompt some to buy their own copy!  Today is a good day…..

 

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Reminder of how to get your signed copy of Escaping Hitler

With Escaping Hitler standing at No.1 in Jarrold’s list of best-selling national titles this week, I thought I’d remind you how to get hold of your copy direct from me, guaranteed to be signed by both Joe and the author (me!).  Exciting few weeks coming up, Norwich Writers’ Circle tonight, The Norfolk Club and Wymondham Heritage Society next week. During week of 29th Feb we are appearing at Norwich Community History Club, Mercedes Owners’ Club East Anglia and Walsingham History Society.  Joe’s story goes ‘on the road’!

1. TO GET YOUR COPY:  EITHER mail a cheque payable to Mrs P Scrivens at 7 St Lucia Court, 38 Yarmouth Road, Norwich NR7 0EQ along with your home address and telephone number and I will mail a book out to you along with a receipt. Special discounted price of  £19.50 plus £4 p&p.

2. OR call me on 01603 300212 and quote me your credit or debit card details  I have a Paypal machine so I can take cards over the phone. I will then mail your book.

3. OR email me at phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com and I will email you my bank account details by return so that you can pay electronically. Once it is cleared I will mail your book.

All books will be mailed in a cardboard mailer which can fit two books. Postage the same price for two books as for one.

4. OVERSEAS FOLLOWERS: Unfortunately postage from the UK is very expensive in small quantities. I would advise you to order from either Amazon.co.uk or from Pen and Sword Books website at http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Escaping-Hitler-Hardback/p/11628. Pen and Sword can send out signed copies if you request this at the end of the online ordering process.  It is also available on Amazon Kindle and other online bookstores.

And having read, please post up a review on Amazon.co.uk. You DO NOT have to have bought from Amazon to post a review and every review counts…!  Thanks everyone.

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Launch of Escaping Hitler 4th February 2016

My thanks to Jarrold book department in Norwich for a spectacular book launch and signing last evening, Thursday 4th February.  I had the joy of launching my debut book in front of over 200 history and book lovers, including family, friends, local historians, writers, academics and followers of my subject Joe Stirling.  I spoke from a podium, using a hand microphone for about 45 minutes, before inviting 91 year old Joe to join me for a question and answer session.  Unusually I aimed my address at honouring those in the audience who gave up their time over the past four years to share memories of Joe with me. Joe was amazing answering half a dozen questions and we both enjoyed the unexpectedly strenuous task of signing over 60 books for those buying a book on the night.  An evening never to be forgotten and with over 25 public speaking events in my diary throughout 2016, there are many more opportunities to share Joe’s story and to sign and sell books……