Tag: Skyhorse Publishing

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

image001 2

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.)

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!

Reminder of the Come Yew In performance in Norwich Summer 2016

With the sun shining in Norwich, England, I am reminded of the wonderful summer’s afternoon I spent in the Norwich Castle Gardens in 2016, watching an energetic and inspiring performance of the unique community play ‘Come Yew In’.  Within the many stories of Norwich history told that day, it was the segment that retold Joe’s story in just a few moments that I had been waiting for.  Using words from my book Escaping Hitler the talented performers paid tribute to Joe.  I have posted this film before but I thought it worth another viewing.

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

 

 

 

Happy 93rd Birthday Joe Stirling!

Today is Joe’s 93rd birthday.  I called into his home to take him some chocolates (he is a self-confessed chocoholic) and found him in good form, looking forward to a family dinner tonight at an undisclosed location.  Wishing to record the moment I tried some selfies.  Why is it that I can never make them work like the youngsters do?!  But undeterred I carried on and I think these might make you smile!

Incredible list of speaking engagements for Escaping Hitler 2016 & 2017

 

LT-Escaping Hitler Feb 17 (10)

 

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.