I’m delighted to welcome Marion Kummerow to my blog to tell us about her series of books based on the true story of her grandparents.
Deborah: I’m interested to know more about your grandparents, who belonged to the German resistance and fought against the Nazi regime. They died before you were born, so how did you uncover their story? Was it through letters or stories?
Marion: The “Love and Resistance in WW2 Germany” – series is as true to reality as possible.
What happened to my grandparents Hansheinrich and Ingeborg Kummerow was a big, fascinating mystery when I was a child. Their names were rarely, if ever, mentioned in my family and my sister and I only knew they were dead and had been “spies” for the Russians.
During the Cold War they were still considered traitors, because of their communist/social ideals. But after the German reunification in 1989, the political climate changed enough to acknowledge also the German resistance, people that had worked with the Soviets, for the heroes they had been.
Several years later, a student of political sciences visited my parents’ house to write a bachelor thesis about my grandfather. Her work unearthed a lot of documentation that had been collected in the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand in Berlin.
And, because my family is one of collectors and keepers (you’ll know this from Q in the book Unrelenting), all their letters, and the many letters between Q’s mother and Hilde’s step-mother were still in our possession. Most of my knowledge about Q’s and Hilde’s lives is based on those letters.
In ‘Unrelenting’, the character of Q is a scientist. How did you go about researching the sort of work he did, and why did this work make him a target for the Nazi regime? Were other scientists targeted in this way?
I don’t think his work made him an explicit target for the Nazi regime. Every scientist who could make a useful contribution to the war effort was confronted with tough decisions at some point in his career.
Albert Einstein had to emigrate (he was a Jew), but many Aryan scientists i.e. Thomas Mann decided to emigrate, too. Not out of need, but out of conscience. During the Nazi times it was “Who’s not for me is against me”, there was no other way.
The character of Hilde resists being drawn in to the Nazi propaganda which is popular with her peers. What made the propaganda so powerful for young Germans, and what gave Hilde the inner strength to resist it?
Hitler unfortunately was clever. He grabbed the people at their vulnerabilities. He promised to make Germany great again, to give the people jobs, food, and money. It was the time after the Great Depression (which also swept over Germany), so there was a need for promises of a better future.
Later the propaganda gave the young people a feeling of belonging. Group activities, sports competitions, all this leads to powerful communities. People don’t think straight when they’re in a mass of like-minded people. You can observe this in any kind of sports event nowadays.
Tell me a little about your writing life, and what you plan next.
I usually write in the morning and do all other publishing related work in the afternoon, before I have to drop everything at 3.30 p.m. to fetch my daughter from daycare.
Now, that I’ve finished the third book, Unwavering, in the Love and Resistance in WW2 Germany series, I have planned another series in the same time period. The War Girl series will have at least four books and features three sisters in Berlin of 1943 and onwards. If you read Unwavering you’ll already meet two of the sisters. Prison guard Ursula Herrmann and nurse Anna Klausen.
The “Blonde Angel” Ursula was mentioned in one of my grandmothers letters, but the new series is entirely fiction, as the only reference to a real person is her nickname. I was thoroughly intrigued by the idea of a friendly prison guard and that led me to decide to write a book about her. War Girl Ursula will be published in May or June 2017.
I admired the way that the novel shows us the drama of living in pre-War Germany, a side of the war not often seen by English readers. The couple, Marion’s grandparents, Q and Hilde, meet in this part of the trilogy. Q is a scientist and a communist with ideals about serving humanity, and Hilde, unlike her peers, does not agree with the bullying tactics of the Nazi propaganda machine. As a couple, their falling in love is portrayed with touching sentiment. The book brings home the reality of the persecution of scientists and intellectuals in this era, and the fear that gripped Germany as the true nature of Hitler’s regime began to bite. Parallels to politics today are unavoidable, but do make the book more interesting! I knew very little about the collaboration of Germans with the Soviet Union, so this has been an eye-opening read. I would class it more as a memoir than a novel, as much of the narrative is told rather than fully envisaged, but the truth of this story is its strength, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about Germany at this time.