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The Road to Liberation – Excerpt from ‘Stolen Childhood’ #WW2 #WWII

Road to LiberationTo mark 75 years since the world celebrated the end of WW2, I’m delighted to host an excerpt from Marion Kummerow’s book, Stolen Childhood, from the collection, The Road to Liberation.

Enjoy!

Marion Kummerow, “Stolen Childhood”

“Watch me and learn,” Laszlo whispered to Mindel, as they were hiding outside the back door of the kitchen barracks. 

“What are you going to do?” Mindel whispered back, goosebumps rising on her skin. She was scared someone might see them and Laszlo looked as if he were up to no good, but she wasn’t going to let him see her fear. The other children in the group had argued she was too little to hang out with them, but he’d stuck up for her.

She looked up at him with raw adulation. He seemed so grown-up and was so courageous, he was her champion and she’d do whatever he wanted. For the past days she’d followed him around, always eager to please him and make him proud of her. She’d prove the other children wrong and show them she wasn’t too little.

Laszlo peeked around the corner of the building and then pulled her over until she could see as well. “That bucket is my goal.”

Mindel looked at the woman in the kitchen who was pulling potatoes from a large gunny sack and peeling them into a bucket – the same bucket Laszlo had pointed to. 

“Those are potato peels,” she whispered back. 

“And they taste really good. I’m going to get us some.”

“But that’s stealing,” Mindel said, appalled at his heinous plan.

“So what?” 

She stared at him, her mind wandering back to her parents’ farm. One time, her mother had made a birthday cake for Israel, but everyone had only been allowed a small slice before she’d covered it and put it away for the next day. Mindel and Aron had waited until her mother walked out to milk the cows, snuck into the kitchen pantry and each grabbed a huge slice into their hands.

Out of fear of being caught red-handed, they’d crouched in the pantry and stuffed the cake into their mouths as fast as they could. Once the deed was accomplished, they snuck out and into the garden, pretending nothing had happened. 

But the moment her mother saw them, her lovely face turned red and she called them out on stealing the cake. Even today, Mindel had no idea how her mother had found out, since they’d been so careful. 

It had been a horrible moment when her mother had taken Mindel’s sticky hands, turned them with the palm upward and hit her with a wooden spoon. Aron hadn’t fared much better either, and both had been sent to their bedroom without dinner that day. 

Mindel had never again stolen even a morsel of food from the pantry. 

“Please, don’t. You’ll get in trouble. They’ll beat you,” she pleaded with Laszlo.

“Only if I get caught. And I’d rather take a beating than starve to death.”

Mindel heard his words and the truth behind them, but she wasn’t sure she agreed. In the camp people got beaten all the time for tiny misdeeds and it wasn’t with a wooden spoon, but with truncheons and whips. She’d even seen people fall down and never get up again after a beating. She didn’t want that to happen to Laszlo. He was her friend. 

“See that little cubbyhole by the shelves?” Laszlo asked.

She craned her head until she saw it, and nodded. 

“You’re fast and small, so you sneak inside and hide there. I’ll stand guard out here. Once the woman turns her back to you, grab as much from the bucket as you can and run back here to me. I’ll create a distraction if I need to.”

All the blood drained from her head and she suddenly felt dizzy. “You want me to steal the potato skins?”

“It’s called organizing food, not stealing. If you pass this test, I’ll make you a member of our gang.”

Mindel swallowed. She so badly wanted to be part of the gang. To belong to someone. And she was hungry. Very hungry. But stealing was wrong. Her mother would be so disappointed. 

Laszlo saw her wavering and insisted, “I dare you. You can’t be with us if you’re a chickenshit.”

She hated this word. Aron had always name-called her this and worse when she hadn’t obeyed his stupid rules. She squared her shoulders and said, “I’ll do it, because I’m brave.” 

Quivering with fear, she bit her lip, thinking of a way to get out of this dare. She repeated Laszlo’s words, telling herself it wasn’t really stealing – because the SS men were so mean and didn’t give them enough. But not even that helped to calm her nerves. 

Laszlo nudged her forward. “Ready? Then go.” 

Mindel nodded. Gathering up all her courage she crept forward, intent on pretending this was simply a game of hide and seek. Back on the farm she’d been a master, hiding in the smallest crevices without making a sound. Most of the time, her brothers would walk right by her, never knowing that she was merely inches away from them.

Suddenly, excitement pushed her fear away. The kitchen worker and those stupid SS guards would never know she was even there, and Laszlo would praise her master skills at playing hide and seek. As an added benefit she’d return with a handful of potato skins for their group of children. She gave a slow smile, encouraging herself, before she squinted her eyes, focusing on the task at hand. Silence was the most important factor, because adults tended to go more by ear than by sight where children were concerned. 

She crept toward the door and waited until the woman wielding the potato peeler turned her back, then Mindel quickly slipped into the kitchen and pressed herself into the small hiding place. Barely breathing, she watched and waited until the woman picked up the tray of peeled potatoes and walked over to the stove. 

Mindel wasted no time. She rushed forward, plunged her hands into the bucket, grabbed two handfuls of potato peels and ran for the doorway where Laszlo was waiting for her. She ducked out of the kitchen just as the sounds of the woman’s feet returned. Clutching her bounty to her chest, she ran with Laszlo toward another building where they’d left the other kids. 

“Good job,” Laszlo said once they were sitting behind the hut, breathing hard.

Mindel smiled broadly at him and presented her spoils. “I did it.”

“Yes, you did it.” Laszlo was eyeing the potato peels and Mindel held out her hands toward him. 

“Eat some.”

“You stole them, you get first dibs.”

Mindel put the food on a not-so-dirty patch of ground and ate two peels. They were slightly bitter and smelled like dirt, but tasted much better than the horrible gruel they were given for soup. Then she divided the bulk into five equal parts for each of the children in the group: Laszlo, Ruth, Fabian, Clara and herself.

“Here,” she invited them.

Almost reverently the children each took their share and chewed the unexpected treat. Once they finished eating, Laszlo grinned. “See, I told you she’s not too small.”

Fabian pouted, but Clara said, “You were right. Now let’s make her a member of the gang.”

After Laszlo nodded his approval, Ruth produced a strip of washed-out gray-brown yarn from her pocket, tied it around Mindel’s left wrist and said rather ceremoniously, “Welcome to our gang!”

Everyone shook her hand and Mindel felt herself grow a few inches with pride. The other children had accepted her as part of their group. She wasn’t alone anymore.

Later at night, she climbed into her bunk, surprised that it was empty. Apparently the two adults who’d slept there last night had found a better place and had taken the blankets with them, leaving her without one and without the warmth of two more bodies by her side. 

She shivered at the thought of the upcoming night, because even though the days could be quite warm, the nights were still cold – although not as horrid as they’d been during the harsh winter. 

The memory of herself cuddling with Rachel to keep warm under the threadbare blanket brought tears into her eyes and she took out Paula, kissed her dirty face, and cried as silently as she could because she didn’t want to hear the adults curse her for waking them up.

A small hand reached for her and she started. It was too dark to see who it was, but when she heard a familiar voice whisper, “Don’t cry. I’ll stay with you,” she relaxed.

“Thanks.” She smiled through her tears and eagerly nodded despite the fact that he could not see her and moved back to allow Laszlo to climb onto her bunk. 

He brought a blanket with him, covered them both with it and they huddled together. She instantly felt warmer, clutching onto his arm with one hand. 

“I will protect you,” he said.

Road to Liberation

READ ON! Buy Links: Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon CA

THE ROAD TO LIBERATION

Six riveting stories dedicated to celebrating the end of WWII.

From USA Today, international bestselling and award-winning authors comes a collection filled with courage, betrayal, hardships and, ultimately, victory over some of the most oppressive rulers the world has ever encountered.

By 1944, the Axis powers are fiercely holding on to their quickly shrinking territories.

The stakes are high—on both sides:

Liberators and oppressors face off in the final battles between good and evil. Only personal bravery and self-sacrifice will tip the scales when the world needs it most.

Read about a small child finding unexpected friends amidst the cruelty of the concentration camps, an Auschwitz survivor working to capture a senior member of the SS, the revolt of a domestic servant hunted by the enemy, a young Jewish girl in a desperate plan to escape the Gestapo, the chaos that confused underground resistance fighters in the Soviet Union, and the difficult lives of a British family made up of displaced children..

2020 marks 75 years since the world celebrated the end of WWII. These books will transport you across countries and continents during the final days, revealing the high price of freedom—and why it is still so necessary to “never forget”.

Stolen Childhood by Marion Kummerow

The Aftermath by Ellie Midwood

When’s Mummy coming? by Rachel Wesson

Too Many Wolves in the Local Woods by Marina Osipova

Liberation Berlin by JJ Toner

Magda’s Mark by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

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Forged in Ice – what inspired my new Viking Saga by Ken Hagan

 

Today I welcome Ken Hagan to tell us what inspired his new novel, the first in a Viking Trilogy.

Ken: My thanks to Deborah for inviting me as guest author. 

Forged in Ice is set in 27829574._UY500_SS500_960AD. It tells the story of a boy and his family who leave the Norse Kingdom to live in the sparsely populated colony of Iceland — risking their lives in a hazardous voyage across the Atlantic.

My interest in the Viking Age was first aroused during my university days in Dublin, a city steeped in Viking history. The Viking settlement, on which today’s city centre is built, has yielded significant archeological finds, including ankle-fetters and neck-irons that were fastened to slaves. The infamous slave trade centered on Viking Dublin will feature in the second book of the trilogy to be published later this year.   

Reading the Icelandic Family Sagas really got me hooked. In them I discovered a new dimension to the Viking Age. Here was humdrum family life, the struggle of men and women to survive in a hostile climate, petty disputes between neighbours that erupt into feuds, stories of fraud and double-dealing, but also feats of sporting prowess and courage, honest intentions, love and loyalty.

Women are strongly portrayed in the Sagas. We see to what lengths they will go to assert their rights, and what influence womenfolk have on the outcome of events. It is not hard to understand why some commentators have argued that women were the sources for many of the original spoken sagas.       

During 1990s I travelled on business to Sweden and Norway and, while there, I was able to expand my knowledge of Viking culture. Visits to sites of Viking graves revealed sophisticated spiritual constructs of the afterlife. And elsewhere, beautiful full-size replicas of longships demonstrated for me how truly advanced, by comparison with the rest of Europe, was the technology of Viking shipbuilding.

I am indebted to Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University for my understanding of the Viking mind, for my insights into the Viking view of the world, many of which I have tried to weave into the tapestry of my books. Dr. Price is Chair of Archeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Neil.price@arkeologi.uu.se  His major work, The Viking Way: sub-titled – “Religion and War in later Iron-age Scandinavia” (ISBN 978184217265) is regarded as an authoritative source of material and provides rare insights in the field of Viking research.

FORGED IN ICE is published by Endeavour Press.

Buy the Book – Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

Where to find Ken: Website Twitter Facebook

Thanks to Ken for stopping by my blog.

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Saga Lover’s Christmas Stocking – two books to hit the spot

amber keeper

I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Freda Lightfoot’s new book, The Amber Keeper, and dived straight in to this gorgeously evocative tale of love and treachery in the Russian Revolution. Impeccably researched, the book  tells of how, in the 1960’s, single mother Abbie tries to uncover the reason behind her mother’s suicide. The trail leads her back through her grandmother’s history as a governess in 1911. Being local to the Lake District I particularly enjoyed all the local references and descriptions of the English Lakes, and thought they made a wonderful contrast to the snowy landscape of Russia. The characters are well-developed, and the Countess Belinsky and her family provide Abbie’s grandmother with much more than she bargained for in terms of danger and deception. Freda Lightfoot’s well-written sagas are always a delight to read, and this is no exception, with themes of revenge and jealousy, hidden family secrets and enduring love.

christmas-fireside-short-stories-978144727683801

The second book I’ve been lucky enough to review this week is another treat for saga lovers: Christmas Fireside Stories. Our central heating boiler broke down last week, so we have been surviving with the log fire in the living room, and by carting electric fires from place to place in the bedrooms. So I was able to sit by my log-burner and read this selection of great stories and extracts – a perfect place to enjoy them. The six stories includes a re-telling of the 1914 truce during the first World War, expertly re-told by Margaret Dickinson. Although most people know the facts of this event, it was lovely to have it brought skilfully to life in this timely version. My favourite story was ‘Christmas at Thalstead Halt’ by Annie Murray, in which a shy railway worker finds that a broken down train brings him an unexpected Christmas gift. All the stories were well worth reading and enjoyable, fans of Diane Allen, Rita Bradshaw, Pam Weaver ad Mary Wood will find they are well catered for in this anthology. If you like to look back to your childhood Christmases, to paper chains and coal fires, wartime rationing or clogs in the snow, this nostalgic collection hits the spot. The book contains anecdotes from the authors, recipes, and introductory extracts from their novels. AAh, all I need now is another mince pie!

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Past Encounters by Davina Blake

PastEncounters_Ebook

If you were born in the 1950’s as I was, you will no doubt remember wartime stories passed down to you from your parents.

My parents were not old enough to fight in the second world war, but their stories of gas masks and rationing, dried egg sandwiches, and night-time forays into the Andersen shelter at the bottom of the garden, stuck with me. In particular, one story fascinated me – the one about a neighbour of theirs who was taken prisoner early in the war and spent five years in a forced labour camp for the Germans. He struggled to get over his experience more than those who had actually been fighting, and I always wondered why.

Years later, I moved to a small town ; Carnforth in Lancashire. The town itself used to have a big ironworks, long since gone, but now its one claim to fame is that it was once the scene for the famous film ‘Brief Encounter’ starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.  When I went to look around the Station Heritage Centre and found out more about the filming, I discovered the film was made in the last months of WWII. So now I had two ingredients – the story of a prisoner of war, and the story of the making of ‘Brief Encounter.’

Research led me to discover that  in February 1945,  when David Lean was filming ‘Brief Encounter’, on the very same day  we were sending bombs to decimate the beautiful cultural city of Dresden. What if these two events could be brought together? So, I had the third ingredient and an idea was born, the story of a wartime couple torn apart by war. But not just that – ten years later they are married, but neither has any idea what really went on for the other during their separation, or what it will mean for their future relationship. Wartime stories by necessity deal with larger themes of love and death, and people under extraordinary pressure. Rhoda and Peter have always hidden their pasts from each other, partly from self-preservation, and partly to shield the other from the truth. When Rhoda finds a letter from another woman, and the facts begin to surface, will Rhoda and Peter survive knowing the other’s darkest secret?

I was very attracted by the visual style of the film, ‘Brief Encounter’, its light and shadow, the way it made locations significant and tell their own story, so I have tried to keep that in my descriptions. The theme of the film is that hard choices have to be made about loyalty if a relationship is to survive, and I wanted my book to reflect this.

Whilst writing Past Encounters I interviewed people who remembered wartime Carnforth, and drank more tea and ate more biscuits than is probably good for me, whilst scribbling frantically in my notebook. I was also incredibly grateful for on-line sources such as ‘The People’s War’. Memoirs of prisoners of war and soldiers who endured the Great March of Prisoners of War through frozen Germany, also helped give a backbone to the book.

One of my aims is to show just how amazing ordinary people can be, if you scratch beneath the surface. By the end of the book Rhoda and Peter have found and lost loves, fought for survival, endured tragedy, and discovered the hidden depths that make a bond between two people true and lasting.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

www.davinablake.com

twitter: @davinajblake

blog: www.davinablake.blogspot.com

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The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar – Kim Rendfeld

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Sometimes, what the primary sources don’t say attracts my attention.

In researching my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, I learned of two grim realities:

  • In 772, Charlemagne ordered the destruction of the Irminsul, a pillar sacred to the Saxon peoples.
  • War captives often became slaves.

I could not explore those concepts in The Cross and the Dragon, a tale of a young Frankish noblewoman who must contend with a jilted suitor and the premonition she might lose her husband in battle, but I could not let them go either. I needed to write a second book, which became The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, a story of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children after she had lost everything else – her home, her husband, her faith, even her freedom.

Perhaps, Ashes was borne from an instinct that came from my years in journalism, to give a voice to people who otherwise had none.

Few people in 8th-century Europe could write. In addition, the Continental Saxons, who ultimately lost the wars with Charlemagne’s Franks, lacked a written language as we know it.

So most of what we know about the history originates from Frankish primary sources. Although they offer the freshest perspective on what happened, the writers were biased and not afraid to bend the truth to fit their narrative. To them, the pagans were brutes, and they rarely mentioned peasants at all.

Yet the questions that rose in mind would not rest: What was it like for the Saxons to see a symbol of their faith destroyed? What was it like for peasants to lose their freedom? Historical fiction can provide possible answers.

My heroine, Leova, and her children are the products of my imagination. But sometimes the only way to understand an ordinary early medieval family neglected by history is to make one up.

 

Advance Reviews

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” – Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Available at:

Amazon U.S.  Amazon U.K.  Amazon Canada  Amazon Australia (Kindle)  Barnes & Noble  Kobo

Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (2014, Fireship Press). You can read the first chapter of either book, read excerpts of reviews, and learn more about Kim at kimrendfeld.com. You can also visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.