Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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An over-shadowed life

As I continue to receive valued feedback from book-discussion groups and readers, I reflect on how much the world’s continuing hunger to “understand” Hitler is aided by understanding more about Eva Braun.

Much of what’s conveyed about her (huge amounts of it inaccurate) has been based on presumed understanding about him.

But the reality is that more complete information about her can help us better understand more about why Hitler, despite the evil he represents (or perhaps because of it), has occupied collective consciousness for more than 70 years.

Far from attempting to redeem her, my novel, The Munich Girl, follows along patterns of how Braun’s life in Hitler’s shadow, which ended alongside him when she was 33, is emblematic of what many women have done, and still do, in a world still hobbled by inequality. Unable to enact their own potential in a direct way, they resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.

Eva Braun with her mother, Franziska Kronberger Braun.

In Eva Braun’s case, that public invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

One reviewer notes: “The Munich Girl looks at the role of women in different cultures and periods in a way that is quite relevant right now. Do women choose to play the lead in their own lives or do they sacrifice themselves for others? Ms. Ring also leads us to ask what we know of our parents’ lives. How might their experiences or traumas be passed down to us? How open are we to the changes that can come from deep healing?”

Another reader writes: “Women, even well-educated women such as [Anna], the novel’s protagonist, are groomed to give up their lives for the ‘larger’ missions of their husbands and lovers. … one of the many ways in which the feminine aspect of humanity is subjugated, Fascism being the most extreme form.”

The story of The Munich Girl is about many things beyond Eva Braun and the time of the war in Germany.

It’s about how women share our lives with each other, the power of our friendships, and the way we protect each other’s vulnerabilities, perhaps as part of how we begin to gain compassion.

So that our world can, too.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

 


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Love, friendship, and the Munich girl Hitler chose

Heartfelt thanks to book blogger and author Lisa Binion for hosting me and The Munich Girl so kindly — plus offering a great interview experience.

When you first learned about Hitler and Eva Braun, did you think of either of them as having friends?
I don’t think that Hitler really had the capacity for friendship. It requires a sort of mutuality of which he just wasn’t capable.

But Eva Braun, characterized by many who knew her as warm, thoughtful, and full of love for life, most surely was. Regardless of how people make assumptions about her based on her link with Hitler, history shows that she was a genuinely caring friend to those who, in addition to being morally respectable people, were very appreciative for her friendship. As with the situation in the novel’s story, some of them did not know of her connection with Hitler until after her death.

What inspired you to write about the friendship of two lonely women in Nazi Germany? Do you know of someone who made a discovery similar to what Anna discovered?
I chose this focus, in part, because friendships were what helped many everyday Germans survive the war. Such friendships were also what helped protect and save those who were most vulnerable to persecution by the Nazis. Also, I was taken by the paradox that two people could know and care about – value – each other yet never know about complexities in each of their lives that could seem to put them on different “sides.”

As for what Anna discovers about Peggy (her mother), my own war bride mother had many surprising secrets in her background, revealed only after she died. Some of them, much like Peggy’s friendship with Eva Braun, were things she might not, in her own history, have felt safe to share.

What is your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
I love revisiting a time period and immersing myself deeply within it. An added plus is looking at it with the hindsight we have now.

The tricky balance in writing the story, of course, is to be able to stay in the perspective of those times, even when you do have that hindsight. Realizing that many events were something people of that time didn’t know about or couldn’t see coming shows how much trying to judge them from the perspective we have today is unrealistic and even unjust. One very important reason for us to study history—and reflect on what patterns we can find there—is that without that reflective understanding, we will imitatively repeat it.

Obviously Eva Braun and Hitler really existed, but how many of the other characters were taken from history?
The two individuals to whom the book is dedicated, and who are each referenced in the story, were under-recognized heroes in their time. Poet/artist Erich Mühsam and Jesuit priest Father Alfred Delp each resisted what the Nazis were doing. They took enormous risks to help others who were being persecuted, and ultimately paid with their lives—Mühsam in a concentration camp in 1934 and Delp by execution by the Nazis close to the end of the war.

The stories of both men came to me quite serendipitously as the novel was unfolding. I felt it was as though those stores wanted to surface, to be known.

You can find Lisa’s full interview, along with a review of The Munich Girl here:

http://lisaswritopia.com/phyllis-edgerly-ring-interview-the-holocaust-eva-braun-and-friendship/

 


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Just an ordinary Munich girl

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What led me to write a book about Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife), Eva Braun?

It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role she had played finally came to light:

“Why her, just an ordinary Munich girl?”

I had a chance to ponder these questions again during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.  The IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. MunichGirlWebAd

An extra treat there this year (and there were many) was hearing CBS Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles as keynote speaker. Her blend of insight and humor lingers and encourages me, still. It was right in line with IWWG’s focus on the development of our  “inner ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events, and emotions”. If you’re a woman and a writer, check out: http://www.iwwg.org.

In a wonderful memoir workshop led by author Maureen Murdock, I had a chance to ponder some of those “subtle interconnections” as I reflected again on that Eva Braun question. In one workshop activity, I wrote: “What a paradox that she often spoke very directly to — even scolded — her tyrant of a lover, yet also ceded her entire life to him. crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-Braun

“Who knows which of her unnamed roles was really the more significant, in her time? The buffer she sometimes provided for others around him? The diffuser of tension she so often was, or the soother of circumstances that others undoubtedly came to rely on during the self-will-run-riot mania of a self-appointed despot?

“She seems such an emblem of what so many women do, have done, throughout the ages. Not able to enact their own potential in a direct and visible way, they must resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.”

In Eva Braun’s case, that invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

f942aa87bc9784474cbe5fa1c5b1915aIronically, because she was considered so insignificant, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly protested to the contrary — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life.

One he never would have had without her.

A question that still lingers for me is, did she?

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

 


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Why Eva Braun?

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KINDLE SALE ($2.99 US*)

for

The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War

(* also discounted in all Amazon international markets)

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8/

 

1783274_eva-braun-adolf-hitlerAs I was writing a guest post for Anna Horner’s Diary of an Eccentric blog this week, I pondered that recurring question about what inspired a novel in which Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife) is a character, and what my research uncovered along the way.

At the six-month post-publication mark, I’m convinced, especially as I receive increasing feedback from book-discussion groups and readers, that the world’s continuing hunger to “understand” Hitler is aided by understanding more about Eva Braun.

Much of what’s conveyed about her (huge amounts of it inaccurate) has been based on presumed understanding about him. But the reality is that more complete information about her can help us better understand more about why Hitler, despite the evil he represents (or perhaps because of it), has occupied collective consciousness for more than 70 years. 13254414_10209370773770054_731193591111533469_n

Far from attempting to redeem her, however, The Munich Girl follows along patterns of how Braun’s life in Hitler’s shadow, which ended alongside him when she was 33, is emblematic of what many women have done, and still do, in a world still hobbled by inequality. Unable to enact their own potential in a direct way, they resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background. In Eva Braun’s case, that public invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

As one reader puts it: “Women, even well-educated women such as [Anna], the novel’s protagonist, are groomed to give up their lives for the ‘larger’ missions of their husbands and lovers. … one of the many ways in which the feminine aspect of humanity is subjugated, Fascism being the most extreme form.”

27e1c9916b3d1248541e4984a92eda3bThe story of The Munich Girl is about many things beyond Eva Braun and the time of the war in Germany. It’s about how women share our lives with each other, the power of our friendships, and the way we protect each other’s vulnerabilities, perhaps as part of how we begin to gain compassion. So that our world can, too.

You can read my Guest Post at Diary of an Eccentric blog here:
https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/why-eva-braun-guest-post-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring-author-of-the-munich-girl/

 


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Wars don’t end when the shooting stops

Charles Johann Palmié Munich (Marienplatz) 1907

Charles Johann Palmié Munich (Marienplatz) 1907

I am so thankful to receive response from those who generously share their reading hours with my novel, The Munich Girl.

This week, I received these thoughts and insights from New Hampshire novelist Betsy Woodman and am happy to share them here:

 

A novel of the legacies that outlast war

Wars don’t end when the shooting stops. In the fields of Belgium and Northern France, people are still being killed by accidentally unearthed bombs—from World War I.

We also continue to process World War II—in books, in movies, in the care and tending of monuments—and in our hearts.

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A shot Eva Braun took of her mother looking in a travel agent’s window around 1937.

Along with the more visible damage, war creates mysteries that leave people feeling uneasy and incomplete. Confusion and grief may particularly affect the war brides who leave home with their foreign soldier husbands, and curiosity about their parents’ past may nag at the children of such marriages.

In Ring’s thought-provoking The Munich Girl, Anna Dahlberg is the child of just such a war marriage. Her mother had both British and German heritage; her dad was an American soldier. We first see Anna in 1995, choked with panic in her airplane seat and clutching a handkerchief embroidered with a four-leaf clover. Mysteries abound: what earlier trauma has produced this state? Why is Anna headed for Germany? What will she unearth in her exploration of events that started over half a century ago?

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Eva Braun and her infamous companion.

Foremost in Anna’s mind is the question, was her mother really a close friend of Adolf Hitler’s mistress (and wife for 40 hours), Eva Braun?

The Munich Girl is not always comfortable to read. Hearing Hitler referred to as “Adi” in conversation will make some readers squirm. Until they think—well, even villains have someone who loves them. In life, as in fiction, so much is a matter of point of view. The reader is invited to stretch and understand people like Eva Braun, who don’t usually arouse much sympathy.

Ignorance of one’s past and of the people in it can leave a person feeling frustrated, baffled, and empty. Knowledge and reconnection are the cure. The Munich Girl is about healing, rediscovery, and finding one’s way out of the darkness into a bright future. Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s international perspective and deep sympathy for human beings shine through in this unorthodox and subtle tale.                   ~ Betsy Woodman

716oe2sfVuL._UX250_Find information about Betsy Woodman’s delightful India-based novels –

Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes,

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Emeralds Included here:

http://www.amazon.com/Betsy-Woodman/e/B007CLOK7Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1454528756&sr=1-2-ent


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BoomerCafé asks, “Why Eva Braun?”

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I’m very grateful to author Eric Mondschein and BoomerCafé for featuring my novel, The Munich Girl, this week.

Here’s one question, and a link to the rest of the article follows.

 

295668_568897299796639_1856313471_nBC: What message are you trying to convey to readers?

PR: At least two.

 One is that there is a reality that transcends appearances, and we miss a lot of the truth because we don’t investigate it more completely. EB pix Germany and more 258

This is also a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion of war and destruction by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building together. Many Germans did this, though until recently, their stories have remained unknown.

The novel is also about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.

 

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nRead the BoomerCafé article here:

Baby boomer author uncovers World War II intrigue

More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

 


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Seeking the soul of a people

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Reader and author Ginny Towler has given The Munich Girl the kind of insightful and engaged review at Goodreads a writer can only dream of.

Also, a Giveaway for signed copies of The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War is up at Goodreads through Dec. 9 (link below).

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70     “I am stingy with my stars because I believe people don’t pay attention when they see five stars. They think, ‘Yeah, right,’ and they chalk up the exuberance of the rating to the relationship of the reviewer to the author.

In full disclosure, I was given an advance copy of the novel for an honest review. It’s not something that I am accustomed to doing, nor do I like the privilege, as it were, as one is inclined to not want to write anything disappointing about the author’s work.

I had already been interested in Phyllis Ring’s writing after reading her book, Snow Fence Road. Her writing conjures up a different era, of a 1940s sensibility, where the less said, the more is explained. …

… let me tell you the many reasons why I so love this novel and believe it should be considered an American classic.

Phyllis’s love of language jumps off of the page and into your mind with such ease, you don’t even feel as though you’re reading. She speaks to you. Her characters become your friend, even the subject of the novel, Eva Braun, which is absolutely frightening. That I should feel any sympathy with a woman who was romantically involved with one of the most heinous human beings ever to be brought into this world is disturbing to me. Which is one of the reasons why this book is so important.

EB pix Germany and more 619    As someone who had loved film most of her life, I had wondered about Eva Braun’s importance to both German cinema and filmography, as I was aware that her films extolled Hitler’s iconography, as it were. But I never took the time to research Braun, in particular. Conjuring up her name usually accompanied an imaginary bile, in me, a distaste in what she represented, so she was not someone whom I really ever wanted to know, per se. So, when I learned about Phyllis’ work, I was truly fascinated with what she might glean about her for us.

EB pix Germany and more 241   Although the book is labeled fiction, truthfully, it’s hard to believe it is, as the details jump off the page. Phyllis appears to have traced the comings and goings of this enigmatic woman, who, was encamped in her various places of refuge, waiting for her man, Der Fuhrer, to return to her. And it is in this capacity that we understand her: a woman of her time period, who turned the other way while her man went off to war, doing these “manly,” but hopelessly imbecilic and crazy things. He would return to her periodically, every couple of weeks or months, while she waited for him, dutifully. Did she remain willfully blind, ignoring the atrocities that were being committed in the name of the Fatherland? Or was she too close to him to even know what he was doing, because when he returned to her, he was her lover, not her military commander?

tumblr_mt4oxuoa4B1s7jim8o1_1280    Was the man who could butcher so many people the same man who could come home to her, and luxuriate in the arms of his beloved, exposing his vulnerabilities to her only? I’m not sure we’ll ever know, but there’s an inkling of what Eva probably felt during the years that she was with him (17 years, I seem to count). Was there any redeeming quality in her that makes her seem more human, and less a monster of historic proportions, in our hatred of all things “Third Reich?” You’ll have to read to find that out for yourself.

Above all, this book is about women. About friendship. About the way we protect each others’ vulnerabilities. Of the secrets we keep. And about our loyalty to each other, though we carry out our daily lives supporting our men, as that’s what women did, especially back in the day.

EB pix Germany and more 231   The novel is also about love. The kind we women always dream about and find in the character Hannes, a new hero for all women. I defy any woman not to believe him to be the man we’ve all been waiting for, or, if married, for whom we’d divorce our husbands if we had a chance to be with him.

The story is also a mystery, of the history behind a portrait that hangs in the home of an American woman of English and German descent. It is a story about longing to reconnect with our beloved deceased, of learning the things that our parents could not tell us for fear of destroying our own lives yet to be realized.

eva-braunPhyllis has done a very brave thing, sharing a history with us that might be part of her own past, on some level. But the care that she took in making it plausible is also a gift to the reader. She dares look at the soul of the German during WWII, and the aftermath, in a reconciliation of sorts, that still hasn’t been accomplished beyond the Nuremberg Trials, except through the bravery of women like Phyllis who are willing to open the door a crack to give us an opportunity to ask questions, ponder, and reconcile our humanity with our inhumanity.

I’m sure I’ll read this book a second time. There are so many layers to it. I found it an irresistible and important read.”

                                                           ~ VL Towler, author, Severed

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway:

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

The Munich Girl

by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Released November 14 2015

Giveaway ends in 8 days (December 09, 2015)

8 copies available

giveaway details »

Find more about the novel The Munich Girl at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/