Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Spiritual breadcrumbs and a dictator’s mistress

Grateful for the Author Interview that Many Books shared with me this month:

With WWII family-history author, Marina Dutzmann Kirsch, at an author event for her book, Flight of Remembrance.

You spent childhood years in Germany, studied ecology, worked as a nurse and traveled all over the world. How has this influenced your writing and your world view?

Growing up in a military family, I felt both like an American and a world citizen.

People’s interrelatedness with each other and our world are at the heart of everything I explore. I focused on friendship in a story set partly in Nazi Germany because friendships are what get people through terrible times, and are what helped many everyday Germans survive the war. They also helped protect and save those who were most vulnerable to persecution by the Nazis.

I was also intrigued by the paradox that people can know and care about each other yet never know about the parts of their lives that could seem to put them on different “sides.”

Your book also explores how German citizens were forced to endure Hitler’s reign. Please tell us more about this.

Eva Braun gathering wild iris in the 1940s.

Similar to characters in my novel’s story, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. They found the way to endure and maintain hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering. And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves. Many events from their time were things they didn’t know about or couldn’t see coming, which, for me, makes judging them from the perspective we have today unrealistic and even unjust. I think the very fact that we don’t or won’t recognize this is why history, sadly, continues to repeat itself.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Munich Girl?

Aside from tracking historical accuracy, a question someone asked early on actually proved to be a helpful challenge: “How are you going to get readers past the fact it’s HER?” (Eva Braun). I knew that I wasn’t. The reader’s journey depends entirely on the reader’s willingness.

With the help of many kind readers, The Munich Girl was placed in Little Free Libraries all over the US this summer.

Some may be unhappy that the story gives focus to someone associated with “such a monster.” The story never aimed to redeem her, but to look at the ways we come at truth and information, when human beings themselves are so very complex. Much of what had been written about Eva Braun was often incomplete, inaccurate, or even the details of a different person’s life. Yet these things have been widely accepted as truth. This made me wonder how much of the truth we miss because we approach finding it with ingrained, inherited — often blindly imitative — assumptions. In other words, how much do our biases trip us up before we even get started?

What are you working on right now?

Memoir – something I never expected or planned to write, anymore than I did a novel with Hitler’s wife as a character. I’m revisiting the cascade of synchronistic experiences that led the way through writing The Munich Girl, like spiritual breadcrumbs. They ranged from my unexpected discovery of Eva Braun’s portrait to a phone call that brought important research information, though neither I nor the person on the other end had initiated the call! That’s when I began to recognize undeniable, if mysterious, forces at work in the process.

Find the whole interview at: https://manybooks.net/featured-authors/phyllis-edgerly-ring-uncovering-long-buried-ww2-secrets

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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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Bearing with the unsolved

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L. to R. – Gretl Braun, Eva Braun, the infamous bear, and one of the Braun sisters’ friends on a wintry day in Bavaria.

As I followed the research path of my novel, The Munich Girl, poring over hundreds of photographs from Eva Braun’s albums, there was one whose circumstances remained a complete puzzle.

It pictures her with her younger sister, Gretl, and a friend standing beside what looks like a polar bear. Not a statue or a stuffed one, mind you, but a bear up on its hind legs, “arms” around two of  the women, very much a presence in their midst.

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One of my days at the National Archives, examining Eva Braun’s photo albums.

Susanne Weigand finally helped me solve the mystery this week when she shared an article from the Huffington Post. It describes how photograph collector Jean-Marie Donat discovered a huge cache of photos taken in Germany between the 1920s and the 1960s, all snapped in public places, that show a wide variety of individuals posing with a hairy white bear, just like the one in Eva Braun’s photo.

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U.S. soldiers in war-shattered Germany. Photo from TeddyBär, published by Innocences Bookmaker.

Donat collected these thousands of images over the years and compiled them into a book called TeddyBär. Art critic Klaus Peter Speidel writes, “The images accidentally piece together an alternative history of 20th century Germany, documenting pre-war Nazi soldiers, young German children donning Swastikas, American GIs, and everyday individuals navigating this historical time of terror and upheaval. It’s strange to see individuals isolated from their circumstances, all behaving in a relatively similar, humanizing manner: posing goofily next to a large bear.

Speidel adds: “The images, playful in their time, acquire a bittersweet aftertaste in retrospect, with each jocular shot tugging at our 21st-century memories of war, persecution and loss. In this strange compendium of posing bears and happy bystanders, Donat creates an unlikely timeline of everyday German history, one that, especially in comparison to the photo-happy present, looks frighteningly familiar.”

And one of those happy bystanders, in a photo taken early in the bear’s “career” (probably the early 1930s, judging by Eva’s hair color) was going to wind up famous for reasons she could never begin to imagine.

12369218_10208140857064106_2523709969075442989_nLearn more about “TeddyBär , published by Innocences Bookmaker, and read the entire article here:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teddybar-vintage-found-photos-germany_us_56ba222ee4b08ffac122bc5a

 

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


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Why The Munich Girl?

EvaAlong the path of my forthcoming book, The Munich Girl, a novel about the many kinds of legacies that outlast war, there’s one question I’m asked more than any other:

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?”

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Wisdom House, Litchfield, CT, Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

I had a chance to ponder both of these questions further during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at a welcoming retreat center in Connecticut called Wisdom House. After nearly 40 years of memberships in various organizations, the IWWG remains my stand-out favorite.

IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. While it has nurtured an impressive record of success and achievement for its members in the publishing world, it has always aimed for both excellence and personal transformation. It especially values “an 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 Maureen Murdock, whose book, The Heroine’s Journey (among several of hers) has shed important light on my path, I reflected on that Eva Braun question. I also recognized that my next book is likely to be a memoir about the sometimes uncanny, even mystical process that has led to my writing about her, and about Germany during the war. 51-UcjX4oTL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_

For a workshop activity that was designed to reveal more about me as a “character” of my own story, I wrote: “When I watched the films of Eva Braun, I would be moved into depths I could not understand. I was left feeling like a child who didn’t want to pull herself away from play or a remarkable new discovery.

“I wanted to visit with her over coffee, be in the presence of those expressions I saw shape her face as I watched the films in silence — feel that unmistakable lightness that she communicated in those scenes without sound. And, I wanted to better understand the struggle and despair I heard quite unmistakably in the pages of her diary. I was fascinated that she had found her way toward an audacity that could tease, even scold, someone like that tyrant she loved, even as she also seemed to give up her entire life because of him.

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“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.

EB pix Germany and more 679Ironically, 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/

To join the book’s mailing list for news about its release and related events, email: info@phyllisring.com