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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The long trail of The Munich Girl

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Photo provided by Ed Fusco

I’ve twice donned a pair of white cotton gloves and pored over Eva Braun’s nearly three dozen photograph albums at the National Archives.

Each visit had its own rhythm and pace. The first, in the spring of 2010, was a kind of mad-rush count-down to get through them all before the Archives’ five o’clock closing time. This involved leaving at least 15-20 extra minutes on each end for passing through security, checking in or out, and depositing or retrieving my belongings from a locker.

I couldn’t take so much as my own pencil into the resource room where her albums are housed in several piles of volumes hard-bound in dark blue. Overwhelmed as I encountered them for the first time, I was attempting to encompass 33 years of one life in the equivalent of two afternoons.

EB pix Germany and more 191Years of reading and research later, including interviews with some of those who met the subject of my search, my approach on the second visit was more like forensics. I was watching, amidst those several dozen books of her photos, most arranged quite haphazardly with little attention to chronological order, for patterns and connections that form a larger picture.

There are many photos whose settings and significance I could spot more readily, based on who was present, clues in the background of interiors and landscapes, even the clothes people were wearing.

But it was that most-elusive quarry that I was watching for — the evidence of the emotional side of things.

I couldn’t help but zero in on the externals on my first visit, when I felt time rushing past me so quickly as each album opened on an unknown world. EB pix Germany and more 197

By the time I made the second visit, the years that I’ve spent following the trail of this life, as my novel’s protagonist does, have led somewhere deeper. In much the way I can with photos of those whom I know, I can tell when a day was a joy, or a strain; when a smile was a spontaneous response, or a tight, forced mask.

“May I always stay this way” one typewritten caption proclaims of her 18- or 19-year-old self, who had already met her famous lover, 23 years her senior. She is sitting outside over coffee with friends on what was likely a lovely day in Munich.

Her expression seems guileless, innocent. Those who remember her from this time call her vivacious and effervescent.

In time, a kind of golden-cage captivity muted that, some have observed – and she, herself, kept the tightest lock on that cage, denying her own freedom and possibilities. EB pix Germany and more 382

Seven years onto this trail, I troll these hundreds of images again where many are now stored on my computer, watching for the signs of where the shifts came.

Watching for those large and little junctures at which a life was repeatedly bartered away in the shadow of another, to the detriment of its self.

Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s forthcoming The Munich Girl, A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War, follows a similar trail when its protagonist discovers that her mother had a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun.

Find more from the book’s research trail at:

https://www.pinterest.com/phyllisedgerlyr/along-the-research-trail-of-an-ordinary-girl/

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

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