The Seven Year Dress – Devastation & Resilience

Today, I introduce you to Paulette Mahurin and her new WWII-era novel, The Seven Year Dress.

The Seven Year Dress covers one of the darkest times in human history from the perspective of one Jewish woman who lived to tell her story.TSYD-FRONT COVER The Seven Year Dress KINDLE(1) copy

The narrative tells how teenager, Helen Stein, and her family were torn apart as Hitler put in motion his plan to eliminate the Jews and other undesirables. With the help of one of those “undesirables,” a German boy who was also homosexual, Helen and her brother went into hiding for several years. Ultimately, they were discovered and Helen was interred in Auschwitz.

It was in that death camp that Helen suffered persecution, torture, and devastation at the hands of the Nazis. It was also in the death camp that she encountered compassion, selfless acts of kindness, and friendship. Ultimately, this is a story of the resilience of the human spirit.

The atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews aren’t easy to read about, but the story Mahurin tells in The Seven Year Dress is too important to miss. Click to read my review.

Telling stories for a purpose

Mahurin has written a number of books, most of them historical fiction. Her passion for telling stories supports another of her passions. The profits from all her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters. She tells me that so far this year, sales of her books have helped rescue 79 dogs.

More about Paulette Mahurin:

Paulette Mahurin lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

While in college, she won awards and published her short-stories. One of these stories, Something Wonderful, was based on the couple presented in His Name Was Ben, which she expanded into a novel in 2014. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction of the year 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015.

Links to Mahurin’s books & more

Purchase The Seven Year Dress on Amazon

Check out all of Paulette Mahurin’s books on Amazon

Find Mahurin:

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Learn more about Mahurin’s efforts to help dogs

The “invisible divide” that splinters families and nations

What makes a family? What makes a nation? What holds them together? What tears them apart? My guest today, author Christoph Fischer, explores those ideas in his books, The Three Nations Trilogy.b3-front-sm

I recently read “The Black Eagle Inn,” the third book in Fischer’s trilogy. This book is an intriguing family saga, tracing one Bavarian family from before WWII into the 1970s. Click to read my review.

Christoph and I met through Facebook discussions of indie publishing and writing historical fiction. I’m pleased to have him here today, sharing how the stories in his trilogy developed. Read on!

Family, history and story lines – Christoph Fischer

Writing The Three Nations Trilogy has been an interesting journey for me. I took some actual family stories of which I had only vague knowledge and basic data and placed them in appropriate historical settings. During my research I imagined what it would have been like for my ancestors and their friends and that is how the stories came alive.

My grandmother, originally from Bratislava, cooked differently than Bavarian cuisine. She and my father used odd words and they had a strange accent compared to the locals. On Sundays, we listened to music by Smetana or Slovak folk dance music and although I was born in Bavaria, spoke ( my slightly odd version of) the regional accent and wore Lederhosen, I always felt a little out of place. I always knew that this invisible divide would be a central theme for my books.

The failed marriage of my grandparents in Brno in the 1930s and my grandmother’s subsequent life served as the starting point. When I did my research on Slovakia for “The Luck of the Weissensteiners,” I was naively surprised to find racial hatred at that time someplace outside of Germany. Slovakia even joined the Axis powers, even if it was partially motivated to do so to rid itself of the Czech ‘dominance.’

The blame for all of this was put on the clumsy dissection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the Great War. Czechs and Slovaks were thrown into a political Union to keep the German minority in those areas under control. Eye witnesses and history texts often talk nostalgically about the golden Hapsburg era and and life in Vienna before WWI, where members of new emerging or would-be nations were living in harmony and peace.

This nostalgic idea needed to be examined more closely and so I did some research and chose exactly that Vienna as the setting for “Sebastian,” the second book in the Trilogy. In “Sebastian,” I told the story of my grandparents’ divorce from my grandfather’s perspective.

Whatever books I read, the supposedly golden era of racial and religious tolerance seemed more glitter and lip service than reality. The Empire had broken and the individual pieces wanted out. Vienna’s upper class lived in a dream world, protected from reality. After the war, a severed Austria had to find a new place in a new Europe. I wanted to portray the positive side of this new beginning. There were missed opportunities and errors made but at least a redundant structure was finally let go. I published “Sebastian” after “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” to show the moment in history isolated with its (sadly) unfulfilled potential.

In “The Black Eagle Inn,” I finally turned to my Bavarian heritage and the myth that some areas of Germany were almost unaffected by fighting, bombing and Nazi terror. It is true that there were pockets of land in the Reich that remained untouched while the Allied armies engaged in a desperate race for glory to Berlin.

Distant relatives of mine had a farm and a restaurant business. I once went to a wedding there and I as in awe of this huge ’empire.’ This became the focal point in the last part of the Three Nations Trilogy. This time there is an ethnically homogenous cast, all members of the German nation and yet they, too, have divisions and eventually need to let go of their strict concept of the ‘Nation’ they want it to be and let it evolve in order to stay strong.

Health problems exempted some from military service and many were too old or too young to fight. Strong Catholic affiliation supports the claim of many that they were not involved with the Nazis at all. But how would they live with the culprits of the war, their neighbours, the murderers and spies?

After WWII, Germany became a divided Nation, formally through politics but also internally. How could the entire Nation, the new generation live with the shame and rebuild the country – and rebuild it right?

What makes a nation? Loyalty to a throne, borders, religion, customs, language, shared history? Everyone needs to decide that for themselves. You may experience unity with others through shared national, racial or religious identity, but exclusivity and division will not build a lasting nation.

There is huge danger when the national aspect of one’s identity is over emphasised, as was the case in WWII. Remember the Christmas truce football games been French and German soldiers during WWI? Nationalism and the dubious reasons for the war were easily forgotten. The men felt unified because they shared the same reality of trenches and shells.

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Christoph Fischer

Biography:

Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he resides today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. He has written several other novels, which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

Here are all the places you can find Christoph and his books:

Facebook  Website

Amazon Blog

“The Luck of the Weissensteiners”: Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook Trailer  B&N 

“Sebastian”: Amazon  Goodreads Facebook Trailer B&N 

“The Black Eagle Inn”: Facebook  Goodreads  Amazon

Trailer

 

The best laid plans

Mr. & Mrs. Harvey Denter – June 7, 1942

My parents were married on June 7, 1942.  They’d be celebrating 70 years together today, so in their memory, here’s a little of their story.

A Wisconsin farm boy, Harvey Denter left home during the Depression years and went wherever he could find work. Finally he made his way to Sabula, Iowa. He worked at the Army Depot Proving Grounds in Savannah, Illinois, loading ammunition and making bombs for the Army.  He earned $7.72 per day. “Big money,” he said.

While working there, he became friends with Ed Bees, a local boy. In the summer of 1941, Ed was getting married to Joyce Jensen. He asked Harvey to pick up the flowers for the wedding.

“I don’t know where the flower shop is,” Harvey said.

“Take Joyce’s sister, Ruby. She’ll show you,” Ed responded.

That’s how my folks met. Ruby lived with her mother and taught in one of the country schools.

Almost a year later, my mother related, “We were on a date and Harvey tossed a box in my lap. I knew it was a ring. I got the picture.”

At the time they married, Harvey was 30 and Ruby was 26. “We talked about whether Harvey would get called up for service but we figured at 30, he was too old,” she said.

For her wedding, Ruby wore the dress her sister had worn the year before. The wedding and reception were at the house where Ruby lived, on the banks of the Mississippi River. During the reception, Harvey gave dimes to the neighborhood kids.

They took their honeymoon trip to Wisconsin where they stayed a few days with Harvey’s family on the farm where he grew up. She learned about growing tobacco. They also spent a few days in a one-room cabin at the Wisconsin Dells. Harvey’s relatives welcomed Ruby into the family with humor. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law short-sheeted their bed and slipped a little statue of Abraham Lincoln between the sheets.

When they returned from their honeymoon trip, Harvey was called up for service. “I was going to get a raise to $7.76 at the Depot,’ he said, “but the Army got me first.”