My new novel Ludwika starts in Przedborów Poland, October 1939.
When we think about 1939 we immediately think World War 2 and when we do so, we think Holocaust, Concentration Camps and Jews.
Although we know that Hitler’s invasion of Poland kicked off WW2, we tend to know about Stalingrad, the Battle of Britain and the landing of the Allies on D Day.
If we think about Poland at all, we think of the Warsaw Ghetto, The Warsaw Uprising and little beyond that.
I say we, because that was me, until last year. A conversation with a friend of Polish ancestry made me wonder what life in occupied Poland would have been like.
Border Regions were annexed into the German Reich. With the frequent changes of the borders of Poland and Germany many Polish Citizens at the time were Germans or Aryans and they were immediately accepted as members of the enlarged Reich. Others were not so lucky and were forced to leave their homes and were pushed towards the East. Later, when the military machine took away most German men from civilian work projects, Hitler forced people from Poland and other Eastern Countries to work on German soil.
Ludwika’s story is one of many to be told, a story that doesn’t involve as tragic a life than of those sent to Auschwitz; but from her perspective it was no ‘Luck’ either.
In order to present the book in London at the Kensington Christmas Book Fair in London, December 12th this year I have released the paperback version already.
Available at the CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/5897536
The cover was once again designed by the talented Daz Smith.
I have ARC copies in pdf and mobi
Blurb: It’s World War II and Ludwika Gierz, a young Polish woman, is forced to leave her family and go to Nazi Germany to work for an SS officer. There, she must walk a tightrope, learning to live as a second-class citizen in a world where one wrong word could spell disaster and every day could be her last. Based on real events, this is a story of hope amid despair, of love amid loss . . . ultimately, it’s one woman’s story of survival.
Review (from an Advance Review Copy) by Lorna Lee, author of “Never Turn Back” and “How Was I Supposed To Know”:
“This is the best kind of fiction—it’s based on the real life. Ludwika’s story highlights the magnitude of human suffering caused by WWII, transcending multiple generations and many nations.
WWII left no one unscarred, and Ludwika’s life illustrates this tragic fact. But she also reminds us how bright the human spirit can shine when darkness falls in that unrelenting way it does during wartime.
This book was a rollercoaster ride of action and emotion, skilfully told by Mr. Fischer, who brought something fresh and new to a topic about which thousands of stories have already been told.”
The book was inspired by a real story. ‘Ludwika’s family asked for my assistance in their ancestry research because one of my other books, “The Luck of the Weissensteiners”, touches upon similar issues of Displaced People in Germany after WW2. With strong support from my sister, who still lives in Germany, I spent several months gathering data and contacts. I was fascinated by the subject and re-read a lot of the books and sources and then decided to fictionalise Ludwika’s life.
People in extreme situations, like during WW2, had to make incredibly tough choices. There was no logic, guarantees or protection from the madness that raged at the time. So much bravery and hardship remains to be told and understood. By telling this story I hope to help fester humanitarian values.
Here is a little excerpt:
The mother still looked a little suspicious at Ludwika but as soon as the train had started she ran towards the toilet with Martin, the oldest of her boys. He had soiled himself by now, unable to wait and she had to clean him up and put some fresh clothes on. Ludwika smiled at the obedience to rules the young mother had demonstrated by not going to the bathroom, even though it was a child emergency. It occurred to her that from now on she would probably have to conform to the same bureaucracy and strictness.
By the time mother and son returned Ludwika had already made good friends with the remaining three, who were busy teaching her more German nursery rhymes. Martin, the young boy in new clothes, also joined in. The woman watched in awe as her children were completely taken in by Ludwika, almost oblivious to their mother. Once the inspector had seen and validated all of their tickets, the German woman took out a book and read. Ludwika froze when she saw that it was a book written by Adolf Hitler himself.
She heard her father’s encouragement in her head to keep going and not to worry about anything before there was a need for it. It was true, the woman would mean her no harm, not while Ludwika was taking care of the children.
After the singing had stopped the children told her about their grandparents’ big villa by the Alster in Hamburg and how they looked forward to eating ice cream at its shore. The mother had obviously decided to leave her to it and only occasionally spared a glance around the compartment, the rest of the time her head was turned towards the window and deep into her book. Undeterred, Ludwika was grateful for the children’s company and the happiness it brought her. The oldest boy, he looked about six, asked her to read them a story from their book and she happily obliged. It would be good practice for her. She found it very difficult, however, and the children didn’t seem to understand her renditions of a German folk tale.
The mother put her book down now and took the seat beside Ludwika.
“Don’t give up so easily,” she said. Ludwika couldn’t make out if the woman was scolding her or meant to encourage her. The tone was harsh but the face seemed benign.
Ludwika started a different fairy tale, and every time she mispronounced a word the woman would step in and correct her with surprising patience, while one by one the children fell asleep in their seats.
“You’re not bad at all for a foreigner,” the woman whispered. “Your German will get better over time. Don’t lose heart and keep going, then it will become easier and soon take care of itself.”
She looked her up and down.
“Where are you from, Ludwika?”
“Poland,” she replied, a little nervous.
“I know that, but which city?” the mother asked.
“Near Breslau,” Ludwika decided on.
“Are you Jewish?”
Ludwika jerked and shook her head vehemently.
“No,” she said quickly.
“Then I’ve got to thank you,” the mother replied, relieved. “My name is Irmingard. Irmingard Danner. You saved my life by giving me those two precious hours to read.” She looked towards the door and then she added in a low voice, so that nobody could hear: “My husband Erich has been hassling me to read that Hitler book for weeks now. My father-in-law works for the publishers and is a big shot in the party, too. He’s bound to ask me questions about it. I can’t make myself read the damn thing. Don’t you, too, find politics is so boring? As hard as I try, after ten minutes I can’t remember what I’ve read earlier. Today was the first time I could concentrate and I will be able to say at least a few intelligent things about it and do my husband proud.”