Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Return to the Personal: A Kick in the Pants From Books to Help Preserve History

For those of you who regularly read this blog, you may remember that I started out writing posts related to my 2008 novel MRS. LIEUTENANT that takes place in the spring of 1970 during the Vietnam War. But in the past two years I’ve almost written entirely on topics supporting our troops now.

Now I’m reading David Meerman Scott’s 2007 nonfiction book THE NEW RULES OF MARKETING & PR” and he talks about how he “blogged the book, section by section.”

Suddenly I realized that this could be the commitment I need to finish MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE, the sequel to MRS. LT.

Here is my dilemma:

The story of MRS. LT IN EUROPE is missing a compelling element that is provided in MRS. LT by the point of view of four different women. In MRS. LT IN EUROPE there is only one viewpoint.

A few days ago I read Joseph Kanon’s 1998 novel THE PRODIGAL SPY that takes place mainly in Prague and Washington D.C. The book begins in 1950 during the U.S. government’s Communist witch hunts.

Then the book quickly moves on to April of 1969, when I was a few months away from marrying Mitch, who had orders to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, in October for Infantry Officers Basic training before having an “unaccompanied” tour to Vietnam.

Kanon’s novel harps on the theme that people do not remember history, and I know this to be true.

After all, less than 20 years after the Germans had suffered heavy losses during the trench warfare of World War I, they were eagerly gearing up to start another world war, albeit one this time they intended on winning.

Because of the outcome of that Second World War, in September 1970 Mitch and I arrived in Munich to be part of the American occupying forces in West Germany.

This was only 25 years after the end of the war, and we came in contact with army personnel and army civilians who had their own experiences of this war.

It happens that here are the other books connected to WWII that I read during the last few weeks:

Alan Furst’s 2008 novel THE SPIES OF WARSAW that takes place in 1937, mainly in Warsaw and Paris.

Helen MacInnes’ 1941 novel ABOVE SUSPICION that takes place in 1939 mainly in England, Germany and Austria.

Alan Furst’s 1991 novel DARK STAR that takes place in 1937 and 1938 in Prague, Berlin, Paris and other European locations.

Tatiana de Rosnay’s 2007 novel SARAH’S KEY that takes place mainly in Paris in two parallel stories – in 1942 starting with the French police roundup and subsequent deportation to their deaths at Auschwitz of Parisian Jews and in 2002 and 2005.

And I also read two Young Adult novels that in their own ways are very connected to my reading about WWII:

Eric P. Kelly’s 1928 novel THE TRUMPETER OF KRAKOW that (except for the first chapter in the year 1241) takes place in 1461 in the city we know today as Cracow, Poland.

(The marauding bands that threatened Cracow in these early years are paralleled by the forces of destruction amassed on the border of Poland in the years leading up to WWII.)

David Kherdian’s 1979 novel THE ROAD FROM HOME: THE STORY OF AN ARMENIAN GIRL that takes place in 1907-1924, focusing on the years including the First World War during which the Armenians living in Turkey were subject to massacres and then forced on a horrendous death march.

(The Germans had a hand in what happened to the Armenians and, from hindsight of what happened, this should have been a HUGE warning to the future Allies that the Nazis meant to carry out their announced intention to slaughter all Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, undesirable clerics, Communists, and anyone else the Nazis could get their hands on who they considered untermenschen.)

What I plan to do now on this blog:

A lot of recent news events – including the re-discovery of the original copies of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws – connect to the story I’m telling in MRS. LT IN EUROPE.

Therefore, I plan to write blog posts about these news events that are happening now in 2010 and connect them to the first-hand experiences of people during WWII and the time that Mitch and I were stationed in Munich in the early ‘70s.

I will still use the fictional character of Sharon Gold, although she may be closer to me in these 2010 chapters than she is in MRS. LT. Then I’ll revise the posts and see if I can fit them into the mostly completed first draft of MRS. LT IN EUROPE.

My goal is to help prevent history from being forgotten
, and there are many true stories that live within me.

These include:

• The first-hand accounts written by Holocaust survivors I published in the 1970s as editor of the literary supplement of a weekly Jewish newspaper in Philadelphia.

• The story of the dangerous work behind enemy lines in WWII that my husband’s civilian boss at the 18th had done for the Americans after his release as a German political prisoner from Dachau.

• Meeting Tuviah Friedman here in Beverly Hills, California – the Nazi hunter whose obsession lead to the capture of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution.

• Knowing here in Los Angeles the Czech Jew who incredibly survived WWII through a series of incidents of which action movies are made, entered Prague on the first tank to reach the liberated city, and only a few years later was warned by a righteous gentile that the Communists were coming for him and once more he had to escape.

I hope you will read the coming blog posts (now I just have to write them) and do give me feedback in the blog post comments section.

The history I plan to share belongs to all of us.


Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and her social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing works with clients to use social media to attract more business. Read her social media marketing blog.


Malcolm R. Campbell said...

I continue to be amazed at what people don't know about recent history, say, the last 25 years or so.

In the 1950s, we certainly were taught about WWII and the Korean War in school. Now, it seems that people know little or nothing about these wars--or the Vietnam War--until they find a compelling novel that puts them into the middle of the action.

You're taking an ambitious approach as well as a very interesting one.


Anonymous said...

Young people I meet, say born in the 80s, which isn't that young after all, not only don't know anything about world history, they know nothing of geography. You would think they might have a working knowledge of Hollywood, but they don't watch classic films and many never heard of Tony Curtis, whose career got a lot of space in the papers when he died. I think compelling movies and good fiction books can do a lot to educate young people who are otherwise uninterested in anything that happened before they were born.