Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.
As Anna learns more about the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s lover, and her mother’s confidante, she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured through the war, though the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged as she realizes that she has suppressed her own life in much the way Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.
The Legacies That Outlast War
by Phyllis Ring
During my years as a U.S. military brat in the 1960s, my first friends were German families. Then I married another brat who’d also spent part of his childhood in Germany, and we began returning there as often as we could. I realized that if I wanted to understand this culture I love (as I struggled to relearn its language), I needed to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.
Never could I have imagined how quickly that intention would take me straight to Hitler’s living room. Within the week, I received a copy of British writer Angela Lambert’s biography of Eva Braun. Then a combination of entirely unexpected circumstances led to my owning the portrait of Braun that began to unwind the sequence of events in my novel, The Munich Girl.
A major turning point in the story’s development occurred when I discovered, while researching the Trials at Nuremberg, that an action of Eva Braun's in the last week of her life saved the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war. Two members of my British mother's family were among them.
The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: “Why Eva Braun?” The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or “redeem” her, or how she is perceived. She simply makes a fine motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that.
She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices--choices to serve good--when she could. She also made ones that served neither herself nor others very well. Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive? Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? These are themes I wanted to explore.
The contemporary part of the story, set 50 years after the end of the war, represents a turning point for humanity, I think. How willing were we, are we, to go back and look more deeply at what had been left behind, unrecognized and unresolved, in that immense, human-initiated catastrophe of the war? Also, the year 1995 is already “historical” in fiction’s terms, because it is about from that point that the technology of the virtual world began to assert itself in human life, rendering a very different human experience in our world today. To the extent that this material advancement isn't matched by the development of inner-life values and compassionate, united perspective, I think we wreak havoc and suffering still.
About the Author:
Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. Her published work includes fiction and inspirational nonfiction.
Author’s blog: http://phyllisedgerlyring.wordpress.com
Twitter: http:// www.twitter.com/phyllisring
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