My Tuesday Talk Guest: Christoph Fischer
I had the honour of sitting next to Christoph at the recent HNS 2016 Conference during the Saturday evening banquet: here's his story of his story...
When I think about World War II and the Holocaust I think primarily of the murder of Jewish people, maybe of Sinti, Roma and Gays. There are so many tragic and complex stories to tell in that area that little of our attention is left for other victims.
The land-hungry politics of Germany and Russia caused the displacement of millions of people:
From their homes when fleeing invading armies, ethnic cleansing and forced deportation to labour camps.
These stories fade in comparison to those of victims and survivors of the concentration camps but looked at in isolation they can be pretty dramatic and complicated, too.
Because my book “The Luck of the Weissensteiners”* had some displaced people as characters, a friend approached me to help his family find out more about their mother’s life. (* article about this book scheduled for 25th October)
Ludwika Gierz was born in Poland and spent most of the war in forced labour camps in Germany. She survived the war with two infants. She promised to tell her story when the children would be old enough to hear all of her truth but, sadly, she passed away before that time came. With connections broken to her, by now, communist homeland, the family only recently decided to dig into their past.
With help from my sister in Germany we established contact with people in Oldenburg, whose names appeared on her records. Our high hopes were distraught when we got to speak to an eye witness who unfortunately knew nothing of her. He didn’t recognise the picture and had never heard of her name.
The Red Cross, German local authorities and the administration of a memorial for the former labour camps have been incredibly helpful but all of their efforts have not been able to give us more than the bare facts of arrivals and departures, birth dates and the like.
The family are now trying to link up with other labour camp survivors and have established contacts with possible relatives left in Poland.
Listening to loving reports from the children about their mother who was so kind and protective that she tried to spare them any grief, I began myself painting my own picture of Ludwika and her loving nature. All I had left to do was recommend literature about Displaced People and the aftermath of World War II. Re-reading those books again, I finally understood the gravity and depth of their suffering. The number of people whom Ludwika lost through this forced separation – amongst them a daughter left in Poland – is more than I can imagine. Yet, Ludwika is remembered as joyful and upbeat, always smiling and singing.
We are making progress in the discovery of family roots in Poland but we were unable to fill in all the gaps of her life in Germany. I have filled in those gaps in a novel written about Ludwika’s life. It won’t be her story but it will show a life similar to hers; a story that illustrates what kind of life these people led and the conflicts and fears they endured.
We also harbour a small hope that the publicity for the novel will help to establish contact with someone who knew her, and who might know more about her life then."
Ludwika: A Polish Woman's Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany
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.
Summer Indie Book Awards (SIBA) 2016 Winner 1st Prize Historical Fiction
Discovery Awards Finalist Historical Fiction
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 moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. In 1993 he moved to the UK and now lives in Llandeilo in West Wales. He and his partner have several Labradoodles to complete their family.
Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline. His first historical novel, ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’, was published in November 2012 and downloaded over 60,000 times on Amazon. He has released several more historical novels, including "In Search of A Revolution" and "Ludwika". He also wrote some contemporary family dramas and thrillers, most notably "Time to Let Go" and "The Healer".