On this day in 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Union.
I fell in love with history when I was a little girl. I grew up on films like Saving Private Ryan and documentaries like The World at War. Did I always fully comprehend some of the horrors of World War II when I was eight-years-old? No, of course not. But as I grew up and began to, there was always one major event in history that struck my heart at its core.
From the moment I realized I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to a write a book about the Holocaust. But nothing I was able to come up with ever seemed good enough. I wanted to write something that showed respect and passion not only for the men who fought and died to win the war, but also give a fresh perspective on Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jews.
As a flawed human being, I tried over and over to write a story like that but never felt satisfied. I criticized myself for not doing history justice and never allowed myself to finish the project.
Until I wrote The Good German Girl.
I fought and cried and stressed my way through writing this story, constantly afraid I wasn’t doing justice to the truth behind the fiction. But the harder my doubts and worry pushed their way into my mind, the stronger my resolve to keep writing and actually finish this story became. Something that never happened before when I attempted to tackle a story that involved the Holocaust.
In writing this story and choosing to have my character encounter one of the most monstrous figures in history, I had to do a lot of research on Auschwitz II – Birkenau. This research emotionally drained me to the point of nearly shutting down. I tell you in all seriousness, there were times when I was researching and I began to fall asleep at my computer in the middle of the day–as if my body was attempting to shut down and shut out the horrific things I was reading.
From learning about the heartbreaking experiences of Dr. Gisella Perl who worked as an inmate gynecologist in Auschwitz, to the horrendous experiments Josef Mengele performed on adults and children alike within the walls of the concentration camp, I was overwhelmed to the point of tears. Some nights, I slept like a baby–my way of escape. Other nights I lay in bed staring at the ceiling with the same stories replaying over and over in my mind.
But despite the pain of doing such intense research into Auschwitz, I battled through to finish a story I desperately wanted to write. The Good German Girl explores two very different perspectives on the war. One from the point of view of a battle-hardened sniper who lands on Omaha Beach on D-Day, and the other from the point of view of a young German woman who is silently resisting the Nazi regime while hiding her best friend–a young Jewish woman–in her house.
These two characters–Margot Raskopf & Bernie Russell–have imprinted themselves on my heart. Even with ‘The End’ written, I find myself thinking about their story in the middle of the day. I sometimes look back and can hardly believe I was the one who wrote this story to begin with. I knew when I started that I wanted to write about extraordinary people–particularly extraordinary women–but I never realized how thoroughly these characters would engrave themselves on my heart.
Bernie Russell is my favorite hero I’ve ever written. He was so real to me during the actual writing of the story, I was blown away. His humanness struck me early on in the story. Bernie is not perfect. He’s not necessarily the hero who swoops in and rescues our heroine from the villains who torture her. He’s just a man, fighting for his country. Flawed, certainly, but who holds a sense of honor that keeps him moving forward not only toward victory, but toward justice.
And Margot? Margot Raskopf has the kind of strength and courage I wish I had. She doesn’t shrink under the weight of Nazi rule but instead struggles to fight back against tyranny. Her life was achingly difficult to write about. Because with as much strength as she has, she too is merely a human being who wants to save the people she loves and who will do whatever she must to make sure they survive.
These two characters are separated by thousands of miles, not to mention a war, but their connection is as strong as if they walked beside each other through their trials.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a love story, per say. The Good German Girl is a Historical Fiction that highlights some major events of World War II while weaving the beginnings of a great love into the mix.
From Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge, we march with Bernie toward the end of the war and watch as he questions his own sanity after fighting his way through Africa, Sicily, and now France.
From the heart of Berlin to the barracks of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, we walk a painful path with Margot as she attempts to save her friends and her family from the monsters all around them.
The Good German Girl put me through the wringer, to be sure. But writing ‘The End’ was never more satisfying. I hope, one day soon, I will be able to share the entire story with you within the pages of a book.
For now, though, I will work on editing and perfecting the manuscript while also writing Book 2 of A League of Extraordinary Women–tentatively titled The Red Bird in the Tower–on the side.
Thanks for reading! But don’t leave yet! Scroll a little for a sneak peek at a scene from The Good German Girl!
She took a step across the room, staring into her mother’s eyes.
“Do you remember the Entartete Kunst Exhibition?” she asked, her voice catching on the horrible words. “I was too young to go, but I begged Franz to get me in so I could see what they were saying about some of my favorite artists. I cried for a week, Mama. What they did to those paintings … how they degraded such beauty and made our countrymen think they were ugly …”
“I remember,” Sofie whispered. “But Margot, by teaching Brigitte such things you are putting not only yourself in danger, but her as well.”
“How can I keep her from what is natural to her? How can I tell her that her passion is wrong? I won’t do it, Mama. I cannot. Because it’s just not true.” Margot returned to the window, hugging her arms tight across her ribs. “If I can help one child to know the truth, then I will. Even if I cannot help any of my other students, at least I will know I helped one child of the next generation to see the truth behind the lies ravaging Germany.”
“And when Joachim comes again? When he orders a more thorough search because he has no choice but to do so?” Sofie asked.
Margot stared at her reflection in the window. The way the glass made her golden-brown hair shimmer and caught the glittering flecks of blue and brown peppering her eyes. She’d never forget how Hans used to tease her about her strangely colored eyes. How she wished he was here now to comfort her with brotherly teasing! To put his big arms around her and tell her everything would be all right.
To reassure our mother I am doing the right thing. Margot closed her eyes, plunging herself into darkness. There was no day so horrible as the day her twin felt he had no choice but to put on a uniform and fight for the Führer.
“Go back downstairs, Mama,” she said, breaking the deafening silence. “Ilse shouldn’t be alone.”
“Bitte, Margot …”
“Mama, I beg you, go downstairs.” A tear rolled down her cheek. She listened to her mother’s breathing, each one heavier than the last before the soft rap of her shoes on the wooden floor warned she was turning around. The door clicked softly when it opened.
Margot looked over her shoulder, wiping the dampness from her cheeks. Her eyes collided with Sofie’s, holding her gaze steadily.
“We will never speak of this again.”