Author(s): Kerstin Lieff and Margarete Dos
A vivid recreation of a largely untold side of world war II - the German side. Six years before Margarete died, the author asked her mother to tell her all her stories of life during and just after the Second World War. "If you don't tell, no one will ever know and all those stories, and all that suffering, will go to your grave." Drawing on hundreds of hours of taped interviews with her mother, Kerstin Lieff has recreated Margarete's story from her childhood and her child's eye view of the rise and fall of the Reich through the family's increasingly desperate circumstances as the war's end neared. In the final days, as the Russians moved toward Berlin, there were terrible rumors and fears. With the war's end, Margarete and her mother found themselves on a train, which they believed was headed for freedom, but, instead, after a long, gruelling journey, took them into the heart of Russia, and, finally to a Gulag, where they were to spend two horrible years before finally returning to a Berlin which was no longer home to them. When Kerstin Lieff was going through her German-American mother Margarete's effects, following her death, she came upon an extraordinary collection of letters, written by her mother during the final days of World War II when, as a 19-year-old, she was working as a nurse in the besieged city of Berlin. They were love letters, addressed to a young soldier at the front. Filled with the young woman's longing and hope in the face of disaster, the poignant letters were never mailed. Margarete's beautiful letters form a coda to a book that provides an unusual picture of coming of age in wartime Germany and in the terrible aftermath of the war.
Kerstin Lieff was born in Stockholm in 1952 just after her parents fled their German homeland, most of which still lay in waste as a result of the war. Ten months later the family emigrated to Minnesota, where Kerstin grew up speaking German, often hearing stories about her parents' past. She now lives in Colorado and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University.