Letters – and Photos – Reveal Secrets
Even though our book Stumbling Stone is fiction, it is based on our true life stories supplemented with research we did to learn more about Germany during World War II. We visited the archives at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Weimar, the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the Berlin Documents of the National Archives in Arlington, VA, and other locations where we might find information. We also used family documents like Rudi’s father’s diary, letters his grandfather wrote and more.
In our book, reporter Sarah Stern’s mother is still alive and Sarah and her mother talk about post-war Germany. Those dialogues are based letters Mathilda Gruber Conan – Julie’s mother- wrote from Germany in the years 1948-51. Mathilda Conan died in New York City in 1953 when Julie was eight years old.
Here is a poem Julie wrote about what she learned from those letters
Things I Never Knew About You
I have your letters
the ones you wrote from Germany, after the war
when I was four.
They tell me so much more of you-
things I never knew.
You danced all night and drank champagne
and often seemed to like to complain.
I think you flirted with other men
and fancied yourself a Bohemian.
You are gone and so long silent
and now there’s no one left to ask.
The letters stand alone for me
to take custody
and become my memory.
This week we had lunch with author Mani Feniger whose find of a photo of her mother that trigger a search to know more about her mother’s history, starting in Leipzig, Germany before World War II. Her book, the Woman in the Photograph, tells a poignant story of what she learned.