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Eva and her family were not in the apartment now.  They had lost that during one of the hellish raids that had come at the time of restraint from the allies which had lulled them into a false sense of hoping the worst was over.  That was what the newspapers and wireless broadcasts were telling then and, of which her neighbour from upstairs had verified.  He had pounded on her door a few days after the allies had invaded Normandy to relay the good news.”Frauline Butz,” he`d gushed, rushing past her waving the Volkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party newspaper in front of her face.  “Look what`s happening in France – we have nearly won the war.  Let me read it to you.”

“It`s too soon to say.”  Pierre answered in a hushed voice.  He led Henri by the shoulder taking him away from the throng of people who were going about the daily task of making the most of their cave like existence.  “The Germans have their tanks all around the entrance to Caen.  Pierre drew Henri hard by his shoulder toward him and hissed.  “The SS have murdered over six hundred people in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. They shot some in the market square and burned others alive in the church.”

Henri`s head shot up.  “Why would they do such a thing?”

“Because they are murderers and since the allies landed are finding any excuse to kill.”

A Long time – but I`m back

2015-03-26 14.01.00Sorry I haven`t posted for a while but I`ve been busy with house – builders – children – wildlife ponds and animals etc.  Just to back me up as we writers can elaborate, here are a few photographs:         2015-05-11 23.21.00There isn`t much writing here I know – but who wants to see a page full of text when the visual element is so much more rewarding.  (I know I am making excuses here)  I forgot to add that I am also still busy with my novel so I hope you understand the predicament I sometimes find myself in – but I promise I will try – for the few of you who may be out there reading my blog – to post a little more regularly as that is the writers new rule – to connect with readers, (just been told that by an article in Mslexia which gave me the jolt to do this) and my goodness it would be nice to know once in a while that I am connecting!  It is also a relief to write freely and not be loaded down with meticulous research which my novel demands.  With the builders gone, the animals fed and watered, the wildlife pond completed, my grandson handed back to his parents, even if it is with a few photos here and there – I will keep in touch.  It would be nice to hear from you too.2014-06-23 13.34.27                                        2015-04-05 14.37.45-1 2015-05-12 04.01.30-1 2014-06-23 12.10.39 2015-05-10 10.33.39

CHAPTER FIFTY NINE – EXCERPT

This was part of a soldiers uniform swept up on Portsmouth beach – cast aside from the shores of France.  Lying here were all these items – personal items, photographs curled and stained. Some of the photographs portrayed just a single person, others, groups, that Irene assumed to be families.  There were letters, never to be read, the ink running as though tears. There were just hundreds of them.  Footwear, wallets, clothing, papers. Letters and possessions from all different nationalities washed up on Pompay beach.  It was all planned – Irene`s life.  But now the evidence of D day was here, the remnants of lives lived – and lost in a moment.

 

 

Violet was just about to fetch the trolley to fill with fresh cups and saucers before the WVS ladies came on the ward with the tea, when Audrey rushed up to her.  Leaning into her she said in a low urgent voice, “Matron wants to see us in her office right away.”

“Why, what have we done?”

Audrey shrugged, pulled a non – plus face and held out the flat of her palms in reply.  But she was already on her way. Violet hurried after her, tucking a few escaped strands of hair into her hat, hoping that her face looked reasonable.

“I have an important job.”  Matron declared to the two girls standing before her.  “One that, I am afraid, seems to elude some people and one that will not suit everybody.  It is a job that will not be an order due to the delicate nature of it, but a job that needs doing nevertheless.”

The two girls exchanged an inquisitive and nervous glance.

Matron placed her clasped hands on her desk seeming to relax a little. Taking a small intake of breath she said, “We are in desperate need of people to help out with the German prisoners who have arrived here.”  Violet sensed the definite shift in the tone of Matron`s voice which was, a little more – subdued.  “They were picked up off the beaches during the first few hours of the invasion.”

It was Audrey who spoke first.  Sideways glancing at Violet she said quietly, “I`m game if you are.”

Violet cleared her throat.  “Well it does say in our Girl Guides oath that we should help everyone,” she said with a tremor in her voice.

But even as the words spilled out, Violet was unsure.  These were Germans for goodness sake, the very ones who may have tried to kill Jack and Gary – who could have killed Jack and Gary and could also have inflicted the terrible wounds on the poor soldiers she had been tending to.  But Matron didn`t wait for any change of mind sensing the falter in Violet`s voice.  “Excellent,”  she announced with gusto.  “Here are the necessary papers to give to the guards on the doors of the Nissan hut where the prisoners are being h…, waiting to be treated,” she quickly corrected.

Both girls dare not look at the other as they in turn took the papers from Matron`s outstretched hands.

But both girls were wondering – what the hell had they done.

 

 

The key was in the lock – Isaac managed it despite his hand dancing to imaginary tunes and a dizziness that held his innocence.  He was in – the silence and the dank starkness of nothingness hitting him.  The thing under his foot – he picked it up, but not without a battle, his boot refusing to give it up until he lashed it out in mid-air.  The brown card was held in his hand before eyes that could not focus.  “Humph!”  He discarded the card, like his life had been.  “Who cares – so you`re safe – who cares – go to hell!”

Isaac stumbled to the chair – falls into a luxury that is cold and untouched.  He is ashamed.  But there is no-one to care.  No-one to hear his shuddering sobs.  How had it come to this.  This loneliness, this emotion so stark and solid it would not leave.  But now he dithered – dithered in an eternity of love that he would not allow and when he did? Spurned – sent packing – left with this nothingness and reddening eyes and a sobbing throat that only allowed –

“Go to hell – the lot of you!”

Link

I am very privileged to work at the National Holocaust downloadCentre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire. I was not looking for work of this kind, but the opportunity just fell on me, as we sometimes find the best things that come our way, does.  The Holocaust is not a subject I am dealing with at the moment in my writing, but certainly comes within the era, the Holocaust of course mainly taking place during the Second World War.  I say mainly, because anti-Semitism in Germany, started way before the outbreak of the war, Hitler just pounced on the rapid rise of Nazism as war broke out, with the demise of the Jewish population already festering in the realms of this brutish regime.

Many people may think that working at a place like this, is oppressive and filled with download (4)morbidity and gloom.  But, although this subject is terrible for the Jewish population and many others that did not fall in the group of Hitler`s idealism of the `perfect race`, when you walk through the gateway to the centre, one meets a glorious display of white roses, poignant in their serenity and meaning.

For it is here, in the Memorial Garden, where the many relatives and descendants can come and plant a rose and a plaque in memory of the loved ones they have lost, many of them, having not even known them.plaque

The growing pile of stones to the right of the entrance, depicts a child, each stone representing a child lost in the Holocaust – of which any member of the public can add to.  There are many corners and alcoves in the one acre Memorial Garden, cradling benches where you can sit and listen to the birds, the perfume of the roses mystifying the already tranquil setting. Just reading the plaques is emotional in itself and one doesn`t have to have lost a relative in that horrific period to have the sense of bewilderment to ask – Why? –  How?

The staff of the National Holocaust  Centre doesn`t try to answer these questions, but display an understanding to the many young school groups and members of the public, that this story needs telling and they do it with pleasant and very helpful staff who are on hand to answer questions and worries.download (7)

With survivors of the Holocaust coming to the centre to give talks on their own personal experience, coming here to listen to these people adds further depth to the understanding and sensitivity to this most inconceivable subject.

The main exhibition covers Jewish life in Europe before the war; the rise of National Socialism; ghettos;resistance; concentration and death camps; survival and post-war justice and rescuers.download (3)

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The only Holocaust Centre in Europe that has a Holocaust display for primary school children and despite many warnings that this would not be a positive experience for these youngsters, it has in fact proved a resounding success with the children moving through the time with a fictitious boy of their age,Leo Stein, who tells his story entitled,The Journey.

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 Leo shares, with the visiting children, his experiences and emotions whilst moving through Leo`s home, school and street, told in such a way that the children may understand Leo`s plight without trauma or upset.  Instead his story opens up the youngsters enquiring minds with many thoughts and questions which the centre staff answer with sensitivity.  Adults too, enjoy this part of the exhibition.

I know that by working here, my knowledge of the Holocaust will benefit and to help people and children share this experience is a great honour. The centre, far from being harrowing gives the unique opportunity for remembrance and reflection and with what is happening again in far away places, that cannot be a bad thing.

So, during the next few months, as my experience grows, I hope you will share this journey with me.

National Holocaust Centre

Laxtondownload (6)

Newark

Notts

NG22 0PA

01623 836627

http://www.holocaustcentre.net

Opening Hours

10.30 – 4.00

To Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-day – Excerpt From My Novel

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To come upon a tank, a sentiment of war, silhouetting shapes in smoking metal, once a driver,gunner,husband, father, brother or son. Now all that is left of the residue of life are ID discs that would be shipped home with no possessions – possessions lingering in the skeletal pockets of death, just memories of happy faces and the embrace of final hugs and promises of return. New babies cradled and children holding onto trouser legs, misty eyes upward turned to search their father`s face as they kissed mum goodbye entrenched in a crowded platform with whistles – and steam – and tears.
Farewell wasn`t meant to be eternal and no-one prepared them for the finality of it.

omaha beach

Gary was hardened to war, after four years he had to be. But thinking of ma, as they buried them, he hoped she wouldn`t have to carry the burden of a lost child. For he knew, his tears for once defying his hard-edged heart, his ma would not harbour the weight of it.

June 4th 1944 – 70th Anniversary of Dday – 1 day to H hour – Excerpt from my novel.

Out in the Atlantic, weighty slate grey clouds banished the onset of dawn fighting for dominance over the impending sunrise. The ships of the Western Naval Task Force led by Rear Admiral A G Kirk and carrying the American infantry, rounded Lands End forging towards the Isle of Wight and `Piccadilly Circus` – the code-named assembly area.  The Eastern Task Force led by Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, carried troops covering the British sector, would arrive in the assembly area later that morning.  The rest of the flotilla carrying the second wave of the invasion, were sitting just off the south coast aboard their ships and landing crafts.  The task force would rendezvous and then wait – for General Eisenhower`s final decision to go.

 

“Gentlemen the fears my colleagues and I had yesterday have been confirmed.”  John Stagg delivered his bleak statement with a soft scottish accent that hinted at sentiment.

The SHAEF Commanders were again gathered in the library of Southwick House – the clock reading 4.14 am on the morning of the 4th June – almost twenty-four hours before the planned date of the invasion.

General Eisenhower, grim faced and weary from lack of sleep asked John, “And the forecast for the next few days?”

John`s answer was given with a slightly risen pitch of hope.  “There is a benign high detected between the low pressure areas forming over Iceland.”  But then the hope was dashed.  “But I am disturbed by the longer forecast of high winds and low disability.  However, at this stage, I cannot differentiate one day from another during the invasion period.”

“And the sea condition?”  Admiral Ramsey asked.

“The sea condition will be slightly better than at first anticipated, but according to the Dunstable forecast, there is still low cloud forecast with a 1000 foot ceiling and level 4 to 5 force winds.”

“You were optimistic yesterday John.”  General Eisenhower reminded him.  “Is there just a chance that you might be a bit more optimistic about the forecast for tomorrow?”

John Stagg gave a slight shake of his head and dropped his gaze.  “The balance has gone too far to the other side for it to swingback overnight tonight.”  His negativity cast the hearts of all seated in the library – to their boots.

For days – weeks, General Eisenhower had deliberated and agonized over the weather forecast – each forecast over the last few days worse than the other – no respite.  With the amphibious landings due to take place between 0600 hours and 0800 hours on the 5th – tomorrow – the final decision to attack had to be made at least twenty-four hours prior to this.  He needed to act decisively.

The room fell silent. Not a man in the room would have swapped places with the General.  General Eisenhower`s burden was heavy.  Millions of lives rested upon his decision.  Operation Overlord was already going in with a very slim margin of ground superiority.  If he postponed until the 19th June – the next date of correct moon and tide conditions – he would have to call the whole fleet back. which would seriously increase a major security leak – never mind the whole nightmare of unloading troops and equipment.   General Eisenhower pulled himself straight.  He had no choice.  “To cover a last minute possible improvement,” he informed all round the table, ” the remaining assault forces in port will embark and  we will convene again here at 4.15 am tomorrow.”  His next statement was the one that had haunted him for weeks, one that he hoped with all his heart he would be able to retract in twenty-four hours time – or the whole operation, planned meticulously for the past two years would be doomed to failure.  The invasion is hereby postponed – for twenty-four hours.”

 

Most of the convoy of ships, landing crafts and battleships were already positioned at Area Z codenamed `Piccadilly Circus` the rendezvous point just off the Isle of Wight.  The rest were on their way or still in the ports waiting to sail.  The incessant drizzle had turned to heavy rain.  Waves were beginning to roll, shunting, tossing men who, had the stomach to fight, but not the stomach to thwart the sea.  Most of the day’s rations had already ended up in sick bags, which didn `t take long to fill.  Then it was helmets, fire buckets, the deck or anything else that could act as a receptacle for vomit.  Cramped, wet, tired and feeling very ill, they waited.

The fleet received a signal.  But it was not the anticipate signal, the one that would signal to the fleet to sail for Normandy.

It was another pre-arranged signal – the signal to postpone – for twenty-four hours.

 

On the Normandy coast, except for the prevailing winds – all was quiet.  Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel had driven to Paris to buy a birthday present for his wife’s 50th birthday.  The forty-mile journey between Paris and the great rivers estuary – had proven an arduous one; attacks by allied bombers on the small island that linked the Seine to Paris had destroyed most of the bridges and many of the towns.  Whilst in Paris, Erwin decided to meet with Feldmarschall Karl Rudolf Gerd Von Rundstedt at his headquarters at St-Germain-en Laye.

“The allies will need at least four consecutive days of good weather to be able to mount the invasion, “Feldmarschall Von Rundstedt declared to Erwin, his statement delivered with a certain measure of decorum that masked some distaste for the man before him.  Although both Commanders had firm beliefs and strategies, Von Rundstedt secretly harboured resentment for the younger Feldmarschall Rommel who Hitler had chosen to mastermind the Atlantic Wall.  Nevertheless, Erwin did not buckle under Von Rundstedt`s obvious antagonism and continued to follow his own instincts and experience.  “I agree of course.  I have checked the weather reports,”  Erwin informed Von Rundstedt.  “Over the next few days, the reports indicate increasing cloud, high winds and rain.  The tides in the strait of Dover will not be suitable for an invasion until mid June.”

 

Jack retched yet again, this time he filled his helmet and then with deep gasps, he sucked in fresh air, tipped his helmet and emptied it of vomit over the side of the ship.  Sinking onto the deck, he sort refuge from the raging storm under a section of tarpaulin that covered a line of wagons. He ran a hand over his face, saliva filling his mouth indicating another bout of nausea.  The Empire Battleaxe lilted and dove as the twenty-foot waves tossed her.  She rode the waves as she would a rollercoaster, although there were no shouts of glee, just the sound of retching from sodden troops.  Soldiers on the rain – lashed decks glumly lined the rails of the ship trying to gain a foothold on the surface that would not yield to them.  After the news of the postponement, the fleet had turned back from their rendezvous point and were sitting just off of Portsmouth Harbour.  Those ships and landing crafts that had not already sailed before the postponement was announced, were still sitting in the harbour, the troops stuck on the boats not allowed to leave the vessels. Some one hundred and seventy five thousand men were waiting to cross the channel and the twenty-four hour `reprieve` allowed demons within their minds to cause havoc upon already doubtful territory.  Demons that taunted death – fear.  Demons that undermined positivity and strength of mind.  Holed up for thirty-six hours, they waited in anticipation of some glimmer of hope.  The weather had deteriorated rapidly and many soldiers were plagued with sea-sickness.  With open decks and hardly any shelter men on board landing crafts were wet, cold, sick and miserable.  There was no respite either for men packed together below the deck of the Empire Battleaxe.  For many, the contents of the meal issued to them earlier by the navy crew had made an unwelcome entry back into confinement of the rest areas.  Everywhere stank of vomit.  Those who were not vomiting with sea-sickness, vomited because of the stench of someone who had. Rain lashed, gales blew and the ship danced to the tune.  Feeling so ill, no-one cared anymore why they were there.  No-one cared about the invasion – the Germans – or about being killed.

“I hope the Germans put a bullet straight through my head,” moaned Mike as he slid down next to Jack.  “Shit – I feel bad.”

Jack tried to manage a smile, but it would not develop, he didn’t try to force one either in case any involuntary slight movement, facial or bodily, would set off his tumultuous stomach.  He hadn`t been sick for a full five minutes – and that was a miracle. What would be more a miracle – is that there might be anything left in his stomach to recycle.

 

“Our Father who art in heaven – Hallowed be thy name…”

Gary stood with his comrades, head bowed as the chaplain took the service.  Keeping his head down, he flicked his eyes upwards scanning the hundreds of soldiers who had gathered in the mess room.   Tables were pushed back against the wall out of bounds because of the continuous rolling of the craft.  Some men were muttering their own prayers holding rosaries. Others had their eyes tightly closed and others stared blankly in front of them, lost in their own thoughts.  For Gary, his thoughts were of his family, his ma, his dad and his baby brother Jack who would be, in just a few hours time, experiencing his first combat duty.  Gary hoped Jack would not be too scared.  He was a good lad, a good brother and a good son.  A better son, he knew, than he had been.

The chaplain, clutching his service bible, his army chaplains stole draped around his shoulders, made a sign of the cross and all said, “Amen,” in unison.  The group began to disband, some however stayed with the chaplain, probably never having been to church in their lives, now wanting to be blessed, wanting to take God on their shoulders to the battlefield.  Gary had seen it before when he had landed in Sicily and Italy; everyone had wanted God on their shoulder.  Gary did not stay but made his way back up to the deck of the Arquebus despite the storm.  They had only just set sail so were one of the lucky ships who had not been kept at sea since June 3rd, as had many.  So seasickness for them had not, as of yet, become a problem.  Gary had chosen to stay with his Bren Carrier to try to catch some sleep.  Although the deck was packed with men, they were not so entombed as the men below deck who would sleep on bunks solidly packed along the walls of the ship.

 

Lieutenant Gislason was briefing men of the 29th Division aboard LCI – L- 94.  “Make sure you study the location of the pill boxes,” he warned indicating to the huge map behind him.  “The beach will be littered with mines and booby-trap entanglements.” They had been aboard nearly seventy-two hours having set sail on June 3rd, their route from Falmouth where they had embarked being some eighty miles from their landing beach – Omaha.

“I`ve heard that the beach is defended by 2nd rate Germans.”  A young GI told Captain John Hamilton as the men dispersed.  “Old men and those who are battle – weary from the east.”

John smiled at the young lad who looked as though he should still be in high school. He had huge brown eyes and as John set his gaze on him, he could see that his eyes oozed with tears.  “I`m sure you`re right son,” John placated.

“You`re a doctor then?”  The lad asked indicating to the obvious, John`s Red Cross Brassard quite ominous on the left sleeve of his battle dress.

“Yes.”  John smiled.

“I bet you`ll see some sights then.”  His tears were now threatening to fall.  The poor boy was ringing his hands and chewing hard on gum.   “Maybe things won’t be too bad,”  John tried to reassure. ”

“Well, people are bound to get killed – wounded.”  Now a tear did escape, one which the GI swiftly swept away with his index finger.

“Maybe.  But as you said, the beach is defended by old men so perhaps we wont have such a bad time of it.”  John doubted very much if this were true, but thought better of voicing this opinion, not wanting to spoof the young guy anymore than he already was.

“Are you scared?”  The GI asked.

“Course I am.” John answered gently and honestly. “We’re all scared.”  .

“I don’t want to let the guys down,” the GI quivered.  “But I don`t know if I will be able to do it – kill people.”  His bottom lip trembled and he desperately flung his hand across his face in an attempt to hold his composure, his eyes darting around not wanting to be seen crying by his comrades.

John didn’t quite know what to say, this sort of thing better dealt with by the Padre.  But the young guy had confided in him, John being a complete stranger, maybe that it`s why he could.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine son.”  John placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Try not to think about it too much.”

The boy held his head down, tears now running abated down his cheeks.  “Will you … if I get wounded … will you look after me?”

“Course I will.” A sob almost escaped from John.  In an attempt to check himself he repeated, “You’ll be fine son.”

The young guy placed his hand on top of John`s that still rested on his shoulder. His huge pleading brown eyes cut into John`s heart. Managing  a stifled smile, the GI then went on his way.

“Son,” John called after him.  “What`s your name?”

“Abe,” he told him.  “Abe Dlan from Boston.”

John smiled and nodded.  Abe gave a half-hearted wave, nodded and was on his way again, pushing through the bodies of uniforms until he merged and disappeared amongst them.

John sighed heavily and steadied himself, his arm outstretched holding onto the ironwork of a bunk. Head deep into his chest he muttered,  “This damn war – this bloody damn war.”

 

By eleven pm on the 4th June, all of the fleet had now received an order to sail and once again the fleet made its way to the rendevous point of `Piccadilly Circus` just off the Isle of Wight where it would convene and then sail for Normandy.  It would then wait.  Sitting just off the coast –  for the final order to go.

The storm had not abated.