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Thursday, June 18, 2009

History: Excerpted posts from 2001

Occasionally, and before the Web site disappears, I will copy old posts from my author's journal to this site. Here are some excerpts from early 2001:

March 29, 2001
Smiles enough, and laughter the last seven days. Putting aside White Rose has been like opening the windows on a gorgeous spring day, letting in the fresh air. Mark Twain has that effect on you. I've simply got to finish White Rose, so I can go back to Joanie and Sid.

Have practiced writing in different voices this week. Nothing publishable. In fact, I need to shred anything that made it to the printer. It is simply a delicious exercise, thinking out loud from another point of view.

I think sometimes we've got to back away from the things that normally consume our lives and stand in the sunshine a while. Clears out cobwebs hidden by the dark. This I will do!

March 22, 2001
Early this week, I found myself struggling. I would look at the Otl Aicher book that has very little left to translate, and think I could not bear to write another word. I finally got out some Mark Twain I had not read in years. In the ensuing laughter, I knew that every once in a while, when you deal with such a dark subject, you simply have to take a break and step completely away without feeling guilty.

So I have managed to do exactly that. Working on a few short, bright, airy pieces, nothing more than happy fluff. Nothing serious, or long.

Maybe in a week or two, I can return to that dark place that does hold such light, a little refreshed and ready to tackle it head-on.

March 15, 2001
Not a writing week! Stephen King may say that every writer should write ten pages a day, but odds are, he doesn't have to deal with car repairs and telephone people. Only one-and-a-half pages this week. For the whole week. Sometimes you just have to be thankful for what you do get done and quit obsessing over the work you wanted to do.

Oh well. At least the imminent trip to the garage turned into a new car instead. Fun shedding the staid, business-image automobile for something a little more me.

March 8, 2001
Varied week, lots of little things accomplished. Sometimes a break from the darkness of the Third Reich is very much in order.

Finished one article for Children's Writer, started another. Doing these makes me understand a little more here or there about the corners of writing that I am still discovering, the niches that are out there, still unexplored.

Also started translation work for, that excellent German Jewish Web site. Focusing first on contemporary German Jewish life, because so much Shoah material is already available in English. It's a breath of fresh air to write about today's struggles, joys, and perplexities, instead of always looking to the past for inspiration.

Looking to the "future" too, as a very strange and funny dream may have solved the way to get Joanie to talk again. Maybe I can write a chapter or two there next week, get her story moving. Need to look up something about Jupiter, so I can get the commentary right. I like the days I work on Joanie's Letters, because I find myself laughing as I write.

March 1, 2001
White Rose work this week has taken me well beyond the usual confines of thinking about them in terms of resistance to Hitler. Their words resound in our own politics.

I am wondering about collecting things I find here and there, bits of wisdom across the centuries, on the horror of war. How is it that our sages tell us always and again that war is hell, yet each generation goes out and has to learn that anew? Such somber, dark reflections this week, but it can not be any other way after translating Otl Aicher's eyewitness account
of what he saw.

I'd like for us to start defining heroes a little better. Remove professional sports figures from the pedestal first, those who simulate war, taking the sport out of it. How can we write the word hero so it's understood as the people who make us more whole? This has been a week for questions.

February 22, 2001
Today is the 58th anniversary of the execution of Christoph, Hans, and Sophie. Guess it's appropriate that this week has been filled with nothing but White Rose.

Nearly done entering Otl Aicher's memoirs. He gives such a clear view of who Sophie was. "She had hair like I like hair. She had a body like I like bodies." He speaks so frankly, no masks trying to be politically correct. Researching him a little has been fun too. Wonder why no one ever picked up on the fact that he was in Munich that week to talk to them about working with the resistance? It's been there in black and white for so long.

Finley came out Tuesday. We looked at the CD-ROM software that Brian recommended. It's exactly right. Now the only question remains, how to sort through the piles in the conference room to choose only those things that other people besides me will be interested in?

February 15, 2001
Finally got Hans and Sophie, 1933-1942 in the database. (2,200 entries and more to come!)

Went through ups and downs doing this. Sophie's honesty is refreshing, especially when it follows a section of Hans that is purposely deceitful. Wish Scholl archives could be forced to let us read the letters he wrote "girls" besides Rose Naegele at the same time he was writing her. Actually, at this point, I would be happy to read un-edited versions of letters to Rose!

Letter from Dr. Schmorell. More details on his wife's father's role in protecting many of the ones who were in the army, and her memories... He wrote that he had been worried that I had abandoned the White Rose project. If only he knew how close I came to doing just that last year.

Bomb scare this week at Valley Forge Post Office. Is that #16?

Thinking about the Joanie Letters. Am I getting close to figuring out her relationship to Sid? If so, I can finally get past Chapter Four. Should Kirk disappear, or start dating Mandy (maybe that's the answer)? Joanie has simply quit talking. Hmm, maybe this is part of her transformation, that she has to stop talking and just "do" for a while. She is 18, after all. I'm sure she will start talking again once she and Sid are in Israel. Hard not to talk when you're there.

February 8, 2001
Took a break from the Hans and Sophie Scholl entries. I would probably be finished by now if I were not having to deal with conflicted emotions over Hans' letters.

Short week, with unexpected snowstorm on Monday. Decided to stay home, though at the time they were just saying an inch. Got eight inches! The delightful interruption to routine made it easier to take a break from everything else.

Organizational issues. How am I going to be able to manage the piles of photographs and other documents that are for the proposed CD-ROM? Right now, I have two stacks on the floor, and others in the bookcase. I have to start thinking about weeding out some of the information.

Dinner with Sara Lieberman. I think I am getting spoiled.

February 1, 2001
What a nice week! Arlene's here from Phoenix, so Mom and I lunched with her at King Street Grille. Why is "Hans and Sophie" taking so long? I wonder.

Very nice response from Susanne Hirzel. Wish I had been able to meet her in 1995. One of the few I missed. Her book makes her terribly vulnerable. She hides none of her questions, none of her pain. I hope I can honor that sacrifice in my own work.

January 25, 2001
Still talking about the possibility of a documentary. Good to have friends to brainstorm with. I still want the documentary to be the first step to a feature film or mini-series. Dan thinks the story is made for a documentary only. But even this isn't easy. A simple one-hour program with the basic information, or an in-depth approach? The latter costs more.

And I still want the mini-series, Hallmark Hall of Fame style! I know I am stubborn.

Tracked down lots of details this week. Hans Scholl spoke so disparagingly of the "French doctor" who committed suicide the day before Paris fell. But it felt like his usual shallow assessment of the situation. So searched till I found her: Sophie Morgenstern. Child psychiatrist. Freudian school. Instincts were right. He clearly passed judgment without having half the facts. A character trait he never lost.

Also became curious about where he was in France, especially after knowing where Willi and Fritz were. Never intended to get bogged down in the military aspect of this story, but turns out that their joint perspectives are fascinating. Fritz was in the northern "prong", Willi in the central, Hans in the southern. Hitler's "scythe" makes more sense when you read about it from inside the sweep.

Now, is that information, including Winston Churchill's braggadocio speech on June 4, 1940, appropriate for the scope of what I am doing? I don't know.

Eichmann book came today. Rosen did a great job. Only two typos in the whole book, that I found at least.

January 18, 2001
Talked to Dan and Peter and Finley about documentary possibilities. The brainstorming has begun!

Finished Willi Graf, 1933 - 1942, except for the photocopies of handwritten letters. I like that "young man" even more now than I did when I started this project seven years ago. There is just something so decent and honorable about Willi Graf. His decency knows nothing of blind duty. There's simply a sense that he followed his conscience and always tried to do what was right. People like him are rare enough in any age.

January 11, 2001
Incredible letter from Lilo Ramdohr. I enjoy finding out that the "insides" of a person are as lovely as their "outsides", and she qualifies.

White Rose Status Report as of January 1, 2001
Finley's database has been amazing. Everything from May 1, 1942 through October 12, 1943 is in. What is that, like 1300 entries? I've had good success in shaping the report so the information is useful. Nice feeling to be able to add ten entries at random dates, re-generate the report and sometimes be astounded at the difference a little new information can make.

I am learning too that this database is helping me pinpoint exact dates. Susanne Hirzel may have written, for example, that something happened at the beginning of October. So I put it in as October 1, just to have an anchor date. Then, when I compare her memories to Sophie's diary to Dr. Muth's letter, I can determine when it was. Sometimes by process of elimination (if Susanne was "here" on October 4, she couldn't be "there" too), sometimes by finding an exact match to a described activity.

So, what's left to do in the database? Willi Graf, 1933 - 1942 (actually two books worth, because Anneliese Knoop-Graf gave me a treasure, the photocopies of letters in his own handwriting, and not all are published). Hans and Sophie's letters, what we are allowed to read of them at least, 1933 - 1942. Otl Aicher's memoirs. Going back through Lilo Ramdohr's memoirs with a fine-tooth comb to make sure I didn't miss anything. Albert Riester's memoirs. The Ulm/Hitler Youth information from Dr. Lechner. And whatever I learn from Dr. W next week.

"What's left" actually sounds overwhelming on the face of it. But it's nothing compared to what's already in. This is the home stretch!

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