I’m currently trying to balance keeping to the truth as far as I can, trying to make my text as authentic as possible and trying to bring in the necessary pace to make this novel acceptable to young adults. I’m working on the Hani thread, and this involves a 14/15 year old girl – she will be 20 by the end of the novel – helping to look after some “hidden” children. They weren’t Jewish but they did suffer from mental illnesses. No one knows how they got away with keeping this little school going. But as soon as the war was over, the Special Class came back out into the open.
I guess quite a lot of tension will come from some near misses. I am going to have to fictionalize that. I guess, though, I’ll be basing a lot of my material on other similar stories.
Hani will be a little strange to some 21st century readers. She is definitely upper middle class. No internet or mobile phones, of course. Yet I’m making her a typical young adult at the moment – mood swings, self-centredness, awkwardness, worry about appearance etc.
Also, some German words are creeping in and certainly some cultural elements. Sometimes the way the characters speak pick up the nuances of German syntax and reflect a generally slower way of life. On the other hand she thinks Hitler is a “nutter” and she uses the word “gross” when she thinks about some of the girls offering to sleep with him.It is also clear that although Hani is sympathetic towards the mentally ill children she does not understand mental illness. I will probably have to make Doctor Schubert more knowledgeable – more research will be needed here. That, however, might be for a second project – a biography of Clara Lehrs.