Thursday 13 October 2011

When Fiction Uncovers Fact

In many ways, as far as my fundamental research is concerned this is what this project is all about. I am finding in a quite exciting way that this happening in this case.  
I am getting to quite a dramatic part of the Hani strand of the plot. It is after D-Day. However, the oppression in Germany is getting worse. The Nazi regime is clinging on to last violent attempts.
The Stolperstein site remarks how amazing it is that the school in Haus Lehrs was allowed to be and was not disturbed. My mother-in-law frequently told my husband a story about a school whose closure was ordered by the Nazis. The school continued and the equivalent of Dad’s Army were ordered to close it down but somehow got out of it. Then the Hitler Youth were told to do it. They also refused. Next it was the turn of the BDM. There would be dire consequences if they disobeyed. Well, they set the school on fire – but got all of the children and books out. The school continued to function and operated openly from the day after the war ended.
I’ve hardly dared tell that story, though have asked questions about a school reopening as if nothing had happened as soon as the World War II ended. No one recognises this. But could it be, that it was just this little school, this one class that survived because of some caution by the people who ran it, some reformed characters in the BDM and because of a kindly neighbour? It certainly works in my fictionalised version.
Naturally, I now intend to find out more about this story.
I intended from the outset to include the story about the “school” reopening at the end of the war but even that seemed a little daring. It was actually because I needed some more drama and tension in my story that I came back to this half- remembered story. It also fitted well with the characters and happenings I had also invented.
I have also invented two ambivalent Nazis: Peter and Werner, both young leaders of Hitler Youth Groups. They have to do some terrible things but they are also quite nice and also partly resistant. Hani’s father and mother are extremely careful about what they do and what they are seen to be doing.  Yet they also go out of their way to help Clara Lehrs and the children of the Special Class.
You can’t be black and white about the Holocaust. The whole question is much too complex.    

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