Sunday 20 December 2020

The Stammtisch and Newspapers


Most German inns have a “Stammtisch”.  This is a table reserved for locals. For the people who “stem” from the place. And that is where the locals gather to set the world right. They will discuss a mixture of factual news, urban myths, fake news and conspiracy theories and perhaps play cards. Amateur politicians and well-meaning philosophers alike will gather and chat.

In the time that my novels are set it would be very rare for a woman to attend a Stammtisch.

I have two characters in the novel I am writing at the moment who attend the Stammtisch for morning coffee, a beer or two and to read the newspapers and chat about them.  It was quite common before everyone had smart phones for cafés and bars to stock newspapers as well. Both characters are older brothers. One is home on leave, the other has been invalided out of the war.              

The girls and women are shut out and don’t even read the newspapers. This came up a few times in the original letters by the girls.  They relied on fathers, brothers and fiancés to interpret the news for them.

We could argue that much of the “news” was in fact propaganda. Would they then turn to fiction? Again there is a problem here. Much of the fiction supplied to the girls was also propaganda and other literature was destroyed.

We have it a lot better today, don’t we?  Or do we? We have fake news, urban myths and conspiracy theories all over our social media. Computers work out what we are likely to be interested in and target advertising and other types of articles.

Could the Holocaust have happened if there had been social media? Or would that have been censored and might we face that danger today?

Are the Stammtisches, the benches under the orange trees, the sociable cafés and benches that are springing up now safer communicative spaces than our social media platforms?              

Thursday 3 December 2020

Bystander Guilt


So, the girls in Book 5 are bystanders. I’ve just been going through some of the chapters after which their teacher has told them about some of the things that happened:

·         A school friend had to flee to England at about the same time as their school was closed because it would not teach the Nazi curriculum

·         One of their teachers was imprisoned because she had failed to denounce Jewish children in her school.

·         A priest was arrested because he had hidden two Jewish children in his cellar. He was due to be executed but actually died of a heart attack the night before his execution.

·         Another Jewish school friend fled to Holland.  No more has been heard of her. We assume the worst.

In my latest edit I’m looking particularly at dialogue. What did these girls say? How did they say it? As they spoke German I can take a few liberties and include more modern English than I would if I were writing about British girls.  I have to try to replicate what the Germans would have seemed like to them.

Some interesting vocabulary emerges.  Der Giftpilz - the poisonous mushroom -  is mentioned quite a bit.  This was an illustrated story used as propaganda for the BDM. The Jew was seen as a poisonous mushroom that they must be rid of.

Also frequently occurring “We didn’t know.” “We didn’t think.”  They try to make amends:

  • By  researching what happened to the missing school friend
  • Offering holidays to deprived children and particularly to Holocaust survivors
  • Using method acting to create empathy
  • Putting on satirical plays to put the Nazi regime under the microscope
  • Meeting and apologising to the survivor they know
  • Sustaining international relationships.
  • Analysing it in detail.

Will the guilt ever go away? 

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay  

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Wild Spirit by Dawn Knox


Wild Spirit

Wild Spirit


Dawn Knox (More Titles by Dawn Knox)



Publish Date



Large Print (Soft Cover) - 328 Pages




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It's Rae's dream to sail away across oceans on her family's boat, the WILD SPIRIT - but in 1939 the world is once again plunged into conflict, and her travel plans must be postponed. When Hitler's forces trap the Allies on the beaches of Dunkirk, Rae sails with a fleet of volunteer ships to attempt the impossible and rescue the desperate servicemen. However, her bravery places more lives than her own in jeopardy - including that of Jamie MacKenzie, the man she's known and loved for years...


Rae’s parents work hard. Her father is a consultant at a London hospital and her mother also studies to become a doctor.  Rae’s family is solidly working class. Her mother in particular does not approve of Rae’s relationship with Jamie MacKenzie who is the son the boatyard owner who builds their boat, Wild Spirit. Rae’s father has named the boat after Rae.  We certainly see that she has a wild spirit.  

Rae and Jamie gradually fall in love though there are many obstacles in their way: Mr MacKenzie’s dislike of Rae, Rae’s mother’s disapproval of James and their circumstances keeping them apart.   

We are offered quite a bit of historical detail here: what health care was like in the UK before the National Health Service was introduced, the Dunkirk rescue, the French Resistance, the attitude to women in the 1930s and 1940s. Also interesting is detail about the Dunton Plotalnds. Small plots of land were sold in the first half of the 20th century so that people could build holiday homes and run allotments. Two world wars prompted people to make the homes more permanent. Rae works on the gardens of some of these houses.