I’m really looking forward to reading The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring in a few months. Those who know me know how fascinated I am with stories about World War II, and I admit that I’ve always been curious about Eva Braun. In the meantime, I am delighted to welcome Phyllis to Diary of an Eccentric today to share her inspiration for The Munich Girl. She also is generously offering a giveaway to my readers. So please give Phyllis a warm welcome, and stay tuned for my review!
Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.
As Anna learns more about the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s lover, and her mother’s confidante, she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured through the war, though the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged as she realizes that she has suppressed her own life in much the way Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.
Along the path of The Munich Girl, I’m repeatedly asked what led me to write a novel that includes Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife) as a character. It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role Eva Braun had played in his life came to light: “Why her, of all people? Just an ordinary Munich girl?”
Had people plumbed that question more deeply, they’d discover that she’s a key to understanding much more about the man who, despite the evil he represents (or perhaps because of it), has occupied collective consciousness for more than 70 years.
My husband and I were each military brats whose families lived in German when we were kids. German people were still recovering from the war, and were also some of the kindest people I knew. Quite naturally, as a writer, I inevitably wanted to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.
My trail began in an unexpected way with a biography of Eva Braun written by British-German writer Angela Lambert. I was struck by what an emblem Braun’s life seemed of what so many women do, and have done in a world still hobbled by inequality. Unable to enact their own potential in a direct way, they resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background. In Eva Braun’s case, that public invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.
Ironically, much of what was assumed and conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about Hitler, when, in fact, more complete and accurate facts about her can help us better understand him. Because she was considered so insignificant in her time, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly denied it — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life. One he never would have had without her. And without her films and photos, we’d know a lot less about him. As I watched those films and examined her photo albums in the U.S. National Archives, I felt an unmistakable lightness and joie de vivre in her that contrasted with the struggle and despair I heard in the pages of her diary.
In the course of my research I also encountered documents from testimony at the Nuremberg Trials that describe an action she took in the last week of her life that saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war, something she likely did to protect Hitler’s reputation. I subsequently learned that among those who were saved were two members of my British mother’s family. That discovery was definitely a turning point for me.
The story of The Munich Girl is about many things beyond Eva Braun and the time of the war in Germany. It is a story of a woman’s quest to discover why there was a portrait of Hitler’s mistress hanging in her family’s dining room, and what connection Braun had with her family. It is also about how women share our lives with each other, the power of our friendships, and the way we protect each other’s vulnerabilities, perhaps as part of how we begin to gain compassion.
At its heart, it is a story about outlasting life’s chaos and confusion by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of the good that we are willing to contribute to building, together. Part of our ability to do that, I’ve come to believe, rests in being able to recognize that human beings aren’t usually all good, or all bad, but a complex mix of where our experience, understanding, and choices have led us. When we can begin to accept this, we can empower both others and ourselves. The Munich Girl is ultimately about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.
Thanks, Phyllis! I’m very curious about what the Nuremberg documents revealed, and it must’ve been a shock to discover the connection to your own family. You’ve made me even more excited to read The Munich Girl!
Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. Her published work includes fiction and inspirational nonfiction.
Phyllis is generously offering two copies of The Munich Girl to my readers, Kindle copies for international winners and a choice between the print or Kindle version for U.S. winners. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, your desired book format, and what intrigues you most about Eva Braun and The Munich Girl. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, June 29. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck, and as always, thanks for stopping by!
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