High on the list of things people don’t talk about is the treatment women often receive during war.
When local Second World War survivor Giselle Roeder’s aunt was dying, she asked her aunt about her war experiences, only to receive the answer she’d heard many times — “We don’t talk about that,” and knew she had the title of her next book.
“During the war we weren’t allowed to talk about it. Under the Nazis we would have been shot, then after the war, under the Communists, we would have been sent to prison,” she said of her childhood in Pomerania, on the Baltic sea on the border of Poland and Germany.
She was a naive five-year-old farm girl “when the brown shirts (Nazis) came and took our horses. ‘Why our horse?’ I asked my father, ‘he said because Hitler needs it,’ I said ‘can’t he use another horse?’ ”
Relatively isolated from the early stages of the war in their bucolic farming corner of the country, it wasn’t until years later when the Russian front was advancing on Germany that things got really difficult.
The sweeping story of her experiences leading up to and throughout the war and the aftermath under the Russians and then trapped in East Germany are told in her latest book.
The book is getting a lot of media attention and earning high praise, including from people like historian and author Bob Pickles who called it “…the missing piece of the puzzle of WWII….should be required reading in schools….literary and historically be put next to Anne Frank’s Diary.”
While there are funny anecdotes and it covers a large sweep of European history, the heart of the story is what happened when the Russian soldiers where unleashed by Stalin as part of the punishment for the war. Various reports estimate the number of rapes well into the millions. Roeder writes about the under-reported experience of so many and deals frankly and openly with her own experiences during what was already a nightmarish era for anyone to live through.
As another reviewer Ann Victoria Roberts put it, “this personal story, the things she witnessed and experienced — is told without begging for sympathy, but simply the way it happened… Her words carry more weight because of it. As a piece of social history it is a valuable document.”
The book is available in local libraries and online at giselleroeder.com. Catch her reading at the Parksville Library Friday, Sept. 26 at 1:30 p.m.