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Ebook Details
  • 03/2017
  • 978-0-9977800-3-1 B06WD8GJ3P
  • 371 pages
  • $4.99
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  • 03/2017
  • 978-0-9977800-4-8
  • 370 pages
  • $16.99
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  • 07/2017
  • B0742LHGNY
  • 370 pages
  • $24.95
Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-of-age Love Story Set in WWII Germany

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953 and set against the epic panorama of WWII, author Annette Oppenlander's SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war. SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author's own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.
Reviews
Oppenlander’s wrenching latest (after 47 Days) follows two young Germans from their childhood during WWII in Solingen to their new lives in the 1950s. Parallel narratives are told by Lilly Kronen, aged seven in 1940, and Gunter Schmidt, 11. Their lives are first disrupted when their fathers enter the war, and challenges increase as rationing begins, followed by relentless carpet bombing. The horrors of war are continually thrust upon the children as they witness suffering and death, and when Gunter is mustered into the Hitler Youth program, he is reluctant to become a cog in the führer’s evil machine. Starvation, desperation, and destruction of homes and human life force the children to grow up quickly, and it is only when Lilly and Gunter meet for the first time in 1949 that they allow themselves an emotional reprieve. The pace is as relentless as the war itself, with brutal descriptions of the savage life endured by German children. The excruciating atrocities of WWII are far-reaching, as Lilly learns in 1945 of the death marches from concentration camps. This type of raw, articulate, history-based storytelling pays homage to the war children who bore witness while struggling to survive. (Self-published)
Chill With A Book Readers' Award

Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander has received a Chill with a Book Readers' Award.

"Very well written."

"What an amazing story of courage and resilience during war torn Germany. It was even better knowing it was true."

Pauline Barclay
Founder of Chill with a Book Awards

Deep In The Crease Review Blog

In 1940’s Germany, war has swept the land. Fathers and sons are shipping off to fight for Hitler, whether they want to or not. Families are torn apart and the women and children struggle to survive the bombings and lack of rations. Lilly and Gunter are children from families who struggle to survive. Lilly’s father volunteered to go and left early in the war. Her cold mother has only enough emotions for her younger brother and Lilly is forced to grow up in a world without affection, slaving to keep her mother calm and her body fed. She also has to avoid the disgusting advances of her neighbor. Gunter’s father was drafted and then his oldest brother also received the summons. He spends the years scavenging for food and firewood to help care for his mother and younger brother. When he receives orders to go to war, he hides with his best friend, waiting for the war to end. When the war finally ends, life does not go back to normal. The following years have families waiting for word from their fathers and brothers, continuing to starve and fight to survive.  When the two teens meet, love comes but life isn’t a fairy tale where that solves everything.

The author tells the story of Lilly and Gunter and the hardship of their lives in a way that draws the reader in and invests them in the story. It starts when they are young children and we watch each of them grow over the years in a continually more difficult world. When they finally meet, you ache for them to be the peace they need to help each other heal. Knowing this story is based on the authors family helps to engage with them to a degree. The world is written in a vibrant manner, at times you can feel the ache of hunger and smell the smoke. The horrors the children witness and live through brought me to tears.

All the books I have read about this time period focus on the plight of those persecuted by the Nazis. This story showed how much the average German suffered during the war in a world forced to submit to a harsh dictator.  All the little people suffer in war.

Discovering Diamond Historical Fiction Blog

The story of plucky women, children and older citizens in wartime Britain is well testified in non-fiction, fiction and film. Rationing, conscripted labour, volunteer services such as the WVS, (Women's Voluntary Service) air raids, ‘make do and mend’ are familiar tropes. Flip that experience and go to wartime Germany, especially one depicted from a child’s points of view. This is exactly what Annette Oppenlander does.

Lilly and Günter belong to ordinary families, neither particularly prosperous, both deprived of their fathers in the 1940 call-up. Lilly has the additional problem of an unkind mother who only has time for Lilly’s brother, and a paedophile neighbour who stalks her. Günter at least has his friend Helmut. Both children attempt normality but bombings, food shortages, school closures and continued stress of living under an unreasonable and unpredictable regime disrupt this. Even at the end of war poverty and uncertainty continue into the early 1950s. 

Ms Oppenlander’s protagonists are resilient and resourceful; they have to be. The language is direct, descriptive and atmospheric – you are with Günter and Helmut when they are foraging for food and caught by the military – but the author never descends to self-pitying. Described as a coming of age novel it’s also a testament of war as seen through two children’s eyes, rather than dry political history. 

The author’s research is ‘haarscharf’ (accurate to a T), but she had direct witnesses.  Occasionally, I was jolted by the maturity of Lilly’s observations. Sometimes she seemed a little too knowing and adult, but it certainly didn’t impact on the story. I noted a few typos here and there and the occasional anachronism, but nothing more than in any other novel.

I would heartily recommend this book as an engrossing and well-researched story with two of the most engaging protagonists I’ve read for a while.

(c) Jessica Brown

EskieMama & Dragon Lady Reads

5 stars 

This is the most intense book that I have read, do I believe it, I most certainly do, both my parents are survivors of the war that was supposed to end all wars, my Mother spent 2 years in a concentration camp, and why because a maniac took over Germany and then just about destroyed, not caring what he did or how much his people suffered.A true story of how children survived the atrocities imposed by Hitler and his henchman. Lilly and Gunter are the image of how young children dealt with the war and how they coped with the atrocities of seeing their Fathers go to war, how they survived the bombings and the brutality of some men and how some people were allies and friends during this time of darkness.Here we see what happened in their lives and that of their Families, how each one dealt with what was thrown at them and how they survived, and how their lives were shaped after the war.To those who are interested this is a book well worth reading as it shows you a different side of the war, it shows it from the eyes of children during the war and how things shaped for them when they grew up.Annette Oppenlander thank you so very much for a story well worth reading.I received a free copy for my honest review!Review by Jara

Fabulous and Brunette Review Blog

Wow!  This book tells an impressive story of two children who are brave, courageous, and have the strength to fight against all odds to survive.

This book tells the true story of two children, Lilly and Günter in the 1940s in Germany during the Hitler era.

From right off the first page, I was emotionally invested in this book – it’s hard not to be.

This story is based on the author’s family and you feel the authenticity and pain just leap off the page.

My heart just broke reading what these children endured and how they just kept going.  I don’t know if I personally would have had the strength to keep going.  It was inspiring to see their persistence and determination.

The main characters, Lilly and Günter, are true, pure, and genuine.  You will develop an instant bond with these characters and find yourself not only pulling for them, but praying for their safety and wellbeing.

I honestly feel somewhat changed after reading this book.  Not in a bad way, perhaps by now having a deeper understanding of empathy, insight, and compassion to children of war.  As a millennial, I was lucky to have not grown up during war times.  Yes, 9/11 was a sad, and forever changing time, but I lived in the U.S. and at no time did I ever feel unsafe or violated or tortured like others have had to endure during other war eras.

This book was such an interesting and intriguing story and I found myself further invested in the characters and storyline than I expected to be or tend to be with other books.  That should the definition of a great book – a book that causes you to feel the emotion of the characters and become fully engaged and invested in the characters and the storyline.

I would recommend this book as this is such an important story to read and understand.  Anyone that is put through such obscene and difficult obstacles deserves to have their story told and appreciated.  Beware that you may need a box of tissues nearby, as this book is filled with so much emotion that will cause your heart to race, your eyes to water, and your body to cringe.  I felt every sentence.

Historical Novel Society

WWII fiction continues to be a popular genre, and as such it can be daunting for readers to make a selection that is both engaging and unique. This story is set apart from the usual fare in that it’s not about occupied France or the bombing of Britain, but focuses on another set of innocent lives torn apart by Hitler’s war machine: German women, children and elderly.

Günter is in his early teens when both his father and older brother are sent off to war. In his care are his mother and younger brother, and as the rations dry up and the bombing begins, he finds it more and more difficult to keep them afloat. Soon enough he is also called to fight, and he must make a decision that is best for his family. Meanwhile, a parallel story is told about a young girl named Lilly, who is in a similar home situation. Eventually the two meet and become inseparable—until the emotional baggage they each carry threatens to unravel their newly constructed lives.

Based on a true story, this novel offers an eye-opening view of the sufferings of the women, children, and elderly left behind once Hitler had taken away all able-bodied men for his war efforts. The landscape was desolate, worsening even after the war was over. The children who survived the war years carried scars that would affect their handling of the Wirtschaftswunder (reconstruction)—a particularly interesting period in German history. This novel is fast-paced and emotively worded and features a great selection of characters, flawed and poignantly three-dimensional.

Hope.Dreams.Life...Love Blog Review

Surviving the Fatherland is, simply put, a really good read. I've read lots of books set in World War II that focused on the Allies and what they went through during the war, but you don't find as many books set in Germany. The book follows the story of two families who try their best to survive the hardships and chaos Hitler put his own people through. The hardships they endured were dreadful. The book also pointed out that not all of the people were Nazis. One of the characters in the book goes to extreme lengths to avoid being drafted in the army. What I especially liked about the story is that it's true. It happened to real people who eventually came to the US to live. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would give it 5 out of 5 stars.  

InD'tale Magazine

Lilly and Gunter are seven and twelve when WWII begins.  In this remarkable true story, these children are faced with the atrocities of war and daily survival, yet somehow, they miraculously maintain their humanity through preserving hope, kindness, and love.  As the war comes to an end their suffering is far from over.  Lilly and Gunter, along with all of Germany, struggle to repair their homes, hearts, and minds.  Even amidst the chaos and hate, Lilly and Gunter show us that love is still a force that can always prevail over the greatest of evils!    

Ms. Oppenlander’s vivid writing style sweeps us away to 1940s Germany and takes us through a thirteen-year time span including post-war recovery.  This story, written in a first-person memoir style alternating between Lilly and Gunter, is immediately gripping, with characters so lively, the reader is engaged from beginning to end.   

Often historical memoir can be stagnant with wandering scenes devoid of purpose.  Contrarily, Ms. Oppenlander is a master at seamlessly weaving historical context into the plot. The reader is given a clear picture of the broad events, while simultaneously holding one in constant suspense through character interaction.  Ms. Oppenlander writes in a sensitive manner, but readers should be warned there are near-skirmish rape and mob violence scenes, which might pose as slightly disturbing to some readers.  This book needs to join the ranks of the classic survivor stories of WWII such as “Diary of Anne Frank” and “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  It is truly that amazing!

International Writers Inspiring Change (IWIC)

It is difficult not to give this book, Surviving the Fatherland, by Annette Oppenlander, a five-star rating. Surviving the Fatherland is an historical fiction based on true events, the lives of those who survived World War II, during the war and then in post-war Germany. As one reads this story of survival, told from the perspective of one young girl, her trials and tribulations of eking out an existence in a nation depleted of food and resources, most of them being siphoned off by Hitler’s insane thirst for war and power, we live with her through the daily routines, the suffering, the emotional ups and downs, the sacrifices and the tangible fear of not only the on-going war, but how to survive in its aftermath. This story seems vaguely surreal as one reads it because it is difficult to imagine that just seven decades ago the worst war in human history happened, and the depth of suffering which people endured – if they lived to see it to its end. We look around today and see a world rebuilt, with hardly a vestige of that conflict visible, and yet, in the minds of those who navigated it, who lived on potatoes and onions, if that, who scrambled through the rubble for necessities, who sat in bomb shelters as their world was destroyed around them – and moreover, innocent people who were neither supporters of nor even soldiers in Hitler’s madness, the traumas and memories they carried with them would never disappear. In spite of the time and the ambient war which Lilly and her family must survive, the story is not gruesome, but rather, it is a statement about the depth and strength of the human soul, and ultimately, really, of the love that drives people on in spite of all the reasons not to love. Highly recommended. A book that truly reminds us just how horrible war is, and that the victims of war are far more than just the soldiers who fought it, but in fact, the civilians who emerged from the rubble and had to rebuild the broken world in its aftermath.

Long and Short Reviews

This historical novel is based on the author’s parents and what they went through as children in Germany during the Second World War. As the wife of a history buff, I’ve seen a great many movies and heard a lot about the soldiers during that war, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank I’m not familiar with what the children had to go through. This book is eye-opening and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the war.

Lily and Gunter grew up in the same city, but their lives during the war took very different routes. The book is told from each of their points of view- the hardships they had to face and the struggles to stay alive.

My heart broke for Lily as her mother so obviously preferred her younger brother and worked her like a slave, even turning a blind eye to potential dangers to Lily in order to make life more bearable for herself. It’s hard for me, as a mother, to understand Mutti’s reaction to her daughter, which cannot be blamed on the war as she was already disengaged from Lily at the beginning of the story. Her father lied to the family, telling them he had been drafted, but he is full of enthusiasm to do his part in Hitler’s war.

We first meet Gunter as he takes part in the local youth drill that all the young men had to join—training children to one day be soldiers. Once his father is drafted, life is different for him as well as supplies become short, and he is forced to do whatever he can to help keep his family together.

When Lily and Gunter met, the war was over but they each had to deal with the baggage they gathered during it. They fell in love, but the path of true love, in their part, didn’t run smoothly. I enjoyed the way they were together as they each worked through their own demons.

This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it. I was really invested in the characters and wondered what was going to happen to them next. Knowing it was based on the author’s parents, it was obvious they would get together at the end, but there were still moments I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

I highly recommend this book!

Reader Views

Having read numerous books on Hitler, survivors and concentration camps, I must say “Surviving the Fatherland” by Annette Oppenlander is one of the most compelling books I have read. From the author's family history, we now hear about a subject that is overlooked – how the children were impacted.

The story is told from the perspective of Lilly, who at the age of seven, finds her father leaving for the war and Gunter, age twelve, who is experiencing the same turmoil in a different area. Each child finds themselves having to deal with financially helping their family, while at the same time surviving bombings, lack of food, capture and death of many they know.

It is a story that many are unaware of or choose not to know. Oppenlander writes with passion as she tells about German people who are caught up in an event they have no control over. I found myself crying, laughing and cheering on Lilly and Gunter. Anger was an emotion I experienced numerous times while reading about Lilly’s mother who was very neglectful and doted on her younger brother.

After the war, everyone thought their lives would return to normal and they would at last feel at peace. Once the British took over from the Americans, hope was that life would become normal and it did look good on paper, but not in real life. Lilly and Gunter’s family still had to forage for food, firewood and material to restore their bombed-out home.

There are many secrets that are kept from the families, for instance, Lilly's father did not have to go to war, and Gunter's brother comes home with PTSD and has a difficult time adjusting to life again.

One interesting part in the reading that stood out to me was that women were told, "they should do their part for the war." That didn't mean working in factories; it meant trading favors for food.

I can’t imagine all the emotions the author experienced when writing this incredible story. I hope in some way it was therapeutic, but it must have been heartbreaking at the same time. I for one am glad she shared her story with us as it gives us a look at a different perspective from those who endured this tragic time in history. “Surviving the Fatherland” by Annette Oppenlander is highly recommended reading!

Readers' Favorite

Five Stars

Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite

Annette Oppenlander opened doors in her heritage that most people would have kept closed when she penned Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-of-age Love Story Set in WWII Germany. She records her parents' young lives as they watch fathers, brothers, and friends go off to fulfill their duty fighting for Hitler’s regime. While Gunter Schmidt’s father and brother are sent to fight, he faces battles of his own as the man of the house. Providing for a mother and younger brother, while there wasn’t food to be found, no work available, and Nazi spies planted in the neighborhood, was almost impossible. Lillian Cronen faces unique challenges as a girl. She must support her mother and brother while warding off the attentions of her mother’s beaus.

I feel almost inadequate to write a review on the lives of two people who went through unimaginable turmoil under a dictator who betrayed his own people. Annette Oppenlander’s tribute to her parents through Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-of-age Love Story Set in WWII Germany is simply beautiful. She paints a vivid picture of how the German people were broken by the sacrifices they made to their country. At times I could not put Surviving the Fatherland down; at other times I had to walk away from the starving people, the bombings, and sad conditions under which these people lived. Annette carefully records a different Germany than what the outside world perceived. I was amazed at how open her parents were about their suffering, the guilt they felt at times, and what they had to do to survive; it makes me long to read about the events that did not make it into this historical fiction novel. I loved this book!

San Francisco Review of Books

This historical novel is based on the author’s parents and what they went through as children in Germany during the Second World War. As the wife of a history buff, I’ve seen a great many movies and heard a lot about the soldiers during that war, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank I’m not familiar with what the children had to go through. This book is eye-opening and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the war.

Lily and Gunter grew up in the same city, but their lives during the war took very different routes. The book is told from each of their points of view- the hardships they had to face and the struggles to stay alive.

My heart broke for Lily as her mother so obviously preferred her younger brother and worked her like a slave, even turning a blind eye to potential dangers to Lily in order to make life more bearable for herself. It’s hard for me, as a mother, to understand Mutti’s reaction to her daughter, which cannot be blamed on the war as she was already disengaged from Lily at the beginning of the story. Her father lied to the family, telling them he had been drafted, but he is full of enthusiasm to do his part in Hitler’s war.

We first meet Gunter as he takes part in the local youth drill that all the young men had to join—training children to one day be soldiers. Once his father is drafted, life is different for him as well as supplies become short, and he is forced to do whatever he can to help keep his family together.

When Lily and Gunter met, the war was over but they each had to deal with the baggage they gathered during it. They fell in love, but the path of true love, in their part, didn’t run smoothly. I enjoyed the way they were together as they each worked through their own demons.

This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it. I was really invested in the characters and wondered what was going to happen to them next. Knowing it was based on the author’s parents, it was obvious they would get together at the end, but there were still moments I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

I highly recommend this book!

 

News
02/27/2018
'Surviving the Fatherland' Receives IndieB.R.A.G. Award

Annette Oppenlander's award-winning novel, Surviving the Fatherland, was honored as a B.R.A.G. Medaillion Honoree. 

08/19/2019
'Surviving the Fatherland' wins GOLD in the 2019 Global eBook Awards

Historical fiction author, Annette Oppenlander, received GOLD in the 2019 Global eBook Awards in the category Historical Literature Fiction (Contemporary). 

09/02/2018
'Surviving the Fatherland' wins Readers' Favorite Book Award

Annette Oppenlander's bestselling historical novel, 'Surviving the Fatherland,' won the 2018 Readers' Favorite Bronze Book Award in realistic fiction. 

05/21/2017
11th ANNUAL NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE® AWARDS ANNOUNCED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: Annette Oppenlander/812.391.6310/Annette.oppenlander@yahoo.com

11th ANNUAL NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE® AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Local Author receives national recognition from the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards!

Los Angeles: -- The 11th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards recognized ‘Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-of-age Love Story Set in WWII Germany’ by Annette Oppenlander in the category of ‘Faction’ as a winner in this year's competition.

This prestigious National award is open to all English language books in print from small, medium, university, self and independent publishers.

The National Indie Excellence® Awards exists to help establish independent publishing as a strong and proud facet of the publishing industry. Recognizing authors that put their heart and soul into their work, the NIEA is a champion of self-publishers and the small, independent presses that go the extra mile to produce books of excellence in every aspect. Established in 2007, the NIEA competition is judged by experts from all aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters.

Winners and finalists are determined based on 'overall excellence of presentation- a synergy of form and content.' Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953 and set against the epic panorama of WWII, ‘Surviving the Fatherland’ is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war.

‘Surviving the Fatherland’ tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author's own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.

“We are proud to announce the winners & finalists whose books truly embody the excellence that this award was created to celebrate, and we salute you all for your fine work.” –Ellen Reid, Founder NIEA

For more information please visit: www.indieexcellence.com

05/16/2017
Big Mike’s B-town: Annette Oppenlander, Historical Novelist

by Michael G. Glab

Bloomington writer Annette Oppenlander’s newest book, Surviving the Fatherland, is a historical novel based on stories her parents told her about being children in Germany during WWII. While researching the book, Oppenlander realized very few stories of war children had been written, and she wanted to tell stories of the civilian side of the war. Oppenlander is a recent inductee to the International Writers Inspiring Change Hall of Fame for Surviving the Fatherland, which sold more than 6,000 copies in the first 50 days it was on sale. Michael G. Glab recently sat down to chat with her for Big Talk! on WFHB. You can listen to his interview here.

“I hated English.”

So says Bloomington author Annette Oppenlander of her early foray into learning a foreign language. Born and raised in Solingen, Germany, she studied English like millions of other German grade school kids. Or tried to.

“I was terrible at it,” she admits. It wasn’t until 1987 when, fresh out of college, she came to America to immerse herself in speaking English. “The business school at the University of Cologne was a tough school and English was something we all knew we would need after graduation.” So she came to the United States, hoping to become proficient in the language.

“I came over to work for a year and then return home and start my big career,” Oppenlander says. “I went to a Super Bowl party.”

Now that’s total immersion; what’s more American than a Super Bowl party?

“I had no idea what Super Bowl was or how football works,” she says, laughing, with slightly more than a hint of a German accent. “I just happened to sit next to a former Butler University football player who I then married a year later.”

She’s been in the United States — and married to Ben Oppenlander — ever since. Her English is just fine now. So fine, in fact, that she has published five books in the United States. Her latest, Surviving the Fatherland, was released in March.

It’s a coming-of-age love story of two kids who survive the horrors of World War II in Germany and the lean, uncertain years immediately afterward. It’s based on the stories she learned from her own parents, Günter and Helga Schmidt, stories she could only coax out of them decades after they happened.

Like many Germans, her parents were loath to reminisce about that ghastly part of their homeland’s history. On rare occasions, Annette heard them make references to what they’d experienced. 

“It was never a coherent story,” she says. “My parents would sometimes talk about the hunger they experienced. And their parents who were, of course, adults during World War II, never talked about it. Not a word.”

So, in 2002, after working in an array of fields — banking, real estate, financial services, marketing, and advertising — she decided to tell her parents’ and grandparents’ stories herself. First, though, she had to get her mother and father to open up.

“I interviewed my parents about their experience as children in World War II,” Oppenlander says. “When I started writing down their stories it made me feel so different — I felt so good. I really discovered this passion late in life. When I created these stories and these situations, it made me feel sort of powerful.”

How ironic, considering the powerlessness both her parents and grandparents felt as the war raged on. “My father actually slaughtered a horse,” she says. Günter Schmidt, then a schoolboy, met a German soldier trying to desert. Günter gave the soldier some civilian clothes in exchange for the soldier’s horse. Hunger drove him to make the swap. “That became one of the scenes in the book,” Oppenlander says, “where the character based on him and a friend slaughter this horse in the middle of the night because being caught with a war horse would have been grounds for execution.”

Oppenlander’s mother was seven years old in 1940, just as the war was engulfing Europe. The little girl’s father already had left home to fight, something he saw as his duty at the time. Oppenlander’s future mother and a younger brother stayed home with their mother. In researching this chapter of her family’s history, Oppenlander learned that personal battles still could simmer even as greater combat swirled around them. “My mother did not get along with her mother,” Oppenlander explains. “Her mother doted on the younger brother. With her father and older brothers out of the picture, my mother was left to her own devices. She told me she never got hugged. For a little girl who is seven or eight years old and goes through this hell, with bombings and everything else, never to get hugged and seeing this love lavished on this brother must have been horrible.”

Oppenlander, who’d moved with her family to Bloomington in 2003, creates scenes based on that relationship as well. 

She was drawn to writing when she penned materials for Hirons & Company, a local advertising and public relations firm. She began to dabble in children’s stories at first.

“I started writing fiction in the 1990s,” she says. “We lived in the woods in Washington state [her husband, then with The Boeing Company, had been transferred there] and I wrote little children’s stories. I didn’t know anything about writing or publishing.” Then she began her quest to unearth her family’s war stories. “I discovered I really enjoyed history. I have this analytical side to me and I love research. To do historical fiction correctly,” she says, “you have to make sure the setting is right. That includes a lot of tiny little details.”

Writing what would have been her first novel would turn out to be a lengthy ordeal. Before it hit the streets — after 15 years in the writing and editing stages — this year, Oppenlander would publish four other historical novels aimed at the Young Adult market. One deals with cadets at a military boarding school during the Vietnam War. The others compose the Escape from the Past trilogy. “It’s about a teenaged gamer, Max,” she says. “He tries out an experimental game because he thinks he can handle anything. This game sends him back into time to medieval Germany.

“I went to Germany in 2012 and visited this 15th-century castle, which was really an amazing place. You walked through there and it was like the walls were talking to you,” Oppenlander says. “I came across this little story about this famous knight, Werner, who lived there and was in love with a beautiful woman and was in a big feud with an evil duke. I thought at the time, ‘This is the perfect story.’ I dug into the history of the castle and the history of those figures. I had this idea about this gamer because I have boys who gamed. They drove me crazy at times. I thought, ‘What can I do to get even a little bit?’ So I created this young man who travels back in time and he has to deal with all these medieval problems — the dirt, the filth, not fitting in — and then, of course, he has to figure out how to get back to the present day.”

Max, after getting caught up in the imbroglio, goes on to find his way back to the present but then plays the game again and winds up in 1881 New Mexico and meets Billy the Kid. In the third installment, which was published in November, Max returns to medieval Germany.

All her books have been meticulously researched for historical accuracy. “I know the historical era,” she says. “I spend quite a bit of time researching. I do on-site research. I always walk where my story takes place. I must have my feet on the ground where these things happen.”

She’s working on a couple of historical novels now. One, set during the American Civil War, tells the story of a young boy living on a plantation and his best friend, a slave boy from the adjoining estate. The other follows the travels of a runaway teenage girl from Cincinnati during Prohibition. “I’m thinking in this story I will have a little bit more romance than I typically include,” she says.

Her “big career” is a thing of the past. Now writing fills her days. “Had you told me this 30 years ago I would have said, ‘No way! You must be crazy,’” she says. “I never thought this would have happened.”

05/09/2020
German Translation of Biographical WWII Novel 'Surviving the Fatherland' nominat

The newly published German translation of the bestselling biographical WWII novel, 'Surviving the Fatherland,' has been nominated for the Skoutz Award 2020 in Germany. Selected from more than 10,000 entries, 'Vaterland, wo bist Du?' is currently on the midlist and shares the spotlight with eight other entries in the history category. The shortlist will be determined by readers and jurors in July 2020. 

About the Skoutz Award

Established in 2015, the Skoutz Award honors the best stories in 12 categories written in the German language. The award is coordinated in conjunction with the two major German book trade shows, the Leipzig and Frankfurt Buchmesse.

03/17/2017
IWIC’S HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT ON ANNETTE OPPENLANDER, AUTHOR OF SURVIVING THE

Our most recent entry to the International Writers Inspiring Change Hall of Fame is Annette Oppenlander – author of Surviving the Fatherland. We did an Author Spotlight on Annette and we recently reviewed her book, which can be seen HERE. We realized in the course of reviewing her book that the amount of work she put into research, the painstaking details she uncovered about a gruesome part of history and the the ordeals her own family underwent during World War II, was inspiring to say the least – and for that reason we invited her to be part of our Hall of Fame. Here is her story, and we welcome Annette to the IWIC Hall of Fame.

Full interview on the IWIC website

03/19/2017
Local historical fiction author releases latest novel

Annette Oppenlander, treasurer of the Bloomington Writer’s Guild, has published four works that weave historical realities with a fictional twist. Her fifth, a novel titled “Surviving the Fatherland,” was released to the public March 15.

The novel is based on stories told by her parents, who were children living in Germany during World War II, and follows protagonists Lilly and Günter as they navigate life in the Third Reich. Oppenlander said the piece took her 15 years to complete.

“Growing up, I’d heard bits and pieces of survival stories, quick references, or I’d watch my parents nod at each other in silent understanding,” Oppenlander said. “As my interest in history grew, my curiosity grew with it. So in 2002, I asked my parents to share their 
memories.”

She spent several weeks visiting them in Germany and recording their stories. From there evolved the tale spanning 13 years from 1940-1953 and dealing with the issues related to family, love and betrayal through the eyes of the children who endured the conflict.

Oppenlander said she remembers one afternoon when they were in the basement while her mother ironed, and they discussed her relationship with her mother. She still has the 
recordings.

“It’s hard for me to hear my mother’s voice — she passed away in 2004,” Oppenlander said. “My mother always insisted that my father was the better storyteller. And, while I agree that his activities were quite adventurous, mymother’s quieter side offered a lot of depth. And so I think the two characters balance each other out nicely.”

The initial goals of the interviews and writing differ slightly from what the story became, Oppenlander said. What started as a project to help her children remember their grandparents evolved into a story to enlighten the public on the plight of children during one of history’s most prolific struggles.

“I think older teens can certainly read it and it may even be beneficial as a historical text, but the theme and setting are mature and my protagonists are a boy and girl,” Oppenlander said. “I always write my stories within historical settings — there is something about the past that appeals to me.”

Oppenlander said she first became interested in writing while living in the woods in Washington during the 1990s.

“I was always a voracious reader and had a vivid imagination, but at some point I got inspired to write stories,” Oppenlander said. “My first attempt was a children’s chapter book story about a hedgehog going on adventures. I didn’t know anything about craft or the publishing industry and my kids were still small and needed my 
attention.”

Recording her parents stories was the inspirational push she needed to write and realize how satisfying writing was, Oppenlander said.

Over the years, Oppenlander said she has attended workshops for anywhere from one hour to one week and been a part of critique groups for eight years.

Following the publishing of this novel, Oppenlander will be presenting at the Historical Novel Society annual conference and having writing workshops at Ivy Tech Community College and middle and high schools.

This novel in particular has taught her a lot she did not previously know about her family’s personal past.

“When I began this project I hadn’t realized how much ‘dirt’ was hidden in my family’s past,” Oppenlander said. “But once we started talking I knew there was a lot going on. I heard the emotion in my mother’s voice when she spoke about Vati, her stay in the East when she stole the wallet and ring to force her foster family to send her home.”

Overall, learning the stories was an emotionally charged experience that took a lot of discipline, but it was worth it to tell the story the way it needed to be told.

“I want people to understand what life was like for ordinary people and especially children during that time,” Oppenlander said. “The generation of war children just took the abuse and after the war ended, everyone was in a hurry to move on. Nobody gave those kids a second thought.”

03/18/2017
New World War II Novel Illuminates the Plight of War Children

Historical novelist Annette Oppenlander Completes True Family Saga 

Bloomington, IN, March 16, 2017 - After 15 years of research and writing, editing and rewriting, historical author, Annette Oppenlander, releases her fifth novel, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND. Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953 and set against the epic panorama of WWII, Surviving the Fatherland is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children's war. 

Â"ItÂ's been an emotional journey, sifting through my familyÂ's past, going through countless revisions and edits,Â" says Oppenlander. Â"At some point I thought IÂ'd never get it right. I set the manuscript aside time and time again, but the story never left me alone. It kept nagging.Â" 

In 2002 Oppenlander interviewed her parents about their experiences as war children in HitlerÂ's Third Reich. While the novel provides a fictionalized account of civilian life from the perspective of war children and youth, it also offers a better understanding of what happened in post-war Germany. Despite its harsh setting and struggles, it is a story of adventure, of love and hope, and ultimately of triumphing against the odds. 

Â"My mother was seven, my father 11 when WWII started, the deadliest conflict in human history,Â" says Oppenlander. Â"I wanted to shed some light not only on the plight of war children, but also on the history of post-war Germany. Many people assume that everything returned to normal quickly. Nothing could be farther from the truth.Â" 

About the Story 
SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND: A True Coming-of-age Love Story Set in WWII Germany tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the authorÂ's own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children. 

Editorial Review 
"Â...a five-star ratingÂ...in spite of the time and the ambient war which Lilly and her family must survive, the story is not gruesome, but rather, it is a statement about the depth and strength of the human soul, and ultimately, really, of the love that drives people on in spite of all the reasons not to love. Highly recommended." Â-International Writers Inspiring Change (IWIC) 

About the Author 
Annette Oppenlander is a historical novelist who weaves past events, people and stories into a rich tapestry. When she isnÂ't in front of her computer, she shares her knowledge through writing workshops and indulges her old mutt, Mocha. In her spare time she travels around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. The mother of three Â'formerÂ' teens, Annette lives with her husband in Bloomington, Ind. where she is also treasurer of the Writers Guild. 

For complimentary review copies, booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, and/or book-signings, contact annette.oppenlander@yahoo.com. More information about the author is available at annetteoppenlander.com.  
 

10/02/2017
Surviving the Fatherland is a Finalist '2017 Kindle Book Awards'

Congrats to the 2017 Kindle Book Award Finalists & Semi-finalists!

Formats
Ebook Details
  • 03/2017
  • 978-0-9977800-3-1 B06WD8GJ3P
  • 371 pages
  • $4.99
Paperback Details
  • 03/2017
  • 978-0-9977800-4-8
  • 370 pages
  • $16.99
Audio Details
  • 07/2017
  • B0742LHGNY
  • 370 pages
  • $24.95

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