The Road We Took-4 Days in Germany 1933
By the Author Cathy Lewis
My experience writing: The Road We Took-4 Days in Germany 1933
To me, writing my novel feels like I've been on a magical journey of discovery for the last four years. One uniquely designed just for me.
While most people make a decision to write a book, my pathway to authoring a novel is quite different from most.
In 2018, a surgery loomed before me—one in which I would have to take six months off from work to recover. I'm a professional chef by trade and education. Along with the time off from work, I could not bear weight or walk on my right foot for six months. I needed a creative project to keep me from going bonkers while recovering.
I've had in my possession since 1995 a small suitcase that contained the artifacts from my father's six-week trek through Europe in 1933, with his American Boy Scout Troop from Rochester, NY. The destination: the 4th World Jamboree, held in Godollo, Hungary.
As a young girl, I remember my father talking about the trip, recalling a few stories he told me. Facing imminent surgery, I thought, "now is the perfect time to investigate the suitcase."
Much to my surprise, I found a treasure within the suitcase, a pearl of great price- my dad's daily journal. Every day he recorded the many aspects of his trip-where he went, what he saw, what he thought. My dad was almost seventeen. I reveled each time I read more from the journal. I couldn't read it all in one sitting because my dad used a fountain pen, the journals spaces between the lines were small, some of my dad's perfect script penmanship bled between the lines. The journal, after all, was 85 years old! To remedy my reading issues, I purchased a large stand lighted magnifier.
While reading the journal, my memory sprang to life, recalling many of the stories shared with me as a young girl. My dad's voice came through loud and clear as I read.
After the Jamboree, my dad's troop traveled for four days through Germany.
I was awe-struck when I read some of the entries describing massive Hitler rallies and parades in Munich and Nuremberg. I recalled him speaking about hundreds of tanks, trucks, thousands and thousands of military troops, a gigantic display of military might, all to the delight of rabid, Hitler-loving supporters, who jammed the streets.
In essence, what my dad didn't know at the time-Germany had breached the treaty of Versailles.
He saw something the world did not yet know about-that as early as August 1933, Hitler had his fascist regime in full gear, speeding ahead.
While in Vienna, my dad met a Hitler Youth named Wolfren Wolften. Wolften, a former Boy Scout, desperately desired to attend the Jamboree. Hitler decreed that no German or Austrian boy could attend the Jamboree. Hitler also made it compulsory to quit all other organizations and enlist in Hitler Youth.
My dad wrote about the boy, spoke with him at length, and declared, "I found him to be a fine fellow." That one sentence, those eight words shook me to the core and became the impetus for my book.
Fast forward ten years and my dad would marry a Jewish immigrant whose extended family died, murdered at the hands of the Nazis when the Nazis liquidated their occupied town.
I pondered, "did this fine fellow have a part in that?" That was my seminal moment where I knew I had to write about my findings.
While always possessing a desire to write, I never felt adequate or capable of writing more than a few poems, and as a chef, required writing consisted of menu and recipe writing. Nothing compelling about that, unless, of course, you were hungry!
I spoke with my cousin about my findings. She insisted I write about it, telling me, "This is important history and the story of your father, and you must write about it!"
My book began with that thought among the others in mind.
I decided first to do historical research to validate anything written about that period so that my book would be historically accurate. After two months, I compiled enough information to use as references.
When I sat down to write, I made a startling discovery-my writing process seemed much like my cooking process. I did the same practices-research, prepare, cook-except here, you change out writing for cook.
Another incredible occurrence happened once I decided to write. The words poured out of me like a fire hose turned on at full blast. I had a lot to say. Because of the nature and time of my deep-dig and research, I found information about my mom's extended family, but not enough to answer all of my questions.
My novel is classified as historical fiction, and I weave stories from numerous sources into my novel. I include stories of my mom's sojourn from Panama to the United States, portrayed through my characters, detailed in the book.
I spoke about ten years later at the beginning of this piece-ten years later, in late 1943, my dad was stationed with the US Army in the Panama Canal Zone. In the same year, at age nineteen, my mom moved to the Canal zone from Ecuador to find employment at the Army base, where she met my dad. Six months later, they married.
Previously, in 1919, my mom's parents fled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, escaping the Anti-Semitic town of occupied Baranovichi, Poland. They escaped to start new lives and raise a family, leaving behind their relatives.
Their entire family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins fell into the hands of the Nazis- some murdered when the Nazis liquidated their town, and some sent to concentration camps.
My mom seldom spoke of these events, which brought overwhelming grief. I share in that grief as I thirst for more details depicting what happened to my relatives.
I feel like there is another book to write regarding my mom's family. I will continue on my quest to discover more facts.