Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest post by Helena P. Schrader, author of An Obsolete Honor

Today I'd like to welcome Helena P. Schrader to Diary of an Eccentric. Helena is the author of An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler, an engrossing story that takes place during World War II and centers on one officer involved in the July 20, 1944, attempt to kill Hitler. You can read my review of the book here.

Here's what Helena has to say about An Obsolete Honor:

My books are like children. They cause me great joy--but much worry and despair and frustration as well. They are never perfect, but I love them just the same. And they are all different, all unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses.

An Obsolete Honor is unique because it is the book which incorporates the greatest amount of primary research. While all my books reflect and incorporate my own experiences and observations of mankind combined with historical research, An Obsolete Honor is a book which reflects encounters--interviews and deep, lasting friendships--with hundreds of survivors of the Second World War. Its greatest strength is its authenticity: this is a book that shows the reader what it was like to be part of the military and humanitarian resistance in Nazi Germany. Its weakness is that--like the German Resistance itself--it is a long, complicated story.

While some of my novels virtually write themselves, An Obsolete Honor has been re-written many times as my own understanding of the events described evolved and I met more and more people with important insights into the Resistance. I lived in Berlin, Germany for over 20 years and there I came to know personally a number of the key figures in the German Resistance and/or their widows and children. Through them I was introduced to others, including the widow of Claus Graf von Stauffenberg, Nina. I was friends with the would-be assassin Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche, visiting him at his various homes over the years, and I was particularly close to General Olbricht's widow, Eva, and his son-in-law Friedrich Georgi. (For those of you interested in more about these individuals, I have published four short articles on "Encounters with Survivors" featuring Axel von dem Bussche, Marion Countess Yorck, Philipp Baron von Boeselager and Renate Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's niece here.) All these courageous and exceptional people taught me about Nazi Germany and the German Resistance by sharing with me their memories, experiences, feelings, observations and analysis. I learned how to see Germany through their eyes, and I learned about motives, human nature and emotions in times of exceptional stress in a way that no history book can even come close to depicting.

An Obsolete Honor captures some--but by no means all--of these lessons. In fact, the very greatest difficulty in writing An Obsolete Honor was to edit it down to a coherent story without removing too much of the diversity that is a fundamental part of any historical period and the human experience of history. The stories of even ordinary people who experience exceptional events are always the stuff of novels, so by the time I had been living in Berlin only a few months, I had already heard more great stories than I could possibly put into one novel. But the men and women who had the courage to oppose the Nazi regime are more than witnesses of historic events. They were--each and every one of them--men and women of unique ethical stature and exceptional character. They may have been people from ordinary backgrounds, with ordinary education and jobs, but they were not ordinary people.

An Obsolete Honor is my tribute and my memorial to the German Resistance. It was a labor of love, which I dedicate to those who took part in the Resistance in their many different ways, but it is not about the Resistance alone. The German opposition to the Nazi regime was a series of tiny, isolated islands in a vast ocean of opportunism whipped up by the winds of Nazi fanaticism into a violent destructive force. The opposition was overwhelmed, it foundered and failed. This is why the opposition cannot be described in isolation. As important is the Resistance, is the environment in which it existed, and so An Obsolete Honor attempts to give the reader a feel for the entire spectrum of political and human attitudes toward Nazism, even while it gives pride of place to the Resistance.

If I can give my reader insight into the complexity of life in Nazi Germany and a sense of humility before the Resistance I will have accomplished what I set out to do with this particular novel. I hope that no reader finishes An Obsolete Honor without having seriously put themselves in the shoes of my characters and honestly asked themselves what they would have done in the same circumstances.

Thank you.

Award-Winning Novelist Helena P. Schrader is the author of An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler.

Thanks, Helena, for taking the time to tell your story to me and my readers. This is an important book, and I look forward to reading more about this period of history.


Serena said...

What a great guest post about the trials of writing such a complicated and rich story. Thanks, Helena, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

Marie Cloutier said...

Wow, great interview. She's telling an important story and one that we should remember. Thanks.

Marie Cloutier said...

I gave your blog an award!

The Bookworm said...

Interesting guest post, this book sounds so moving.

Julie P. said...


You won AESOP'S FABLES from Booking Mama. Please e-mail me with your mailing address.

Anna said...

~Serena: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

~Marie: Thanks! I agree that the efforts of the resistance needs to be remembered. And thanks for the award!

~Naida: Definitely. If you have a chance, I think you should check it out.

~Julie: Thanks so much! I've emailed you.

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful guest post. I can tell a lot of care and hard work went into this book. I am looking foirward to reading it.

Anna said...

~Teddy Rose: Helena's commitment to keeping the memory of the resistance alive definitely shone through in the book. I hope you find it a great read, too.