Archive for August, 2017

Against All Odds

My book Against All Odds is now published in eBook format and can be found at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Tolino, Playster, Scribd, amd Inktera.  Apple, 24 Symbols, and OverDrive should carry it soon also.

Against All Odds Final

For you to get acquainted with what the book is about I have copied the pages below


There comes a time in most people’s lives when someone who has come to know you asks, “Why do you do that?”  Or perhaps while discussing a significant issue with others a person asks you, “Why do you believe this?”  These also might be questions you are led to ask yourself after an experience that causes you to want to examine your habits or beliefs.  It is a good practice to do so occasionally, even if it is for no reasons other than to wish to change a practice or grow in understanding.

One of the admonitions the Apostle Peter gives us is to always be ready to give others an answer why we believe salvation and eternal life are attainable through Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (KJV).  We are living in an age of information overload.  Confronted by the unrelenting flood of knowledge and news it has become most difficult to take time for reflection to quietly explore questions relating to who we are, and on what we have based our beliefs.  In Psalm forty-six verse ten the Lord instructs us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  The Psalmist reminds us to take time away from the whirlwind of our days to know what we believe in our innermost being.

Back when I had completed my first two or three books I had determined to eventually try to write a Christian adventure or love story. After self-publishing my sixth novel, I began to wonder and ask what I should write next.  I had written two historical adventure stories.  Two others can be classified as novels in the genre of crime.  Another is a romance novel, and one is a love story set in a fictional Christian background.  In it I explore how tragedies affect people and even shake the strongest faith.  Now I felt the time was right to attempt that Christian adventure story.  For inspiration for a story I had begun to read Christian novels.

I tend to get my ideas for stories from something I see, read or hear that intrigues me or causes me to ask serious questions.  My novel, “Secrets of Hawking Manor” grew from a painting of an old English country estate I had seen in a hotel with its own history.  The painting had captured my interest and imagination.  I couldn’t get the scene of the estate out of my mind.  I wondered what kind of people might have lived at that estate in its glory days, what their joys and their sorrows were, and what problems and opportunities their time in history presented to them.  I invented the characters, spent many hours researching the time in history in which I had set the novel and enjoyed writing the story of the lives of my characters.  These characters became my companions throughout the months I wrote the novel.  The research of the time in history in which I had set the storyline I found delightful and enlightening.  It inspired me to write a sequel.  I received my inspiration for the next five novels in similar fashion, and I enjoyed writing each one of those novels as well.

As I have mentioned, once I had completing my last novel, I decided to write that Christian book I had thought I would like to write years earlier, but inspiration and enthusiasm for the themes and characters I had explored abandoned me.  Even though I had played with several ideas in my mind the excitement I needed to settle on one of these and start to plan for plot and characters did not emerge with any of my ideas.  Then I read an account of one of the Apostles named in the New Testament.  That narrative did ignite my interest.  But the more I thought about writing a novel featuring a hero or a heroin who encounters adventures like this disciple had experienced on his travels two thousand years earlier, I realized it was not what I wanted my next book to be.

What I knew of these disciples’ lives and ministries, what I had read of the messages they had left behind was a reason for my faith.  Fictionalizing this did not appeal to me the more I thought about it.  Struggling to sort out what I wanted to write I became convinced I should find out as much as I could about each of these men who had followed Jesus for several years.  I was sure they had encountered many adventures and had to overcome many difficulties.  The idea struck me to search beyond what I knew of them and write about what I found out.

Consequently, I determined to challenge myself to do the mountain of research I knew it would require and write not a novel, as I had first thought to do, but a nonfiction account.  While I had read the account that morning which had inspired me, I had also felt deeply drawn to once more analyse the reasons why I had believed all biblical teachings to be true.  I had trusted that Jesus Christ is the Son of God through whom I had become reconciled to an almighty God many years earlier.  It was not that I had begun to doubt what I believed, but I thought it good to show how my experiences validated my faith and to share my testimony of the power of God’s love.

 Chapter 3:  Who Were the Disciples?

The twelve disciples or apostles as they were called after Jesus had risen were twelve men Jesus had called to spent time with him, to learn from him and to get to know him. A disciple is a student, an apprentice and an adherent and follower.  He wanted to teach them about God, show them who he was, explain what he came to do and tell them of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It follows, in my opinion, that his purpose also would have been to prepare them for a life of witnessing of what they had heard him say and saw him do.  We read in the Gospels that one day walking by the Sea of Galilee Jesus saw two fishermen mending their nets.  He called them to follow him, and told them he would make them fishers of men.  Incredible to me is the fact that they left everything and followed him immediately.  See Matthew 4:18-20.

Reading this begs me to ask, what kind of man was this who could ask two individuals working at their trade to go with him, and they do so straight away leaving behind their means to make their living?  Days before this Andrew, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist had introduced Peter to Jesus, but we read nowhere that Jesus had asked either of these two to follow him at that meeting.  In John 1:40-42 we read, One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah.  You shall be called Cephas’ which is translated, a Stone.” (NKJV).  Jewish people at this time were hoping for the promised Messiah to come, free them from Roman rule and set up a kingdom.

In Luke 3:15-16 we read of their waiting for this fulfillment of God’s promise.  “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.  John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water.  But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” (NIV)

Andrew and Peter were fishermen.  They along with their father, Jonah, owned their boat and perhaps more than one.  It took much work to maintain the equipment needed to be successful at their trade.  Peter was a married man.  His wife’s mother lived them.  Their father likely had dependents too.  Clearly, Andrew and Peter were convinced this man who called them to follow him was no ordinary man.  It appears they did not debate whether their father could carry on alone.  They did not ask how they would support their dependants.

Jesus did not assure them of property or wealth when he called them.  He only promised to make them fishers of people.  They did not ask what he meant by fishers of men, nor what they would need to do or what it would cost them.  Neither did Jesus hide from them that they would face persecution and hardships for following him.

Most interesting to me also, reading and researching information about the individuals known as Jesus’ disciples was to realize that the twelve men were ordinary people like most of us are.  In fact, Mathew was a tax collector, someone the people at that time despised.  Simon the Zealot was a revolutionary who actively opposed the Roman occupation forces.  Several of them were fishermen.  They ranged greatly in temperament.  Some were headstrong and other timid.  There were those who firmly believed the Messiah would come soon, and there were doubters in this group of men.

Like Andrew and Peter, Jesus called the sons of Zebedee, James and John while they were at their place of work.  They too were fishermen.  It is thought by some writers that their father was a man of means.  Some writers suggest James and John were Andrew and Peter’s partners.  Being fishermen they, no doubt, at least knew each other.

One of the twelve, Judas Iscariot has become infamous over the centuries for his betrayal of Jesus.  Even after two thousand years it is not unusual to hear someone call a person who betrayed their confidence a Judas.  To me this disciple is pitiful.  He heard Jesus speak of how to reap treasures in heaven and many other amazing things.  He saw him heal lepers and calm a storm. He was a witness when Jesus raised their friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  What was Judas thinking?  What motivated him to sell Jesus out to those who wanted him crucified?  We know from the Gospels that he was responsible for the group’s funds and appeared to love money.  Still, it is hard to think he would betray his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  I read in the Gospels that Jesus once asked what it would profit someone to gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process, and wonder what Judas state of mind was.  With that act he had fulfilled an Old Testament prophesy.  See Zechariah 11: 12-13.  Judas had sold his soul not for the whole world but for thirty pieces of silver.

The other men Jesus called also were common folk, men of average talents and means.  Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus were all called individually or brought to Jesus by another disciple.  These five are less known.  Less is written about them, but each one continued to the end of his life to be an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, and each one continued to proclaim Jesus’ message against great odds and unjust persecution.

In the pages to follow I will attempt to find as much as is possible and describe each of the twelve men individually fully, and say to what conclusion each of their portraits has led me.  In addition, I will research and write about four others of whom we read in the Bible and who also were eyewitnesses or would have been able to meet and speak to eyewitnesses in their search for the truth about Jesus, the Messiah.

Who were these twelve men?  They were ordinary men.  No special accomplishments or talents had distinguished them from millions of other men before Jesus had called them to follow him.  Their education consisted of what was offered all Jewish boys who eventually would make their living at a trade commonly found at their time in history.  They lived in a country occupied by Roman legions and controlled by Roman law.  They lived in the hope that soon the Messiah who had been promised them by several prophets in the Scriptures would come and free them from Roman rule.

Following Jesus they at first had believed they had found the Messiah who would set up this promised Jewish kingdom for which the people of the land had hoped for a long time.  But being with Jesus for three years they learned of all that Jesus taught, and they began to realize he had not come to set up an earthly kingdom.  They saw the miracles he performed.  It had to convince them Jesus was more than just a man.  His death by crucifixion, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension opened their eyes to who he truly was.  They had realized that instead of freeing Israel from Roman rule they had found the Son of God who had come to prepare for them a place in his heavenly kingdom.  They had found he had come to offer them and all men women and children a life full of meaning on this earth and eternal life thereafter in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Apostles One by One

Chapter 5: Thaddaeus

As I start this section I want to focus on the lesser known disciples first.  One of these men was Thaddaeus.  Little is known about his life.  His name in Greek means large hearted and courageous.  Some writers describe him as good hearted with a servant’s attitude.  Others thought he had been a Zealot and had not been opposed to using force.  He is sometimes paired with Simon the Zealot.  He is also referred to by at least three names.  Matthew in the tenth chapter calls him Thaddaeus.  At that occasion Jesus had called his disciples together to send them out to witness to the people of Israel.

Thaddaeus appears to be the name by which he is most often called.  Other names sometimes used are Labbaeus and Judas, son of James, as he is identified in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13.  From the account in Acts 1:13 we also learn that he was part of the group of disciples in the “Upper Room” after Jesus ascended to heaven, and the eleven disciples chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot.  He is also sometimes referred to as Jude, the son of James. Some scholars think he may be the author of the short Book of Jude in the Bible.  Still others believe later authors trying to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot shortened Judas to Jude in his case.

If he wrote that book of Jude, he was a master of crafting beautifully expressive language.  The opening greeting is delightfully worded.  The Doxology at the end of the book which is quoted below in its simplicity is nothing short of elegant and beautiful.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 1:24-25 (KJV)

What we know for certain is that Thaddaeus was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples as his name appears in the lists when these men are named.  We also know he was one Jesus sent out along with the other eleven at the time described by Matthew in chapter ten. They were to go out to cast out evil spirits and heal the sick.  Their message was to tell the people that the Kingdom of Heaven was near.  That he was part of this group I believe shows he was seen by Jesus as worthy and able to carry out this task assigned to him and these men.  The assignment was not an easy one.  They were not to take with them things to sustain and protect them like bread, a change of clothes, money, a bag to carry things in or a walking stick.  See Luke 9:1-10.  Jesus also told them that they may not be welcomed by the people in some of the towns and villages, and he prepared them for that kind of eventual occasion.

Some writers examining the apostles suggest that Thaddaeus was the brother of James the lesser and perhaps even his twin.  Both are referred to in the Gospels as sons of Alpheus or of Cleophas and Mary.  They both called Galilee home.  It is likely, therefore, that they were brothers.  Some biblical scholars believed both were married and had children.  Some also suggest that these two men had been fishermen like several others of the disciples were.  There are scholars who believe they were brought to Jesus by James and John the sons of Zebedee.  We know from the Gospels that these later two were fishermen by trade.  However, it is not recorded in the Gospels what occupation Thaddaeus had practiced or how he came to be one of the twelve.

Still other accounts list him together with Simon the Zealot, a man actively opposing the Roman occupation of their country, an act that carried with it a penalty of imprisonment or death by crucifixion.  To the contrary, we know he did not attempt to fight when the band of soldiers and officers of the high priest came, led by Judas Iscariot, to arrest Jesus and take him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.  This band of Roman soldiers consisted of three to six hundred men trained to put down all riots or rebellions.  It appears they came prepared and equipped for a fight.  Only Peter drew a sword and wounded the high priest’s servant before Jesus told him to put his weapon away, but he was not a Zealot.

We find one event in the Gospels that featured Thaddaeus specifically.  After the Last Supper Jesus prepared his disciples for his death, and he comforted them.  He told them the world will soon no longer see him, but that they will see him again, and he would send them the Holy Spirit.  At that point Thaddaeus turned to him and asked a question that suggests that even with all the miracles he had seen Jesus perform he had not yet fully comprehended who Jesus really was and for what reason he had come to the world.  Perhaps he still hoped Jesus had come to overthrow the Roman occupation and set up a kingdom in Israel.

In John 14:22 (NKJV) we read, “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”  The prevalent belief by the people of Israel was that the Messiah would come to set up a kingdom and free them from Roman rule.  This disciple must have had no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, but Thaddaeus had failed to understand who the Messiah truly was.  No doubt he imagined he would receive an important post in the kingdom when Jesus became king and had hoped that this time was close at hand.  We also know from the Gospel accounts that like most of the other disciples Thaddaeus abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and put on trial.

The talk of the town and in the area around Jerusalem centered all around the crucifixion and the things that had happened there on the weekend of the crucifixion.  The men walking to Emmaus spoke of it.  Luke in chapter twenty-four verses thirteen and fifteen tells us, “That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”

While we know they had deserted him and were hiding, it is still safe for us to assume that the disciple Thaddaeus and the rest of the disciples would have known Jesus had been crucified and had died shortly after this had occurred.  With that knowledge, no doubt, Thaddaeus’ dream of being freed of the Roman rule and of a separate kingdom rising in Israel had perished also.  This had to be a disappointment to him.  His understanding that Jesus was the Son of God came to him a little later, as it did to others of Jesus’ followers.  After Thaddaeus and the rest of the disciples had found out Jesus had risen from the dead they appeared to have been bewildered until Jesus came to them where they were hiding.

From the time of Jesus resurrection onward this man called Thaddaeus no longer had illusions about having an important place in an earthly kingdom.  Tradition tells us he travelled to preach and to heal people in Judea, Samaria, Syria and Libya.  It is also likely he had visited Beirut and Edessa, after Jesus’ ascension.  We know Jesus had prepared his disciples for the task of going out and telling people about him.  From those several earlier times when Jesus had sent them out Thaddaeus would have known he would encounter hardships and even hostile encounters.  Still, he went telling all people with whom he came in contact what he had heard Jesus say, what he had witnessed him do, and that he had come to this world to offer each man, woman and child salvation and eternal life.  To those who doubted he could have said, “I know it is so for I saw him alive shortly after he had died on that Roman cross.”

It is believed he preached in Edessa a town near the Euphrates River, healed many there and many believed the message he had proclaimed.  Tradition tells us that he also preached in Assyria and Persia.  Several scholars suggest he was martyred on one of his mission trips in the area of Ararat in present day Turkey in 65 AD, when he refused to renounce his belief in Jesus Christ.  It is believed he was shot with arrows or killed with an axe.

What may we conclude with a high degree of certainty from the fact that he chose to be brutally killed rather than deny that Jesus was the Son of God?  I believe Thaddaeus, called by Jesus to follow him, had heard his messages, had seen how he had lived and had observed how he had loved the people around him who were lost.  Convinced Jesus was the Son of God once he saw him alive again after he had been crucified, he valued his earthly life much less than the eternal life Jesus had promised him. Thaddaeus had glimpsed eternity. He could not but remain faithful to Jesus.  He witnessed most of the miracles Jesus had performed, and he was convinced now beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Messiah, the Son of God.  If it could be possible for us to ask him, if he could vouch for all he had seen Jesus do, and if he had actually been with Jesus several times after he had been crucified and had risen from the dead, I have no doubt he would say something like, “I have touched the nail prints in his hands.  I know my Redeemer lives”

Chapter 19:  My Life Experiences

Reasons to doubt

But what have my own experiences taught me?  By nature, upbringing or by life’s early encounters I am skeptical.  For others to convince me of a point I will likely ask them to show me rather than just tell me. I know I learn best that way.  Common sense to me is one important guide also when making decisions.  I like to analyze and dig deeper when I deal with ideas and events that are not immediately transparent.  “Prove it,” is a phrase I have said more than once.  What then have the events in my life shown me?

On the previous pages I have already pointed to several reasons why I choose to believe what the Bible teaches.  For me the wonderfully accurate functioning together of all things I find in nature speaks of the existence of an all-powerful intelligence, God.  Having read and considered what the Bible declares I find I cannot dismiss biblical accounts as only stories of overactive minds.  The crucifixion and resurrection accounts are historical facts.  From my childhood onward those accounts have always had a profound effect on me.  Many prophesies of the Old Testament, I cannot deny, point to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Emmanuel.  The life and testimony of the eyewitnesses are more than convincing of what Jesus taught, the miracles he performed and who he is, in my estimation.  But what have my life experiences taught me?  Do my experiences line up with what I have chosen to believe based on the above reasons?  Have I found that the almighty God of the Bible really is interested in the life of all individuals including me, and does he hear their and my prayers?

First let me recall events in my life giving me reasons that should have been sufficient for me to claim there is no God, or at least to believe there is no benevolent God.  I was born in Breslau, capital of Silesia. It was and is a beautiful city on the River Oder.  The city, after the Second World War, when the borders of Germany were redrawn by Russia and the Western Powers, became part of Poland.  It is now known as Wroclaw.

We lived in a comfortable home on the Koenig’s Strasse translated King’s Street.  My parents were well to do.  As a three-year-old child I remember going on one of my father’s business trips in an automobile driven by a chauffeur.  Few people owned motor vehicles at that time and fewer had chauffeurs to drive them.  I also remember a young lady who helped my mother with household chores and with us children.  I recall teasing this young woman in mischievous ways and now wish I had been always kind to her.

My early childhood memories of our home in Breslau are all happy ones.  I vividly recall Sunday afternoon strolls in the city and the countryside many times with my extended family.  We often stopped for cake or ice cream on these walks.  Swimming on my father’s back in the river was a favorite activity for me.  Listening to my mother reading to us and reciting poetry in her animated way always was a special time for me.  We sometimes visited my grandparents and aunts.  Some lived in the city and others in a town nearby.  These events were wonderful times.  Celebrating Christmas and Easter for all of us were always happy occasions.  But all this changed in the late summer of 1944.

The air raid sirens from that time on began to wail much more often, and when taking walks into the city center with my mother and siblings on warm days I could now see buildings that lay in ruin.  Early in the New Year my father could make no more business trips.  He, along with all able-bodied males of over fourteen years of age and older not in some way connected to the army for one of the permitted reasons, was now pressed into service and forced to defend the city from the advancing Russian troops.  I don’t recall seeing him any longer from that early January onward.  After the happy Christmas holidays, he was not home much of the time.  Bombing raids of the city increased daily.  We now often hurried to take cover in the basement or the shelters of the city when we did venture out on sunny days.  I did not understand what this was all about and wondered why people who lived in other countries wanted to hurt us.

I also noticed a change that had come over my mother.  The songs she used to sing or hum I no longer heard.  Her face often spoke of fear to me.  One day I watched her reprimand a small group of German boys bullying two other, younger children carrying home small milk cans.  I had sometimes also gone with my mother to the store with a one-liter milk can to purchase fresh milk.  These two children, not much older than I was, wore black armbands which I later found out Jewish children had to wear.  They had not been accompanied by an adult.  When I asked my mother why the older boys would not let these two pass by, she bent down to me, and I think her hands shook before she spoke.  Her eyes grew large.  She whispered to me, “You must not ever tell anyone what I just did out there.”  She usually took time to answer and explain all my many questions that I often asked her, but that was all she had said this day.  It had baffled me at the time that she would say no more.  We also made no more trips to my grandparents from that time on, and the young lady who had helped my mother came no longer to our house having been ordered to do duties in support of defending the city.  I’m sure despite my teasing her she would have liked to stay, but she had no choice but to obey.

At that time in Germany power was held by a few people.  Men called Gauleiters were top party officials and were powerful and greatly feared.  Disregarding their orders often resulted in the dissenter disappearing and winding up in a secret camp, now known by all as Concentration Camps.  Most of the subordinates of these men were feared also.  They reported the most minor offenses that sometimes resulted in dreadful consequences.  My grandfather during a parade of an army unit did not salute Hitler and for that offense was blacklisted, lost his job and could only secretly earn a living from that time onward.  One of his friends who had celebrated to much the previous night had dressed in a uniform of the Kaiser’s time who had reigned previously in Germany.  This friend had shouted from the horse on which he rode a salute to this dead King.  He was not seen or heard from again until after the war.  I was too young to have a clear understanding of all that had occurred in those days, but I did realize that many things had changed.  It had not escaped me that the smiles I had usually seen on the faces of the people I knew had disappeared.  I had sensed a condition in our neighborhood that I could not grasp at the time, but had eventually realized to have been fear and uncertainty.

It was near the middle of January that one day a man came to our house and told my mother we would have to leave our home that day and go to a village some distance to the west of the city where there would be a room for us in a house he had identified for my mother.  I don’t remember much about this village except it had snowed on our trip there and during the days we had remained there.  To me it had appeared that the lady of the house did not seem to care much for us staying in a room in her house, when she had showed us the room where we were to stay and the bathroom in the hallway.  She had looked somewhat older than my mother to me.  Her husband was likely where most able-bodied men were, in the army or recently conscripted.  I had not seen any children in the house while we were there, but in the backyard stood a swing set for children.

We were there for a little more than a week.  Then we were able to go back home, as the Russian army had been beaten back according to a conversation I had overheard.  The most vivid memory I have of that week in this village was of the one Sunday afternoon we had lived there.  I had followed several older children who were taking their sleighs to a hillside where they took turns sleighing down the hill.  I was happy because two of these children gave me a ride a few times, but as the day turned to dusk they began to leave to go back to their home.  I suddenly realized that I did not remember in which house we had our room.  The houses all looked the same to me.  I had followed the other children back and had walked past the house where we had our room.  I had walked back and forth on the street where I knew the house was without recognizing into which I should go.  When it was nearly dark I had become panicked.  Then I had spied my mother searching for me.  She had rescued me, but to do so she had to leave my two younger sisters behind alone to go out to find me.  While I’m sure she was displeased with me, she hugged me when she had found me.  It had been the first time in my life that I had experienced the feeling of being lost.  Its impact would remain with me for several years.

Back home in Breslau the air raid sirens sounded now daily and sometimes into the night.  Before we were allowed to turn on lights in a room at night we had to make sure drapes or blinds were pulled so no light could be detected outside.  Early in February the man who had told us to leave a few weeks earlier came to our house again and told my mother we had one hour to begin traveling westward.  I’m not sure if he had stipulated a village to which we were to go.  My mother had decided previously that if the fighting continued we would travel to Bavaria where one of my father’s sisters lived with her family, and to where his mother and other two sisters had gone weeks earlier.  My mother had packed, after we had returned from the village where we had lived for a few days, a backpack for her and a small one for my sister, who is a year younger than I am, and one for me.  These stood ready day and night for us to take in the event we had to flee again.  Under the mattress and blankets of my baby sister’s carriage she had stored valuables and money.  Our beautiful city had become a scary place.

Sections of the city now lay in ruin, and all women and old people I saw looked to me to be sad and afraid.  I could not understand why they spoke so little now and smiled no more.  On the first day or two we had traveled by train.  It had stopped often and did not move at night, as no lights were to be seen.  Often when we came to areas where the rail lines were damaged by bombs we had to leave the train.  At those times we walked.  One day my mother managed to get us a ride on a horse drawn wagon for a distance.  I vaguely recall sitting on it as it rambled along.  It was a short time later that we were able to catch a train again, although this one was a freight train.  The days had grown cold and it snowed lightly, I recall.  This train carried us to the outskirts of Dresden on February 12, 1945 according to my mother.  It was just before dusk when we had to leave the train, because of anticipated bombing raids predicted for this area.  Accompanied by the continuous droning of distant air raid sirens we began to walk toward the city to find a shelter for the night.

That trek into the city had covered about ten kilometers.  I can almost still feel the weight of the small backpack getting ever heavier, as I hung on to one side of the carriage.  My younger sister on the other side trudged along without a word, but I had begun to complain. At one point I sat down on the curb of the street we had crossed saying I wanted to go no further.  My mother, patient and creative had me soon up and moving and looking forward to something to eat that she was sure we would find at a shelter.

It seemed like an eternity before we came to a theater complex where we were invited to enter and stay for the night.  No opera, ballet or music artist would perform there that night.  Most of the seats had been cleared out and on the sunken floor we found straw and blankets spread out on top of it.  Other Flichtlinge (fleeing people in German) had already claimed a spot in the floor.

I remember throwing off my pack and coat at an empty place.  Flopping on the blankets and fully stretching out.  I was happy to have arrived at a warm place.  We did receive a bowl of warm soup and a slice of bread, and I soon forgot about my tired feet.  It was around ten that night that my mother suddenly told us to get our coats on again. To my sister’s and my loud complaints, she helped us button our coats and shoulder our backpacks.  To our questions she told us we would go and look for a better shelter.  The bombing attack sirens had not quit their eerie warnings as we trudged back into the darkness.  I don’t remember how long we walked.  Eventually my mother found an underground air raid shelter she thought would keep us safe.

After leaving the theater that had been prepared for the many women and children fleeing westward for their lives who had stopped for the night in Dresden, we came across a youth who seemed to wander around without having any place to go.  He looked to me to be the age of high school boys.  I had learned some years later that he was a young conscientious objector who wanted to stay out of sight for fear of being sent to prison.  My mother taking pity on him told him to stay with us.  She would eventually smuggle him into that underground shelter as her young, injured brother.  At the shelter she had found she was repeatedly told at first that it was full.  The person in charge kept telling her to hurry on in search of another shelter.  But that individual didn’t know my mother.  She was a strong-willed woman.  She would not budge and eventually had managed to persuade the woman in charge to make room for us.

The next day and for the next forty-eight hours the sirens wailed without stopping it had appeared to me.  Objects in the shelter shook.  I remember that the air inside the shelter appeared to vibrate sometimes.  Occasionally dust or sand dribbled from cracks in the ceiling.  The heat that next day became almost unbearable.  We learned eventually that the Allied warplanes had dropped not only bombs but also incendiary devices.  I can still see and hear in my mind an elderly lady continually crying.  She had gone insane from fear my mother had told me years later.  In my youth I wondered sometimes what had become of her.

The first morning when no bombs appeared to fall any longer and the sirens had stopped sounding the signal for active air raids, I wondered what had happened.  Shortly after daybreak my mother hurried to bundle us up, and soon we were ready to leave the shelter.  I will never forget picking our way from the city’s center to the outskirts of Dresden.  Everywhere I looked I saw ruins.  Parts of damaged walls reached into the sky where once buildings stood.  Smoke rose from many sites.  The streets were covered with rubble, parts of buildings and trees.  Hanging on a jagged wall still standing of what had been a tall building the burnout fuselage of a fighter plane stuck.  To my surprise I cannot remember what it smelled like around us that morning, as we tried to find our way out of the city.  For a good portion of the cloudy morning we walked in circles trying to pick our way through the debris.  To this day I wonder how my mother managed to push the baby’s buggy through all the debris obstructing the streets.  Not many people had ventured out into the open when we had left.  Dawn also seemed to struggle to advance.

Eventually we passed the place where the theater once stood, where we had stopped for one or two hours on our way into the city.  It took me quite a while to recognize the place despite not being able to stop staring at the wreckage and the men trying to clear away parts of the walls.  Even in my young mind, not yet six years old, a bell tolled with the message that my mother, sisters and I might have had to be pulled from those ruins that morning had we remained there.  My mother silently hurried us past the site.


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