By Ernie McCray
I met a woman named Eleanor Ramrath Garner early in April at a nice party at a beautiful Del Mar home with a wonderful view on a warm inviting sunny day.
The gathering had everything I like: delicious food; refreshing drinks; interesting witty people, scholars all, practically, filled with colorful stories to tell and they didn’t mind telling them.
Some of them had written doctoral studies and books and essays for professional publications. Eleanor happened to mention that she was an author. She didn’t say what her book was about but something about her made me want to read it. So I looked for it on Amazon.
And there it was: “Eleanor’s Story, an American Girl in Hitler’s Germany.” I clicked on “See a random page” and a picture appeared of Eleanor’s little brother and sister on Christmas Day in 1945 with the words “This was our best Christmas ever because we had survived the bombings, the Battle of Berlin, and hunger.”
I was sold. And, oh, what a riveting journey this book takes a reader on. It’s hard for me to believe that a girl, who had gone through what she and her family went through as a result of Adolph Hitler’s madness, was the woman who sat in front of me – so relaxed and at peace with herself, enjoying hors d’ouvere and good company in a chic beach town.
It was a fast read for me because it was hard to close the book. I couldn’t help but wonder what horrifying experiences this family would have to endure next.
Without getting into it much, Eleanor tells of how during the Great Depression, when she was nine, her family moves from her beloved America to Germany, where her father has been offered a good job. But war breaks out as her family is crossing the Atlantic, and they cannot return to the United States.
While there, Eleanor joins the Hitler Youth Program where she learns to be of good use for Germany in the midst of fascist oppression and the ravaging carpet bombings that come with the constant air raids and the invasions from allied forces: terror epitomized.
The family moves from place to place to avoid as much of the mayhem as possible but no place is really secure. Eleanor’s family, however, somehow, survived Hitler’s Germany, one of the few to do so. She and her dad and brother eventually went back to America but they had to leave her little brother and sister and her mother behind because they were not U.S. citizens. After a while, the family had earned and saved enough money to bring everybody home.
A story as brilliantly and sensitively written as this one doesn’t come along often enough. Stories of triumph, of good over evil, never grow old.
Eleanor Ramrath Garner’s best-selling memoir of being trapped in Nazi Berlin has been adapted for the stage and performed by her granddaughter, Ingrid Garner.
It will be staged in this year’s San Diego Fringe Festival at the Diversionary Theater at 4545 Park Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92116.
Tickets go on sale May 25th online
Friday, June 24 @ 6:00pm
Saturday, June 25 @ 9:00pm
Sunday, June 26 @ 10:30pm
Wednesday, June 29 @ 7:30pm
Saturday, July 2 @ 1:00pm