Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Traditions

A decorated Christmas tree.Christmas means tradition. I’ve passed on some of my favorite German traditions to my children. These include:  Advent candles (one every Sunday leading up to Christmas Eve; an Advent calendar (countdowns are so much fun); St. Nick’s visit on December 6th; having a real tree (no real candles, though); opening one gift on Christmas Eve (as a child we opened them all); and reading the biblical Christmas story. My brother and I would have to recite some Bible verses before the gifts were opened.

When my three kids were young, they’d also have to share something on Christmas Eve. . . a story, a play, a poem, or a musical performance.  Of course, we’d all sing Christmas songs. 

Time passes. Kids grow up. But Christmas still has a magical quality and I think it’s traditions that keep us connected to childhood and to each other.


I'd love to add a new one. What’s your favorite holiday tradition?


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Magazines in the Third Reich and Publishing in 2017

The Germans, with their tendency to compound words, seem to have a word for everything. And so they have a word for the joy at another’s loss. It’s Schadenfreude. And it’s opposite? Mitfreude— joy for someone’s joy. But sadness about loss?  That’s just plain grief. We’ve all experienced it.

With the Metro shutting down here in Winnipeg and across Canada, we’re once again reminded that the printed word is vulnerable. Journalism is struggling and I’ve got no Schadenfreude, no Mitfreude, only sadness. I liked reading the Metro. I liked the local feel. I have only Schaden-trauer for its demise . . . and empathy for its employees who find themselves job-less just as the season of happy goes full force.

Close cousin to newspapers are magazines. How many people still get those? My kids loved to see their name on a piece of mail that arrived, especially for them, once a month. I’m down to only two magazine subscriptions, myself—still prefer hard copy over digital—but I admit to reading much online. There’s just too much competition for my reading time.

In 1930s Germany, print journalism was in full force. True, with the growing war effort, many could only be published on cheap newsprint. But quality was usurped by quantity and the Nazi message was ubiquitous. There was something for every age and every interest.  My character, Katya, wants to be a writer and writing for one of these magazines would be great place to start.

You can really get a sense of what society is like through their newspapers and magazines. I wonder what history will tell us of ours.

Here’s a sampling of what the Third Reich read. Many of these have digital samples.
For the children:
Das deutsche Mädel: A monthly magazine from 1933-1942 which focused on healthy living. 
Articles encouraged hiking, games, caregiving, and prepared them for futures as mothers and wives.

Der Pimpf (formerly called Morgen)—monthly magazine, 1935-1944
For boys aged 10-14
Focus on adventure. Recruiting future soldiers.

Die Kameradschaftwas a Hitler Youth training manual with regular issues.
Die Wehrmacht was a military magazine aimed at young people.

My dad (18 in 1936 when he joined the Luftwaffe) very likely would have subscribed to:
Deutsche Luftwacht: covered German air industry
Der deutsche Sportsflieger: turning hobby pilots into soldiers

Women were targeted in the very popular:
Frauen Warte ( or Women’s View) 
-       Subtitle: ‘The only official women’s magazine of the Nazi party’
-       It started in 1935 and came out twice a week, with almost 2 million readers. 
-       Topics focused on raising children, domestic chores and fashion…with a Nazi bent
File:Streckerfanal.jpg-       It even included sewing patterns.

General interest magazines (again with a Nazi agenda) included:
JB – Illustrierte Beobachter – weekly photo magazine. Very popular. 24 pages
Hilf Mit—Nazi Party Magazine 
Signal German version of Life magazine published in 30 languages with more than 2 million readers
-        Wochen Post—weekly news round-up magazine with black and white photos

A curious niche market magazine was Deutsche Kurzschrift
-       for stenographers with text in shorthand, plus lots of photos

It’s now the end of 2017.  The digital world has usurped print. The Metro is done and now my own publisher has closed its doors. My third book, inspired by my mother’s tumultuous life, was supposed to be released this month. It’s a bit like being pregnant but having no birth.

However, I appreciate what Rebelight did for my stories and for my writing. They were always professional. Those women worked very hard, but publishing is a hard business. Still, for me, it’s a bit of déjà vu. I’ll get over it. I’m disappointed, but still determined. 


Monday, November 20, 2017

Newspapers in the Third Reich

Pre-TV and internet made newspapers a primary vehicle to control information in the 1930s.
Propaganda Minister Goebbels had to make sure there were no contradictions…all news had to give the same message.

In October, 1933, the Nazis passed the “Reichs Press Law,” which declared that all journalists and editors had to be Aryans, with no Jewish spouses. While Jewish-owned newspapers were not banned, per se, they went into bankruptcy through subtle means. This was done so that the general population would not be suspicious of the controlling intentions of the Nazis.


There were several national Nazi-approved newspapers—all blatantly anti-semitic and anti-communist.  The most well-known was the “Völkische Beobachter,” which began as a weekly in 1920 in Munich.  In 1923, when Alfred Rosenberg took over as editor, it became a daily morning paper. Readership, however, dropped steadily in the 1930s.

Another, less well-known Nazi newspaper, “Der Angriff” had a daily afternoon edition published in Berlin, with Goebbels as editor.  He also published a weekly paper called, “Das Reich,” which appealed to intellectuals and had a steadily increasing readership. Its tone was much more subdued than other Nazi papers.

Germany’s business paper, “Boersen Zeitung,” was run by a Nazi sympathizer, Walter Funk.

Hitler’s favorite newspaper was a tabloid published by Julius Streicher. “Der Stürmer” was graphic, lewd and appealed to the uneducated. Displayed in newspaper cases where anyone could read it, only increased its popularity. The paper was banned by the Hitler Jugend because of its sexually explicit content.  Some Nazi elite (like Göring and Goebbels) hated it, while others (like Himmler and Hitler himself) loved its crassness.

The SS had their own paper, “Das Schwarze Korps” which was free to SS members and came out every Wednesday. Not only was it anti-semitic and anti-communist, it was also anti-Catholic. A morale-booster for the SS, it supported the war effort and worshipped Hitler.

Thousands of smaller, regional newspapers were published and Goebbels’ office censored all their content. Editors quickly learned to publish only content that the Nazis would approve.

As the war went on, severe paper shortages forced German newspapers to shrink to a mere two pages by 1945.

A Berlin tabloid, “Der Panzerbär,” was published seven times during the last week of April, 1945. It was a final desperate propaganda attempt to keep spirits up in the fight against the Soviet Army as they destroyed Berlin…and thus, the heart of the Third Reich.


It’s been such a thrill researching the history as I wrote and rewrote Amber Stone, my third book in the series, Katya’s Stones. The research is akin to an iceberg. You see only the tip, but beneath there is a mountain of ice. I’ve read dozens and dozens of books trying to understand Katya’s world…a dangerous, but fascinating place.