Everyone's Story welcomes author Sigrid MacRae. I was first introduced to Sigrid and her work when I read a book review of her then just released non-fiction telling of her family life, A WORLD ELSEWHERE. I had to read tho book! Sigrid's account of the Baltic-German father she never knew, of the strong American mother who saved her children from great turmoil and hardships during and post World War II, struck the very themes I enjoy reading and writing about. I contacted Sigrid and was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to appear on my blog. Sigrid offers valuable insights to a time that no one should ever push aside and forget. Do check out her Giveaway offer, her intriguing book excerpt, and please welcome her warmly. Both Sigrid and I look forward to hearing from you.
Sigrid is offering 1 copy of her non-fiction A WORLD ELSEWHERE to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 1st between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment.
Excerpt from A WORLD ELSEWHERE:
Questions for Sigrid MacRae:
A WORLD ELSEWHERE is as much your story as it is a story about your mother, Aimée, a strong and resilient woman. Is there a central message that you would like to encourage other women with using your mother’s life story as an example?
People are often capable of far more than they imagine. Why and how my mother, a weak and affection-starved child, grew into an indomitable force is not easily explained, but when the need arose, she demonstrated enough courage for an army. Though she may have flinched privately, she was an example to her children, an inspiration to many.
Born of an American mother and a Baltic-German father (killed on Hitler’s Russian front before you were born) you were born in Germany and came to live in the United States at the age of 6. Through a child’s eyes did you experience any kind of prejudice and resistance once you left Germany? How did this shape you as an adult?
In first grade in Hartford, CT, a boy named Skippy yelled “Nazi” at me. As a fresh off-the-boat displaced person, just turned six, I had no more idea what a Nazi was than I knew that the jar in which Skippy brought his dessert with a big red Skippy on the lid was a peanut butter jar. But I knew it wasn’t good. This was post-war America; it was only the first of many incidents. I held my father responsible for that taunt and others that followed me through childhood and beyond, making me feel alien and “in this world but not of it ” - a double-edged sword that is hard for a child to deal with. Sometimes it still is, but time, maturity, and writing the book taught me to overcome such knee-jerk prejudices. Now I appreciate the other edge of that sword, and see that it is an advantage that enlarges my perspective.
Your mother’s story unfolded years after she gave you a box of letters written by the father you never knew. Did you open the box right away? Why or why not? What emotion did this release in you?
The box was locked. It was a beautiful family reliquary of sorts, and I could not bring myself to force it open. I was also reluctant to find the man who lurked inside. He was half of my mother’s love story, yet in some way I also held him responsible for her countless difficulties, and for my being called a Nazi for years. After my mother’s death, my husband tinkered with the lock. The little pling-plong opened to door on someone so young, so vivid, thoughtful, and funny, that it was hard not to fall in love with him too.
Upon learning of your family’s history, the one your mother and you had chosen not to rehash, did you learn of any particular pleasantry you would like to share?
I am not sure what you mean by “pleasantry”; will these do?
“Life is a verb, everyone has a story,” she used to say.
Another favorite dictum: “Life is full of surprises, ready or not…”
What did you hope to accomplish in publishing your personal family story?
First: I wanted to find some answers for myself.
Second: To show that history is not necessarily what is found in textbooks, but rather many thousands of individual histories and motivations, and that my father and many others did not fall under the blanket ”Nazi” rubric so routinely and carelessly applied to anyone caught up in Hitler’s war.
I’m a firm believer that history (the tragedies) tends to repeat itself if not shared and that is one of the reasons why I admire A WORLD ELSEWHERE. However, some stories are not easy to pass down. Did you experience any trepidation in publishing this very personal account?
Yes, of course. I felt like an intruder while reading my father’s early letters, and my mother’s too. But it was important to share what I learned from those extensive letters. Shaped by a civilization that disappeared like Brigadoon in the Bolshevik mists when he was a boy, my father was part of Hitler’s war on Russia, trying to recapture what was lost, and to free the Russian people from a dreaded Stalin.
It must have looked like the closest vehicle that might bring what Hitler’s regime had prevented him from accomplishing in Germany.
I suspect that he knew it would kill him, but that his death might accomplish what he had not accomplished in life.
Another point: The huge, ongoing sensitivity to the “Nazi” issue meant that historical accuracy and scrupulous honesty were crucial. Yes, my father had joined the party, but understanding when, why and how - and that he was also thrown out of the party and into jail for religious principles not long after, is critical too.
Any parting messages?
There are few open and shut cases in history. I hope that the book will strike a blow against ideology – a form of blindness and a common excuse for evil. There’s no room for ideology in our shrinking world; it deserves no patience.
People are often capable of far more than they imagine. Why and how my mother, a weak and affection-starved child, grew into an indomitable force is not easily explained. She had imagined a bright future that turned fairly quickly into a story of ongoing disasters. While she may have flinched privately, she was equal to terrifying circumstances when the need arose, a lifesaver to her children, an inspiration to many.
Sigrid's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Everyone’s Story: Meet Sigrid MacRae, author of true family life story in Nazi Germany #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)
Author Sigrid MacRae: What happens when a mom passes down an unexpected family legacy? (Tweet This)
Like family biographies showing strong women in face of WWII? Visit Sigrid MacRae #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)
Sigrid MacRae is the coauthor of Alliance of Enemies, about the undercover collaboration of the German resistance to Hitler and the American OSS during WWII. She holds a graduate degree in Art History from Columbia University, spent many years in publishing, and lives in New York City and Maine.