We have heard from many readers since Tilli's Story was published. Your comments have been wonderful to receive. It's gratifying to know that Tilli's Story has touched so many of your hearts! We thought we would share some of the comments here (reprinted with permission). Please feel free to send YOUR comments, questions, or blog posts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
I just finished reading this book. How interesting this story is to me. I have read dozens of books and seen many films about WWII. I have read books written by Germans, Russians, Italian, Jewish, you name it. None of them were like this though. I felt like I know Tilli and share her sorrows and fears and joys. It has made me talk with my grandchildren about how lucky we all are – even in this age of seemingly unhappy people who can never get enough.
I am proud of Tilli for doing what she did, leaving her home to make a new one. I hope she has had much joy here in America. She did the right thing, because it was right for her.
~Sandy Briggs, Elkhart, IN
Loved, loved your wonderful book!
I found it so interesting to read about, from your perspective, the effects of WW2 on a family that was not Jewish. I don't think it is realized what non-Jews went through during this time.
Your courage and determination is to be admired, as well as your friends and family. Your mother was an incredible woman who raised an equally brave daughter.
Thank you for sharing your story.
~Susan Orenstein, Atlanta, Georgia
Tilli's Story Will Stick With You—blog post by MinnesotaTransplant, 3/29/11
The overt story is about a girl who grew up in East Germany during World War II and the country's subsequent occupation by the Soviet Union, but the underlying story is about the strength of women.
"Tilli's Story: My Thoughts are Free" by Lorna Collier and Tilli Schulze tells how Schulze drew up on a farm southwest of Berlin, first under the rule of the Nazis and then the Soviets. She escaped to West Germany in 1950 only to languish in a battle of paperwork before emigrating to the United States.
This is a different story about Germany in World War II than has been told in the popular media. It is not about Adolf Hitler, the extermination of the Jews or America's triumph -- it is about an ordinary farm family caught in the crossfire of politics.
As one might expect from a war-era story, much of the story revolves around soldiers, bombs, war atrocities and fear, but at its heart, Schulze tells how education and her mother's love gave her hope and ultimately led her to freedom. The story begins and ends with the courage and quiet defiance of her mother in the face of a philandering husband and more than one oppressive government. One strong woman raises a daughter to be another strong woman.
Read the rest of the blog post by MinnesotaTransplant Monica Lee. (Thanks, Monica!)
Yesterday afternoon I spotted your book on the book shelf of the local Walmart. Last evening I started reading, and continued until about 11 p.m. By this morning at 10, I was able to set everything else aside and get back to the book, and at 8:45 p.m., I closed the cover and cried.
Thank you for this book. You are 75. I am 81. We both lived our childhood and much of our adolescence oceans away from each other -- but you lived the actual hell, while I only knew about the hell and still have not recovered from what I knew about, but not firsthand.
This is an amazing book. I am stunned by your ability to tell the story and totally thankful that you have done so.
I have always been fascinated by, while nauseated by, the WWII happenings in Europe. I was a young gentile girl who was granted a scholarship at Chicago's Francis Parker School from the seventh grade on. This was the Jewish private school on Chicago's near north side. I, however, was gentile and most of us on scholarship were gentile so that the school became a wondrous blend of both. My sister and I were also offered scholarships to Girls Latin, the Protestant private school alternative on Chicago's near North Side. Interestingly, we had the opportunity to visit both schools and make a choice. We chose Parker because of the warmth and gentleness we found. But that's another story.
I was caught up in your story from page one. I most appreciated being reminded of what our German faculty members -- who were Jewish and had endured much during the war -- taught us about those years that were so devastating for them. That truth was that all Germans were NOT Jew haters. That NOT all Germans were sadistic killers. That NOT all Germans were supporters of Hitler and all he stood for. We learned that the German people themselves were the victims of Hitler's madness, hunger for power and apparent fascination with power, and totally inhumane recklessness with people's lives, and that the German people were propagandized into believing that Germany's defeat in WWI needed to be turned into ultimate and complete victory in the years of WWII.
Most fascinating to me was your eye-witness account of the devastation of Germany overall, and of the German people in particular. While I knew this in my head, your book has made me realize it in my heart as well. I so appreciate your honesty, clarity and heart-breaking details.
I had a mother who, during the Depression, was wiped out financially and left with two young girls to raise. Her story is a great one. I saw her courage and will never forget the sacrifices she made just to keep us fed and safe. She reminds me in many ways of your mother, even though your mother's situation was not just a lack of pennies, but a total lack of security and safety for you and the rest of your family.
I could not even imagine in my mind what life must have been like for your family and ALL the people caught in that deadly, inhumane 20 years. Even as I read, I could not imagine how you -- a young girl -- found the inner strength to make it to America and freedom. However, your story and your willingness to capture those years and to describe them to those of us living today is a magnificent tribute to your mother, brother, aunts, uncles, etc., and ultimately to the need for all of us to have a greater understanding of what staying alive and holding onto hope can mean to everyone.
Thank YOU for getting this story told.
I have taught literature and education for over 45 years: 25 years at Carlinville High School in Carlinville, Illinois, and the rest of the time at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. I have taught about those WWII years and hope I have given those years the respect and awe which I feel for all those who lived through the years or who died through those years. Your book has given me new insights, and I appreciate that.
~Ann Reichmann, Blackburn College, Carlinville, Illinois
I just finished the book and want you to know it was brilliant. Absolutely one of the best books I ever read and I have read a ton... I have encouraged others to buy the book as I just think that much of it.
~ Samantha Syoen, Executive Producer, NBC News, Florida
Our book club absolutely loved the book! It is very rare that we all like
the monthly selection. We rate our books every month on a 1 to 5 scale. We have
never had a book get the best rating overall until now.
~ Nancy Paulson, Menomonee Falls, Wis., Newcomers Club book club member