This compelling memoir of a German girl’s bitter, frightening life reveals the horrors visited upon an average family caught between two of the most cruel dictators in history.

Amidst the copious histories of Hitler and Stalin, historians have often neglected the horrific tales of innocent girls like Schulze, who early in World War II survived Nazi occupation, then was forced to hide in a secret attic for months at war’s end to escape sexual attacks from the invading rampages of the Russians. The Russian soldiers pillaged her tiny village of Doelitz, where women scrubbed their faces with ashes and dirt to make themselves unappealing to the Red Army’s serial rapists. With professional writer Collier’s help, Schulze tells a ground-level story that is at once haunting and shocking in its narration of ordinary, peaceful lives shattered forever by war. The small, poignant touches are riveting—the family’s favorite horse being dragged away to haul artillery; their argument about whether to follow Nazi orders to display Hitler’s portrait. Her inspiring story concludes with the long, harrowing struggle to escape to West Germany, followed by a months-long wait for a berth on a ship bound for America. Her first tastes of ice cream and pineapple aboard the ship are a fitting climax to a tale of never-ending stress and fear—and ultimately, redemption.

Schulze’s courageous story fills a major gap in the story of the world’s greatest conflict, and she deserves a wide audience of all ages.

From Lisa Seidlitz, Asst. Prof. of German, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL

Tilli’s Story is a great piece of individual history from a woman who had some remarkable experiences. With the help of co-author Lorna Collier, Tilli Schulze shares the story of her life in eastern Germany before, during, and immediately after World War II, including some events that were no doubt hard to live through and painful to recall. The book presents an fascinating slice of life of 1940s-50s Germany—both the extraordinary and the everyday. In this well-written and at times dramatic story, Tilli tells of her family’s struggle to cope with the Nazi regime, the war and the post-war rule of the Soviets, but she also tells of daily life on the farm, her experiences with teachers and friends, and love and conflicts within her family. This book is a wonderful story of one woman’s courage and determination to start a new life, building on a difficult past while not forgetting it. Tilli’s Story is a real gift to her children and grandchildren and should be of interest to any child of immigrants; although this is one woman’s unique story, it provides a glimpse into the thoughts and fears and hopes of many people who lived through such extraordinary times. Through this story, readers will come to appreciate more deeply ordinary citizens’ experience of wartime and political upheaval as well as the enormity of the decision to leave one’s country and start a new life thousands of miles away.

From Art Doederlein, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Programs, Communications Dept., Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

Tilli's Story reads like a fine documentary film script; it's easy to visualize the story and lose yourself in the narrative. The book also personally helped me with my German heritage: the Holocaust was horrible, but non-Jewish Germans also suffered because of Hitler!


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