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WAR CHILD and EMPTY CHAIRS: Remembering an Era

Our friend, Annelee Woodstrom, is 81 today, September 20, 2007.

Coincident with her 81st birthday, her second book, Empty Chairs, is ready to roll off the presses. Empty Chairs is her second book, and chronicles in a gripping and engaging way 60 years of life in the U.S., including over 50 years of marriage to her Gentleman Soldier, Kenneth Woodstrom, the man she met in her home town of Mitterteich, Germany, at the end of World War II. In 1947 they married, and Annelee became a 'war bride'. (Kenny passed away in 1998).

In 2003, Annelee published her first book, the award-winning War Child: Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany, a memoir of her first 20 years of life in peace-time and then war-changed and war-torn and ultimately destroyed Germany. Annelee lived the illusion of prosperity and even peace in the 1930s, and then the awful reality of War as it devastated her native land.

War Child sold out its first printing, and has been reprinted as a companion book for Empty Chairs.

Both books are well worth their purchase price and much more information is available at http://www.anneleewoodstrom.com. They will be of special interest to, and great gifts for, ordinary people of the World War II and “baby boomer” generations, since they recount in a very vivid way how life was both in Germany and U.S. (I learned of the first book through a newspaper article in the Fargo (ND) Forum in 2003, and had the great privilege of working closely with Annelee as she wrote the second book this past year.)

Anneliese Solch was a good German Catholic girl from a hard-working and respected family in rural Bavaria. She lived a long walk from today’s Czech Republic; just inside what would later become West Germany. Her school years coincided with Hitler’s coming to power, and she wanted to be part of Hitler Youth programs, since they offered much fun. Her parents refused to allow her to become part of the Hitler Youth, and were not themselves part of the Nazi party, and thus lost out on assorted privileges which could likely have accrued to them through party membership.

Her father, then in his late 30s, was drafted into the German Army in 1943, and after the war was never heard from again. They believe he died in Russia.

Kenneth Woodstrom was an auto mechanic, a devout Lutheran from Crookston MN, when drafted into the Army in 1942. His service record (detailed at the website) concluded with 11 consecutive and often horrific months of combat beginning with D-Day, 1944, thence through France and Germany and into Czechoslovakia. He sustained permanent disabilities from his service in WWII. Only 5 of the men with whom he was inducted returned from the War; his Regiment was decimated in combat.

As love always is, there was some spark between Anneliese, the girl on the bicycle, and Kenny, the guy in the Jeep, when their eyes first met on a spring day in 1945 in Mitterteich. They fell in love. Soon he went back to the States with his unit. They married in suburban Washington DC in April, 1947, two years after they had last seen each other.

Their married years, as recounted in Empty Chairs, will remind all of us ‘of a certain age’ of many of our own experiences. Empty Chairs is a powerfully moving story of Family, and all that deceptively simple word entails.

For Anneliese, the German Catholic girl, and Kenny, the American Lutheran boy, and for their family and friends and neighbors, War united and damaged and tore apart in so many ways.

The books are and will be perfect companions for the monumental Ken Burns “War” special remembering WWII beginning on PBS Sunday evening, September 23.

Watch the series, check out the books at http://www.anneleewoodstrom.com , and consider their purchase for yourself, and as gifts.

Annelee will again be doing speaking engagements. Her contact information is at her website http://www.anneleewoodstrom.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 19, 2007 12:16 PM.

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