If you are anything like me then you have a fascination with History. You love all aspects of it, and you try to absorb as much of it as you can. Especially your own history. For me, both World Wars were major in my families lives. Needless to say, if it weren’t for some miracle intervening I wouldn’t be here.
Knowing this and knowing how difficult and horrible World War II was for EVERYONE, I am afraid of a new book I have been working on. It is near and dear to my heart and takes place in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. The problem that I am having is I do not want to make it seem as though I am not doing justice to the Jewish Genocide or the French Oppression.
My goal is simply to write a touching story about love.
Here is a little insight.
My main character Genevieve lives in a small village called Angouleme. Her father, who restores art, has been taken by the Nazis. This along with the occupation is the catalyst for Genevieve to join the French Resistance. At first, she is a little naive about it, not given any instruction on how she is to perform. All she knows is she to work in a Nazi Administrative Office for an SS officer named Albert.
At first, she tries to dive head first into her mission, but as time goes on she doesn’t know who is the real enemy. Genevieve starts to separate Nazi’s from Germans and begins to fall in love with Albert.
Now that is where I become sort of panicked. I allow my characters to reveal certain things about themselves, and the more I wrote about Albert the more he became “different”, and more and more I wanted him to be something more than a horrible SS officer. My fear is that someone will make what I write as offensive.
I am not Jewish, so I can’t begin to understand the pain and the horrible feelings associated with hating Nazis let alone an SS. But what I do understand is that not all SS officers were evil. As with Genevieve, the more research that I do the more I see there were different shades of SS soldiers.
For instance in a book I just finished called “Finding Rebecca.” by Eoin Dempsey.
A little background about the book here is a summary:
Nothing could keep Christopher and Rebecca apart: not her abusive parents, or even the fiancé she brought home after running away to England. But when World War II finally strikes the island of Jersey, the Nazi invaders ship Rebecca to Europe as part of Hitler’s Final Solution against the Jewish population.
After Christopher and his family are deported back to their native Germany, he volunteers for the Nazi SS, desperate to save the woman he loves. He is posted to Auschwitz and finds himself put in control of the money stolen from the victims of the gas chambers. As Christopher searches for Rebecca, he struggles to not only maintain his cover, but also the grip on his soul. Managing the river of tainted money flowing through the horrific world of Auschwitz may give him unexpected opportunities. But will it give him the strength to accept a brave new fate that could change his life–and others’ lives–forever?
Reading this book gave me the strength to say to myself that it was okay Genevieve fall in love with Albert. The further into the book you learn that Albert isn’t what he seems either. There is much more to him than he is letting on.
With that, I still want to be sensitive and thoughtful about what happened. I want to make sure that this piece is done in a tasteful manner.
So how does one do that when writing about something so taboo?
Well, you have to write it with a bit of elegance. I watched a documentary not too long ago on Netflix. I believe it was called Auschwitz: The Final Solution. In one scene a woman who had been a prisoner in Auschwitz was giving an interview. She said she had it pretty easy compared to the others because a Nazi soldier had fallen in love with her. At first, she wanted to express her feelings to him but she was conflicted. For a while, she internally struggled with what was going on around her and what was going on inside of her. Despite the fact that he ended up saving her and her sister she did not return his advances. Why? Because it was too much for her, and in the end, she could not separate what he was.
I find keeping this and stories like this tucked in the back of mind helps me write Genevieve’s struggle with Albert. Most of the book she struggles with their friendship and even after she is attacked by fellow Frenchmen for associating with the Nazi’s she struggles. Her allegiance to her country and her love for Albert hold her back from completing her mission and from allowing Albert into her heart.
I can not imagine that kind of struggle. Nor can I imagine the strength it must have taken for women at that time. (much less anyone living in fear simply because of what they believe). But I am trying! And with a little luck, I hope I do not disappoint.
So this is why History is 51 shades of Grey-of messed up. There is a wrong way and a right way of writing about historical fiction. At the end of the day no matter the subject you are bound to offend someone, the problem is the degree of offending someone. How deep into history do you go? How much evidence do you use, despite how horrible it is?
Despite how horrible history is, it is our history. The most uncomfortable parts of it make up who we are. Those events define our human nature. Situations like the Holocaust really reflect many things. Pure Evil and human kindness. We have to remember, despite all the painful memories, that there were good people just as afraid trying to save themselves as well as those around them. That is what inspires me to continue Genevieve’s story.
As delicate as it is to write World War II stories I want to know some of your struggles when it comes to writing something that happened in real life. Such as a story that took place in 1912 or something that happened during the Great Potato Famine. Historical fiction is a way for us to learn about our history as well as telling a great story. Think “Titanic”.
Are you working on a historical fiction piece? Tell me all about it. Sound off in the comments below or PM me!
Until next time, keep writing!
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