Currently available as a paperback through Amazon.com, Amazon.de, or by ordering through bookstores. E-book versions of The Secret She Carried are available at many outlets including Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo.
A young woman and her tiny Sudetenland German community grapple with survival in the period encompassing the world wars but find the apocalyptic peace that follows the Nazi defeat even more ruinous.
In this history-infused narrative, overwhelming events sweep up young Maria Hajek and her beleaguered ethnic German village, climaxing in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. As Adolf Hitler’s motorcade passes Maria’s home in 1938, she believes her life will improve under the new political arrangement that cleaved her homeland from oppressive Czechoslovakia.
However, the Nazis soon launch World War II and deepen the misery. Before long nearly every working age man under 50 is in uniform, leaving Maria and the other women to work the farms, cope with shortages, and attend ever more soldier funerals. In time the plight of the village soldiers, as described by men Maria knew, grows desperate as they fight on the collapsing Eastern Front and at Normandy.
At the war’s end, Maria can’t imagine the worst is yet to come. She finds peace brings only occupation and savage treatment at the hands of the Red Army and Czech partisans. The violence leaves Maria with a lifelong secret and culminates in a traumatic expulsion to a broken Germany.
A companion volume will relate the story of the author’s father, a man who by guile and luck survived the Eastern Front, the Allied onslaught on Germany, and American bombs when very few others in his German Panzergrenadier division did. Like his wife-to-be, he emerged from the war bearing a secret.
An excerpt from the opening chapter
“They weren’t extraordinary in any obvious way, the couple who in 1955 borrowed a pickup truck and moved their scanty possessions from a small-town rental house in Iowa to a farm in an adjacent county. However, sometimes people who appear quite ordinary turn out to be anything but. It was not intellectual achievement or an encounter with fame that set these two apart. Nor was it a background of privilege or hobnobbing with the well-connected, although they would once entertain as table guests on their Iowa farm a pair of Austrian counts, one of whom had a connection to the man who’d held the bleeding, dying heir to the Austrian Emperor’s throne at the assassination that triggered World War I. Rather, what distinguished these two individuals from most of the people around them was their experiences—the extraordinary things they saw and endured in Europe during the apocalyptic period known as World War II.
“Circumstances of geography relegated them and their families to the losing side in both of the devastating world wars. The First World War ended shortly before they were born and left them to grow up in the shadow of the ruinous Versailles Treaties forced upon the defeated nations. What prevailed throughout their childhood was called peace, but it was a tenuous, smoldering peace at best. The seething turmoil and impoverishment…all but guaranteed another war. That conflagration…hurled them into an unprecedented vortex of brutality, violence, and deprivation.
“Between them, they’d gazed upon the impassive face of Adolf Hitler, witnessed the cold-blooded execution of neighbors, beat back human wave attacks behind enemy lines, survived a bomb blast during a massive air raid, endured a filthy prison camp after a false arrest, and bore months of slave labor and the nightly fear of gang rape by a savage occupation force. As many less fortunate, and perhaps less stalwart, souls succumbed in the maelstrom, these two people independently grappled free…However, to say they escaped is not to say they came away unscathed because for the rest of their lives neither could purge the disquieting memories…memories they believed they needed to bury in order to move on. And each had a particular part that wanted burying a bit deeper than the rest.”
So begins Erich Eipert’s biographical narrative that relates the experiences of his mother and some of the people around her.