“A unique parallel between a young girl’s life in an uncompromising family and the tensions mounting on both sides of the Berlin Wall as she finds a way to freedom. A remarkable journey.”

—Zohreh Ghahremani, Author of Sky of Red Poppies

Walled-In

In her memoir, Walled-In, J. Elke Ertle shares what it was like to grow up in West Berlin, Germany, during the aftermath of World War II, a time when the city was divided into American, British, French, and Soviet occupation sectors. Initially, forty percent of all structures in the city were destroyed. There was little food or shelter. Many died, but Elke’s family survives. • READ MOREDOWNLOAD A FREE EXCERPT

About the author, J. Elke Ertle

J. Elke Ertle was born and raised in West Berlin following World War II, a time when the city was the focus of an escalating Cold War between East and West. During the first twenty-one years of her life, she lived with her mother and father in the British sector of the city and was known by her first name, Jutta. READ MORE

Living History with J. Elke Ertle on YouTube

J. Elke Ertle shared her eye witness recollections of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 Berlin visit in a conversation with Stephen Fagin, Associate Curator, Sixth Floor Museum at Daley Plaza, Dallas Texas. The Museum’s Living History Series recognizes Kennedy’s life, assassination and legacy.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lCh0uFDtm4

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The Best A Writer can do

29/09/2014   |   No Comments »

Writers don’t often say anything that readers don’t already know, unless it’s a news story. A writer’s greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.

–Andy Rooney

 

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Mr. Volkswagen: Heinrich Nordhoff

25/09/2014   |   No Comments »

Heinrich Nordhoff was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1899. As a young man in 1930, he left BMW (Bayerische Motorenwerke) to accept an executive position at the competition, the Opel AG. General Motors (GM) had become the majority stakeholder in Opel the year before. During World War II, most of Opel’s factories were shut down. The exception was their truck manufacturing division in Brandenburg, managed for GM by Nordhoff. At the end of the war, the truck division fell into the Russian zone of divided post-war Germany. The plant was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Nordhoff fled to the West. Having been trained by GM, he hoped for a leading position at the newly rebuilt Opel plant in Rüsselheim in the West. But the Americans told him that he would never again build cars. He should consider himself lucky to get a job sweeping the street.

Nordhoff turns to Volkwagen

Until GM had given Nordhoff the cold shoulder he had been completely disinterested in associating himself with the Volkswagen, that “Nazi car.” http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/those-tough-little-beetles/. However, when British occupation forces offered him the management of the badly damaged Volkswagen plant in Wolfburg, he accepted. On January 1, 1948, a day before his 50th birthday, he became managing director of Volkswagen. http://www.automotivehalloffame.org/event/heinrich-nordhoff-and-vw-at-the-automotive-hall-of-fame. Nordhoff never looked back. During his first year, Volkswagen doubled the production of the Beetle to 20,000 cars. By 1950 they produced 100,000, and by 1955 1 million had been built. Despite his GM training, which subscribed to multi-market marketing, Nordhoff took the opposite approach. He believed in continuous improvement of the car’s underpinnings while retaining the humpback styling. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46106820.html

Nordhoff and the American Market

Within five years after World War II, Nordhoff exported the Beetle to the USA. When he first traveled to New York to promote the car, custom agents just laughed when they took a look at his promotional drawings. They told him that no one in the world would buy a car like that and charged him $30 in fees. The fees were levied because customs rejected Nordhoff’s claim that the drawings were promotional materials. The agents declared them to be art graphics. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46106820.html But Nordhoff did not give up. He had come to believe in the Beetle despite the British Officers’ warning that the Beetle “has more flaws than a dog has fleas.” As we know, the Volkswagen Beetle went on to become the symbol of West Germany’s post-World War II Wirtschaftswunder – economic wonder. 1969 Volkswagen Beetle

The End of the Beetle

By the late sixties, however, the Beetle was getting serious competition from Japanese, American, and other European models. With 15 million sold in 1972, production of the Volkswagen Beetle had exceeded even that of Ford’s Model T. The last Beetle was sold in Mexico in 2003.

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