“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 finds 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.

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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.

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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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Don’t follow the path

22/12/2014   |   No Comments »

Don’t follow the path. Walk where there is no path and leave a new track.

Jean  Paul

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Christmas calendar and Advent wreath

18/12/2014   |   No Comments »

When I grew up in Berlin, Germany, the children’s Christmas season started with an Adventskalender (Christmas calendar or literally “advent” calendar).

Advent calendar

In those days, Christmas calendars were made from a piece of cardboard that had a paper backing. Twenty-five “windows” were cut into the winter-themed piece of cardboard. When opened, each window revealed a Christmas symbol or scene. Like other children, during the first twenty-five days of December, I was allowed to open one window each day. The window for Christmas Day was extra large and usually revealed a picture of the Nativity. Today’s Christmas calendars are often filled with chocolates or candy, and children find a sweet treat behind each window.

Advent

The Advent calendar helped me understand how close we were to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my two favorite days of the year. Having grown up in a secular family, I did not realize then that the true purpose of advent is to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” It was meant to be a religious celebration, but for me it always was a secular tradition. For information on the religious tradition visit http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/introduction-to-advent/#ixzz3M1541SrI

Advent wreath

The second wonderful pre-Christmas tradition I remember from my childhood is our Advent wreath (Adventskranz). Every year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, a wreath of simple fir branches would magically appear in our house. Its fragrant branches held four red candles and golden ribbons, tied into bows. We lit the first candle in the afternoon of the fourth Sunday before Christmas while sipping a cup of coffee and indulging in a piece of Stollen, a traditional Christmas treat. The following Sunday, we lit two candles, then three until we could light all four candles on the last Sunday before Christmas.

Third Advent - three candles are lit

Third Advent – three candles are lit

These two traditions, the Advent calendar and the Advent wreath, preceded Christmas every year in our home and had me anticipate my favorite two days for weeks in advance.

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