“Eloquently, Ertle recounts her remarkable story against the backdrop of war-torn Berlin. Stifled by a fiercely protective family with unrelenting rules, her life becomes a mirrored image of the Berlin Wall. Seeking a safe passage to freedom and discover who she is and wants to be, we are drawn into the amazing inner world of this gifted writer.”

—Marjorie Hart, author of Summer at Tiffany


“In her memoir Walled-In, J. Elke Ertle draws 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, her artful narration allows readers to share a most remarkable journey.”

—Zohreh Ghahremani, author of Sky of Red Poppies


“Typically when one thinks of Germany in relation to WWII and the Cold War, what comes to mind is: Hitler’s tyrannical reign, brutal concentration camps, Aryan purification genocide, war crime tribunals, and the Berlin Wall. None of which evoke compassionate thoughts. But what about the average German citizen that had nothing to do with Hitler or Nazism or war or genocide? They too were brutalized by Hitler’s war machine, suffering great physical, mental, economic, and mortal losses. And in the aftermath of war, many faced starvation and freezing to death due to Russia’s Berlin Blockade. Then shortly thereafter, dividing lines were drawn: a highly-guarded wall went up and Berlin became a city divided; overnight, West Berlin became a democratic island in a sea of Communism.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

This begins J. Elke Ertle, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom: An exceptionally well-written memoir that is beautiful, sorrowful, candid, honest, engaging, hopeful, and insightful; a coming of age memoir that is a historically relevant Cold War expose of life behind a physically restrictive wall and the emotionally draining barriers of anxiety-riddled micro-managing parents.

“Another wave of hopelessness rose up from the pit of my stomach. The feeling extended far beyond my small bedroom. I felt cut off from the world. Outside, I was surrounded by the Berlin Wall. Inside, I felt walled-in by barriers far higher and less penetrable than the political monstrosity. As I stood in front of my small window and watched the setting sun paint the roofs golden, I wished I were dead. My world was devoid of color; I saw only shades of gray and black.”

Then an enterprising encounter with an American serviceman and his family stationed in Germany opens Jutta’s eyes to grander ideas and sparks a fire for a world without walls, dreams worth dreaming, and a life worth living. And when her best friend moves to San Diego, California, the spark burns even brighter for a chance to experience one year of blissful freedom in America.

“My imagination is on fire now. My subdued spirits warm up and my melancholy lifts. San Diego . . . I begin to insert myself into the picture . . . From the rolling green hills, I overlook the Pacific and watch the gentle waves caress the miles and miles of white beaches. I stretch my arms toward the sky and bask in the warm sunshine.”

I had the great honor of meeting Jutta at an author talk sponsored by the Lemon Grove Branch of the San Diego County Library. Her slide show presentation accompanying her book discussion was unspeakably eye-opening heartfelt. At one point, tears rolled down my cheek. A few moments latter, we were smiling with joy. The personable yet elite way in which she spoke impelled me to purchase her book – a decision with no regrets. Five of five stars.”

—Pamela, Goodreads review, October 23, 2014


“Als 15-Jährige hat Elke Ertle den Bau der Berliner Mauer erlebt — Noch heute rebelliert sie gegen Schranken – (German)

Am 9. November feiern wir zum 25. Mal den Fall der Mauer, die Deutschland fast drei Jahrzehnte lang in zwei Teile teilte. Ein freudiges Ereignis. Doch wie fühlte es sich für die Berliner an, als die Mauer 1961 erbaut wurde? Elke Ertle hat das als 15-Jährige hautnah miterlebt. Auch den Besuch des amerikanischen Präsidenten John F. Kennedy 1963 in Westberlin hat sie gut in Erinnerung — stand sie doch nur zehn Meter von der Bühne entfernt. Über all diese Erlebnisse schrieb die in die USA ausgewanderte Frau das Buch „Walled-in: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom“. Kürzlich hat Elke Ertle Schülern in Nürnberg von ihren Erinnerungen erzählt; wir haben sie anschließend interviewt.

Frau Ertle, wie haben Sie den Bau der Berliner Mauer erlebt?
Elke Ertle: Ich erfuhr frühmorgens aus dem Radio davon. Da hörte ich plötzlich von Panzern, die auf den Straßen standen. Ich weckte meine Eltern, gemeinsam saßen wir vor dem Radio. Meine Mutter packte die blanke Angst vor einem Dritten Weltkrieg, und nach dem Frühstück wies mein Vater uns an, das Nötigste für eine mögliche Flucht zu packen. Er selbst fuhr tanken. Ich erinnere mich noch an den Satz: „Wenn es ganz schlimm wird, verlassen wir Westberlin – ganz egal, wer oder was sich uns in den Weg stellt.“ Vor meinem inneren Auge sah ich schon die Grenzposten vor mir, die auf mich schießen.

Gab es vorher keine Signale, dass das passieren würde?
Elke Ertle: Nein, wir waren ahnungslos. Wir lebten alle mit einem konstanten Gefühl der Bedrohung — denn genau darauf baute der Kalte Krieg auf: auf einer Gefahrenkulisse. Aber den Mauerbau hatten wir nicht erwartet. Es lag auch jenseits unserer Vorstellungskraft, was diese Mauer für uns bedeuten würde. Deshalb hatten wir ja so viel Angst – weil wir die Folgen nicht abschätzen konnten.

Wie hat sich das Leben für Sie dann weiterentwickelt in Westberlin?
Elke Ertle: Wir wurden immer mehr isoliert. Und wir fühlten uns alleingelassen – denn im restlichen Westdeutschland gab es durchaus Stimmen, dass man Westberlin aufgeben sollte. Es hieß: Wenn es einen Dritten Weltkrieg gibt, dann wegen des geteilten Berlins – damit waren wir Teil des Problems. Das hat uns sehr getroffen und hilflos gemacht.

Bis zu jenem Tag im Juni 1963, als der US-Präsident John F. Kennedy nach Westberlin kam. Sie sagen, das sei für Sie ein Wendepunkt gewesen. Warum?
Elke Ertle: Zu dieser Zeit mied man Westberlin. Kein anderes Staatsoberhaupt kam dahin, alle hatten Angst. Auch deshalb fühlten wir uns gefangen wie die Kaninchen im Käfig. Aber JFK nahm den Weg auf sich. Das gab mir das Gefühl, dass er sich um uns sorgt, dass wir ihm nicht egal sind.

An diesem Tag sind Sie um 5 Uhr morgens aufgestanden, um möglichst nah dabei zu sein. Hat es sich gelohnt?
Elke Ertle: Die Rede hat mich im Innersten berührt, mir liefen Tränen übers Gesicht. JFK sagte, dass sein Land stolz auf die Menschen in Westberlin sei, weil sie seit 18 Jahren einer Belagerung standhielten. Und er sagte natürlich seinen berühmten Satz: „Ich bin ein Berliner.“ Er machte mich so stolz damit! Stolz, jemand zu sein, den man bewundert. Stolz, dass ich den Mut hatte, in Westberlin auszuharren. Ich hatte das Gefühl, er versteht, was es heißt, Berliner zu sein. Das war der emotionalste Moment meines Lebens.

Wie ging es nach 1963 weiter?
Elke Ertle: In den Jahren danach kühlte sich die Stimmung allmählich ab. Wir gewöhnten uns an die Mauer und versuchten, sie zu meiden. Trotz allem waren wir immer noch gefangen. Als ich mit 21 Jahren in die USA ging – zunächst nur, um ein Auslandsjahr einzulegen – fühlte ich mich zum ersten Mal in meinem Leben frei. Ich konnte in die Berge fahren, an den Strand, in die Wüste, wohin auch immer ich wollte. Ein tolles Gefühl.

Inzwischen ist der Spuk lange vorbei. Was bedeuten Mauern heute noch für Sie?
Elke Ertle: Ich bin mit Mauern aufgewachsen – nicht nur mit der Berliner Mauer, sondern auch mit vielen Grenzen, die meine Eltern mir setzten. Deshalb reagiere ich bis heute sehr feinfühlig auf Mauern. Wenn jemand meine Rechte beschneiden will, dann rebelliert alles in mir. Diese Abneigung gegen Mauern ist mir einfach in Fleisch und Blut übergegangen.”

—interviewer: Annika Peissker, Nuernberger Nachrichten, student page, September 3, 2014, “Wir fuehlten uns wie die Kaninchen im Kaefig”


“Tyranny takes many forms, from the restrictions of freedom imposed by governments to the familial constraints that markedly prevent an individual’s personal growth. Growing up in post-war Germany, the author shows the reader what her world looked like, both at home and on the larger canvas that was her life within Berlin after the building of the Wall. “Walled-In” reveals much about the young woman’s pursuit of individual freedom, and as I read about her personal struggles and the family dynamics, much of it tolled a familiar bell for me. Our lives did not mirror one another’s, since I grew up in the US and did not face the governmental restrictions that dictated her life; however, the era in which we were each born was very similar and the family dynamics I experienced echoed hers. I could totally relate to her feelings and rooted for her escape. My escape was made simpler by the governmental freedoms I enjoyed, but freedom from any tyranny can feel just as exhilarating, no matter how different the cage may be. Other aspects of the story were wonderfully drawn, from the historical context in which she grew to the world at large that offered opportunities for change. This was a beautifully told story that is even more inspirational because of the parallels between Berlin under siege and the uncompromising world of family. Five of five stars.”

—Laurel-Rain Snow “Rain”, Top 1000 Amazon reviewer and Goodreads review, May 15, 2013, Under Siege: One Woman’s Escape from Tyranny


“An amazing book. The author is caught in a fascinating historical event. The war is over and Germany is hopelessly divided. We get a feeling of the deprivation, isolation, and despair she feels as the conflict between East and West escalates and the Berlin Wall is erected. Within this context we learn of the author’s personal struggle growing up with unyielding parents and desperately wanting to experience life. This remarkable memoir is well-written enabling readers to move quickly through the pages completely immersed in the story. I hope we hear again from this talented writer. Five of five stars.”

—Kathleen Anderson, Amazon review, June 10, 2013, A remarkable memoir set in Postwar Berlin

“I was provided a copy of Walled In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey To Freedom in exchange for reviewing it. I was interested in this book because I born while my father was stationed in the Army in Frankfurt, Germany, and grew up during the Cold War. Elke Ertle has written a wonderful, riveting book about what it was like growing up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. Most people my age remember Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and they remember reading about tunnels people dug under the wall in their desperation to escape from East Germany. I’m too young to remember John F. Kennedy’s visit to Berlin, but I knew about his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. What we were taught in school about the aftermath of WWII can’t compare to the personal experience of someone who grew up in a divided Berlin. Several times during the reading of this book, I found myself saying “I never realized! Those poor people!” Ms. Ertle gives a lot of historical detail about how Berlin was divided into zones by the Allies at the end of WWII, and how the Berlin Airlift saved people from starving and freezing to death. She tells the chilling story of waking up one morning to hear that the Russians had strung barbed wire across the middle of the city in preparation for what would become the Berlin Wall. But the real story in this book is about Elke’s childhood with controlling, strict parents. Growing up as the only child of a street photographer and a homemaker, Elke chafed at the unbending rules they enforced. To find out what happened to Elke, you’ll have to read the book. I really enjoyed Walled-in, and highly recommend it to both older adults (who remember the Wall) and younger adults (who need to understand this important part of history, so that it can never happen again). Five of five Stars.

—Lisa Kearns, top 500 Amazon reviewer, June 11, 2013, Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Berlin Wall


“This is a book you will not want to put down. I completely enjoyed following the author’s life from birth to retirement with the focus on her resolve to survive the horrific circumstances of her homelife. As an only child whose spirit was squashed time and again by strict, over-bearing parents, she finds ways to cling to her dreams, to find adventure, to reach 21 and claim her freedom. The story of how she stayed strong and innnovative is told here. I found myself smiling and crying as I followed her stories of trying to be a normal kid with a not-so-normal homelife. Initially, the reader is drawn in by the promise that a mystery will be solved. What happened on that Birthday? Will the secret unravel as the story weaves in and out of personal experience and history from a young German girl’s perspective? From beginning to end the story does not disappoint. Five of five stars.”

—L. Swanson, Amazon review, June 11, 2013


“Interested in this book because I lived in Berlin ’55-’57 as the son of an U.S. Army officer and retured in ’66 after college, serving in the Army. It was very interesting to re-visit memories and experiences, plus there were many new things. Normally, a girl’s strict parents dominating her life would not be a book I would buy, but Elke does a superb job telling a compelling story. Overall, a very good read. Five of five stars.”

—R. Bradley, Amazon review, June 12, 2013, Berlin: Many Lessons


“Life in West Berlin during the post WWII cold war comes alive through the eyes of this young girl as she tries to make sense of mounting tensions both within her family and within the Berlin Wall. This coming of age piece is well written and offers a unique view of history in the making. I highly recommend it. Five of five stars.”

—William R. Fuhrer, Amazon review, June 25, 2013, Personal Account of Life in West Berlin Post WWII


“Historical fiction is my favorite, so the history of the wall, the political situation, and Kennedy’s visit piqued my interest from the get go. But it was the way Ms. Ertle told her personal story, the way it gained inertia, her WWll wary parents and their intelligent, ready for life little girl growing into a young woman. Well written, great read. Five of five stars.”

—Mike, Amazon review, June 25, 2013, Excellent Story


“Reading Elke’s memoir, which I bought directly from her after hearing her speak in San Diego, brought back memories of my own childhood in postwar West Germany. Though my Russian parents were not as controlling as hers, I remember the scarce food, clothes made out of remnants of fabric, bombed-out city streets, and people fleeing the East as the Iron Curtain descended. I have happy memories, too, and she triggered those as well, supplying the German words I had long since forgotten. Elke’s descriptions are so vivid that I felt as if I were in Berlin myself. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it, and I immediately bought a Kindle version for my sister, who was also born in Germany. (She liked it, too.) Highly recommended as a well-written and suspenseful journey through adolescence and postwar Europe. Five of five stars.”

—Lena, Amazon review, June 25, 2013, Rekindled Memories of Postwar Germany


“Walled-In is the memoir of a young girl growing up in Post-War Berlin behind two walls. The first was built by her mother’s misguided love and the second by the Cold War. All writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, comes from the writer’s soul. But a memoir, such as this one, could only be written by someone who had an exceptional awareness and understanding of her self, her parents and friends, and the world that was Berlin, her home, during the Cold War. The book draws the reader and makes him or her, part of the story. I highly recommend this book as the memoir of a young lady growing up in unusual circumstances and as a reflection on life after a devastating war that seemed to never end. Five of five stars.”

—Roger J. Legare, Amazon review, July 5, 2013


“A wonderfully written book that captures the reader and holds them spellbound until the last word. The restrictions placed upon Elke politically, and from her home life have you rooting for her to escape the challenges she faces from the beginning. The vivid picture Elke paints with her words, opens up the reader to learn things about the cold war that are not told in history books. I highly recommend this book. Five of five stars.”

—Rose Virginia, Amazon review, July 15, 2013, Hard to Put Down


“I read this wonderful book in 2 days. Could not lay it down. Every page was exciting, never a dull moment. I hope that Elke will write another book. I know it would be a winner too. Five of five stars.”

—Ingrid Allie, Goodreads review, July 17, 2013


“Elke’s memoir is by turns poignant, humorous, and sorrowful. She displays the exuberance of youth as she wriggles and fights through extraordinary obstacles to become an independent young woman. Seldom is history so deftly woven into a personal narrative; the detail of her postwar Germany makes readers relive that period and experience Elke’s struggle. The pain her mother compresses into her declaration “this little bundle is mine – I won’t let anyone take her away from me” expresses itself more clearly as resistance to that grown daughter’s departure, not only to America but to adulthood. We discover how her parents, profoundly injured by the war and clinging to their resentments, made the girl’s life almost impossible. But in spite of all Elke remains friendly, enthusiastic, and cheerful. Shrouded in the parallel shades of two Walls, only a person as bright and determined as Elke could have escaped. What a story! Riveting. Five of five stars.”

—Donna L. Boyle, Amazon review, July 22, 2013, A Fresh Take on History


“I purchased Elke’s book from her directly after she spoke to a group in San Diego. After hearing her talk, I couldn’t wait to delve into the book. Elke does a masterful job of paralleling her young life living with very strict parents, who often denied her contact with her friends, to the Berlin Wall that divided her city. Ultimately, the wall came down and Elke escaped her own isolation by immigrating to the U.S. when she turned 21. Her story of getting to that point is eloquently told. Parts of Elke’s story made me laugh, but I also shed some tears. This book is not just a history lesson about post-war Germany; nor is it only a coming of age story. Elke skillfully weaves the personal and the historical into a wonderful read. I highly recommend it. Five of five stars.”

—Carol McLaughlin, Amazon review, August 22, 2013, A Wonderfully Touching Book


“My mother grew up in Germany during the time period of this book and was so impressed by the author’s clear writing style and true to life description of a young person’s struggle to grow up with strict German parents of that particular time. Not only did I enjoy the book for its own sake, but I am now better able to imagine how my parents and their peers grew up and lived during the years from the 1940s to now and what shaped them. As a teacher I really appreciate the history in this boook, which one learns so easily through reading about the author’s life. I would especially recommend this book to High School students. Readers who lived through that time period will also enjoy reading “Walled In”. Elke grows up not only inside political/historical walls in the city of Berlin, but also within the walls of the family. The reader suffers along with her as she tries so hard to break out of this life style. Five of five stars.”

—Hella, Ontario, Canada), Amazon review, November 18, 2013, My mother loved reading this book and then recommended it to me. Now I love it too!


“Wonderful descriptions of how life was lived in Germany after the war ended. Written in a great narrative style that allows the reader to feel not only the political and economical tensions during the cold war, but was brought to a personal level with the inclusion of her home life during this time. The descriptions are wonderful, I couldn’t put it down. It should be read in middle school and for high school and college History classes for an insight into this time in history which is normally skimmed over. Five of five stars.”

—maranaz, Amazon review, January 10, 2014, Great story of living in the aftermath of WWII in Germany


“Even though the author and I have both written memoir about growing up in post-war Germany, the thread of this story couldn’t be more different from mine. I was impressed with the writing and the author’s ability to convey the atmosphere of living in West Berlin during the Cold War. I also admired her successful use of geo-politics as a metaphor for her own family dynamics. She conveyed her claustrophobia in vivid detail. What a relief to escape along with her! Five of five stars.”

—Claudia I. Poser, Amazon review, January 28, 2014, Well-written and evocative


“A story of a place and family at the building and living with the walling off of east and West Berlin. Five of five stars.”

—P. Frederick Perona “travel queen”, Amazon review, February 15, 2014, Read this to see how living behind the wall really was


great story…I am the same age as the author, so it was interesting to compare life in Berlin vs life in San Diego and why she came to my hometown! I would recommend this book. Four of five stars.”

—Vicki Vaughnon, April 4, 2014, Loved this book and met the author …she is delightful!

“Fascinating book, especially her description of life in Berlin during the cold war. I like how Elke connected the Berlin wall to her family situation, where she seems walled-in as well. Wonderful book! Five of five stars.”

—Rita Reinecker, October 4, 2014, Encapsulated life

“After I read the book from the library, I decided to buy it, so I can read it again in a few years and perhaps give it one day to my grand children so they can understand the historic time when I lived as a girl and teenager in Germany. So many memories came back (politics, customs, music, historic happenings etc.) Five of five stars”

—Oma, November 23, 2014


“Very well written and I enjoyed listening to her speak at the Davenport German American Heritage Center. It was because of the presentation that I purchased the book and truly was able to see life through her eyes. Danke sehr, Elke! Five of five stars”

—Amazon customer, January 27, 2016


“This is an absorbing and engaging account of one girl’s growing up years in post war Berlin. Born in 1945, Elke was a victim of the hardships and political absurdities that Germany faced after the armistice was signed, but also of her parents’ confusion and problems dealing with the war and their own parts in it. I found her mother’s loving cruelty and the irrational restrictions the mother put on her daughter’s behavior shocking, yet I could not help being sad for her: there was no handbook for how to raise a daughter under the circumstances she found herself in, and the fact that she made choices that were neither kind nor productive were in some ways at least understandable if not forgivable. Elke’s memory of Berlin is amazingly specific and accurate. Having lived there myself in 1954 and 1955, I remember how difficult it was for those who had lived through the war to deal with what had happened. Elke’s voice rings true. There has been a lot written about the war years; this account of what happened afterward in Germany is a less told but equally important story.”

—Eleanor Burke, author of Sketching San Francisco’s Neighborhoods