Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Love, Courage and Survival... The Scent of a Storm (German Love Stories of WWII #3) by Annette Oppenlander

"Annette Oppenlander writes a touching, well-researched historical fiction story. [...]  Love and life find a way to survive from the horrors of war but people are forever changed by the awful tragedies they endured. [...] This book put her on my favorite author's list." - Christy M., Goodreads


Published: September 2021

A heart-wrenching love story for the ages – inspired by true events

A World War II Story about Love, Courage and Survival 

Eastern Prussia, 1944: Young lovers Annie and Werner are separated from each other when he is drafted into Hitler’s Volkssturm. While the SS orders Werner to remove the dead bodies of frozen refugees from Königsberg’s streets, Annie discovers she is pregnant. As she urgently awaits Werner’s return, rumors of the advancing Red Army mount and with it, alarming reports of what they do to women. Running for their lives, Annie and her mother embark on a life-threatening journey west. Even before they can escape by boat, Annie makes a horrifying mistake, one that will haunt her forever. Werner, arrested and imprisoned in a Russian gulag, manages to escape after four months of cruelty and returns home. But his and Annie’s farms lie abandoned—the love of his life and his own family have vanished.

East Berlin, 1989: On the evening of November 9, when the borders between East and West Berlin open for the first time in nearly thirty years—a day which ultimately heralds Germany’s reunification—Annie watches a correspondent on West TV who reminds her of her childhood sweetheart Werner, the man she has thought dead for 45 years. Together with her daughter Emma, Annie sets out on a search...


Over the years I’ve been meeting many people whose family members, parents or grandparents did not grow up locally. Rather they had been refugees from the East. “From the East” – what an ominous expression. What does it even mean?

I grew curious and decided to research. What I found astounded me. Though between 10 and 14 million Germans had been refugees between 1945 and 1950, very little was said about their terrible plight-their destinies were mostly forgotten and swept under the carpet.

In the winter of 1944/1945, the Red Army moved west to defeat the German Wehrmacht. On their way, Russian soldiers plundered, raped and killed…mostly women and children (German men were fighting the war). When in January 1945 three Russian Armies amassed on the Eastern borders of Germany, the German population in Eastern Prussia began to flee in terror. They packed their merest belongings and began to trek west toward Berlin. But because there were so many and it was near zero degrees Fahrenheit, progress was slow. Slower than Russian tanks and artillery. Very soon, Russians had cut off all escape routes except for one: across the “Frisches Haff,” a lagoon on the Baltic Sea, to Pillau and from there via ship west.

Hundreds of thousands attempted the trek. Many died on the way…of exposure, of starvation and by Russian bombardment. There were not nearly enough boats to carry the families and injured returned soldiers, the ship Gustloff was torpedoed by Russians and sank with more than 10,000 people on board.

My story addresses the destiny of these refugees, not just their escape and the horribly difficult circumstances of arriving in a war-torn Germany. It also discusses the issues of losing a home permanently. Because in the summer of 1945, Russia’s dictator, Stalin, decided to confiscate all of Eastern Prussia. He took part for himself and gave the southern section to Poland. In addition, all Germans who still lived in Russia, Silesia, Poland, Hungary, etc. also had to leave and abandon all their possessions. To never return to their home, to their identity, houses and land. What is it like to lose your home, know you’re forever cut off from what you consider your identity? How do you live with that? Forge a new home?

We should remember these men, women and children, because the world produces refugees in great numbers now. They are coming from Turkey, Syria and Africa, from places where a family is no longer safe. They leave everything behind, never to return.

But “The Scent of a Storm” is foremost a love story that spans more than four decades, a tale of redemption, hope and survival!

About the author:
Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.

Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, has received eight awards/nominations, including the 2017 National Indie Excellence Award, the 2018 Indie B.R.A.G. and the 2020 Skoutz Award in Germany. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story. Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she now lives in her hometown, Solingen, Germany with her husband.

Author's Giveaway

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