by Nicolette Maleckar
"A terrific story, beautifully written, with many remarkable characters. I miss them now that I've finished reading the book." - Maddy De Leon, Amazon.com
Alone for the first time in her life, beguiling young Hanne Goldshmidt must find her own way. Homeless and hungry, Hanne is plucked from a crowd of ragged survivors and, by sheer good fortune, is given a golden chance to start a new life. But falling in love with her dashing benefactor puts Hanne right in the thick of his risky, clandestine schemes.
An incandescent story of the first blush of love in an impossible time, filled with an indomitable spirit of hope and joy.
Nicolette Maleckar, nee Zweig, was born in 1926 in Breslau, Germany. In 1939, she was sent to England in one of the children's transports arranged by the Quakers. From 1945 to 1947, she worked as a translator and interpreter for the United States Military Government in Berlin, where The Lilac Tree takes place.
Nicolette Maleckar lives with her husband on a mountaintop in West Virginia.
I left Germany on one of the last children's transports to England in August, 1939, and came back in November, 1945 as a civilian employee of the American army. My aim when applying for the job was the crazy hope that I might find surviving family members. Amazingly, my mother had survived due to her gritty determination, the heroic efforts of friends, and a great deal of luck.
Lilac Tree grew out of my admittedly selective memories of a surreal experience. The Berlin I had left was cruel and frightening: It had been hard to find anyone who had a kind word for Jews. I came back six years later to a pile of rubble with small enclaves of normalcy. The hatred towards Jews was still palpable, but nicely hidden under the requisite protestations of hatred for the Nazis.
The plight of the Berliners in their unheated, bomb-damaged homes was heartbreaking. You could smell their hunger. Hunger had a distinct smell and it was everywhere. And there I was, well-dressed in a marvelous American uniform, better fed than I had been in years. The PX made available unbelievable luxuries, including two cartons of cigarettes a week. A non-smoker, I found myself rich. Cigarettes could buy anything. I knew one fellow who bought an excellent piano for twelve cartons of Lucky Strikes.