If you love two countries and they go to war with each other, which one do you choose to fight for? The German musician Friedrich is in Norway with his Norwegian girlfriend Ellen when Hitler attacks in April 1940. They flee together from Oslo but happen to find themselves very close to the fighting. Their dilemma is that both like Germany but not the Nazis, and Friedrich does not want to fight. Ellen hides him, pretending that he is Dutch. After a long struggle they end up in her grandparents' house on the coast where they spend some idyllic months. But it cannot last forever. When Friedrich disappears Ellen goes to Vienna and Berlin in the middle of war to look for him.
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VANISHED IN BERLIN BOOK PAGE
BARNES & NOBLE
Interview with Ellen Langmo by the local newspaper in Flekkefjord, a small town on the southern coast of Norway.
“Miss Langmo, we have heard that you are a pianist and that your fiancé is a violinist.”
“That is correct.”
“Why have you come to live here, so far from the audiences of the capital and larger towns?”
“We like a quiet life and here we find peace to practice our instruments.”
“But why do you never perform for us? We do not have much entertainment or good music in this town now when it is taken by the German forces. Performing here will give you exposure and practice as well.”
“I apologize, but nobody had asked us to play.”
“Is that so? Is it not true then that you are going to play for a private group next week?”
“Yes, but that is the exception, the only time anyone has wanted me to play for them. I look forward to that.”
“So why is your fiancé not playing with you next week? We hear you playing together all day long. It is a small town and your house is right by the park here.”
“He is Dutch and quite shy. He prefers to stay at home and compose.”
“He is Dutch?”
“That is what I said.”
“So there is nothing in the rumor that he is German and that this is the reason why you don’t want to play for the German Kommandant?”
“We have seen that you are now a member of NS, the Fascist party here. Can you explain your reasons for that?”
“Not at all, I don’t think that is necessary. I have the right to be a member where I want to without having to explain it to the general public. It is time for me to leave! Goodbye!”
Gry Finsnes, Norwegian, has lived in Sweden, India, England, Germany and France. After university studies in Oslo in French and English literature, she started her career as a teacher, but had to give it up as she moved out of the country. She has published two thrillers in Swedish but has recently written in English.AUTHOR INFORMATION & LINKS
It is difficult to throw away books, agony to choose which ones should survive a few more years on the shelf in this age of e-books. I had an account of the invasion of Norway in my hand and was about to throw it away the last time I moved house in France. But who is interested in World War II these days, I thought. The photo on the cover was interesting, though. German officers in a small boat outside the coast of Norway. I decided to keep it and read it. I have grown up in the post war era but like my contemporaries I was not told much about what really happened during these years when Adolf Hitler was leading Germany. We learnt in school that there had been a war and that Norway as well as most of Europe had been invaded by German soldiers. But not the details, not who had sympathized with the Nazis, very little about who had fought for which side and died doing it. Our parents seemed to have had problems feeding the family, that was apparently the main difficulty. Expensive eggs bought in the black market for huge sums of money. But what was it really like being in this war, what had happened? We didn’t know.
That was how it got the idea to write the novel Vanished in Berlin. I read everything I could find about the war in the northern parts of Europe, particularly Norway. Central Europe, Germany, France, England and Russia have been well covered with miles of pages written about the battles and bombings, but very little about the fighting which took place after 9 April 1940 north of Oslo. Films have been made to describe the heroes, of Telemark with the heavy water plant and the local hero Max Manus, but the ordinary population and their reactions have been forgotten, pushed aside. Was it not interesting?
I grew up in Norway and have lived in several countries, among them 10 years in Germany about 50 years after the war ended. People talked to me about their parents and those horrible years. It was still alive in their minds. Some asked me to excuse their fathers and the time they had lived in Norway as oppressors! And then I discovered that many Norwegians had been sympathizers with the Nazis and would have liked them to stay. I interviewed an old war hero I know and read letters and a diary which had belonged to a person in my family, describing the first days of the invasion in Oslo. It set my mind spinning. It took me two years to write the novel. Maybe I will have to write another. I hope you will enjoy the story of two young musicians who desperately try to flee from the war but end up in the center of events.