Thursday 27 February 2020

#HistoricalFiction author, Deborah Swift, is sharing the inspiration behind her fabulous new book — The Occupation #Jersey #WW2 @swiftstory @SapereBooks

An Author’s Inspiration
By Deborah Swift

During World War Two, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans. Jersey is a tiny island, only eight miles long, so I was fascinated to find out how the population managed to keep up their morale, when as many as fifteen thousand (yes, you read that right) Germans had taken over the islands. What happened to the Jews on Jersey, or to the other groups that the Nazis considered ‘undesireable’? How did it feel to be invaded by a foreign army?

German soldiers in St Helier]

My story is about Celine who lives on the island of Jersey and is married to Siegfried, (who she calls Fred) a delightful German she met before the war in Vienna. Together they run a patisserie for the tourists and Fred bakes traditional Austrian pastries. Of course all that changes when war comes. Fred finds himself conscripted into the Wehrmacht, where he is posted to occupied France, and Celine is left at home on Jersey. So they are suddenly on different sides of the occupation. Fred’s story in ‘The Occupation’ is based on a number of accounts of life in the Germany army, and in the French Resistance. I was interested to examine the idea of occupation from the point of view of both the occupier, and the occupied. Fred begins his journey in occupied Paris, but ends up as a spy in Marseille, where he has some hard choices to make about which side he serves.

Round up of Jews in Marseille.

What always interests me in fiction is the conflicts that arise because of the circumstances of war, where one nation is pitted against another, and people who might have been amicable before the conflict are forced to swear allegiance to a sharp division between one side and another, when in reality, and in people, many different shades of grey exist.

The story of the occupation of the Channel Islands became much more interesting and involved the more I uncovered. And Jersey’s history site the Island Wiki is having more material added every day by people who remember the German occupation or have photographs or anecdotes to share. Nazi rule on the islands was supposed to be a ‘peaceful’ occupation. Of course, when you are invaded it might look peaceful, but underneath the tensions soon began to show. The oppressive Nazi force vastly outnumbered the British people left on the island. Those that remained had to find ways to resist, and ways to outwit the unwanted intruders in their traditional way of life.

German Road Markings.

German rule took over – people had to speak German, cars had to drive on the right, many things that had been allowed before, such as owning a car or a radio, were ‘verboten’ – forbidden. Meetings of more than three people were banned. Identity cards and ration cards were introduced and the Germans began a building programme to fortify the island, which they intended to use at a military base to attack England. Vast concrete fortifications were built by slave labour.

Russian slave workers on Jersey.

My story is based on several true accounts, although I have welded them together and compressed them into a fictional narrative. Céline and Rachel’s story was inspired by the true Jersey story of Dorothea Weber, who hid her Jewish friend Hedwig Bercu from the Germans. More on this surprising real life story can be found here[RMS1] .

For an overview on the occupation of Jersey, the BBC history site[RMS2]  has several pages on this topic or visit the Island Wiki site.

The Occupation
By Deborah Swift

One woman’s secret war against the Nazis.
 One man’s war against himself…

1940, Jersey

When Nazi forces occupy Jersey in the English Channel Islands, Céline Huber, who is married to a German, must decide where her loyalty lies. Love for her island, and fear for her Jewish friend Rachel, soon propel her into a dangerous double life.

Meanwhile, Céline’s husband Fred is conscripted into the Wehrmacht in occupied France. Horrified by Nazi acts of atrocity and torture, he soon becomes a double agent for the French Resistance. But when things go wrong, and his Nazi masters discover his true allegiance, he finds he has the whole of the German Army on his tail.

How far will Céline go for her best friend? Will Fred make his way home to her, or will their lives be changed forever by the brutality of war?

Pick up your copy of
The Occupation

Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Connect with Deborah: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads.

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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx