By JJ Toner
Let’s have a sneak peek between the covers of The Road to Liberation. Below is an excerpt of JJ Toner’s fabulous book — Liberation Berlin
Berlin, June 1957
Berlin was a city reborn. Military vehicles buzzed around streets populated with earnest young people, and construction cranes dominated the skyline.
The sun beamed down on a couple tending their crops on an allotment in Westend. A tall man in an ill-fitting suit approached. He had a paunch and walked with a slight limp.
The woman drew her husband’s attention to the stranger.
“Can I help you?” said the young man, brushing soil from his hands.
“This used to be my plot, before the war,” said the stranger.
“You left before the war?”
“I got out just before the end.”
“You were lucky, so,” said the young man. “What did you grow here?”
The older man smiled. “Potatoes, carrots and cabbages. And onions. Lots of onions. I had a cabin at the back, there.”
“There was no cabin when we took it,” said the woman.
The young man pointed to the lopsided shed. “I built that.”
The older man held out his hand. “My name is Hans Klein.”
The men shook hands.
“I’m Hermann Hübner. This is my wife, Carla.”
“We have carrots and onions,” said Frau Hübner. “And we thought we’d try peas.” “And we have this.” Hübner pointed with pride to a marrow under a cloche.
Frau Hübner stepped forward. “What did you say your name was?”
She and her husband exchanged a quick glance.
“We have something of yours,” he said.
She hurried into the shed and re-emerged with a tin box. She handed it to Klein. “This was buried in the plot. We found it when we started to dig.”
Klein took the box. He looked at it and frowned. “This is not mine.” “Look inside,” said the woman.
Berlin, early July 1944
Gretchen settled Oskar in his chair, wrapping a light blanket around his legs.
“I’ll be home by one o’clock. There’s water on the table beside you, and I’ve left some food in the kitchen in case you feel hungry.”
He smiled his vacant smile at her.
Suppressing a tear, she kissed him on the forehead, picked up her bag and left.
She had always loved the early mornings. Even now, with destroyed buildings everywhere and mountains of rubble in the streets, the birds sang. There was a time when Oskar would have shared her joy in the birdsong. That was before the war took his mind. She clung to her memories of those good times as if they were the crown jewels.
Yesterday’s warmth radiated from the ground. Above the towering apartment blocks, the sunrise painted the clouds red in the eastern sky. She shivered. The magnificent sight was tinged with menace; the Red Army was advancing through Poland...
The walk to the bakery took twenty minutes. A couple of early delivery drays rattled past, but otherwise the streets were deserted. When she arrived, a queue of five women was already waiting at the bakery door. They greeted Gretchen as she entered. She knew all their names.
Bäckermeister Korn, the master baker, had fired up the ovens and was measuring out the ingredients into the hoppers.
“You’ve increased the rye?” she said, putting on her apron.
He ran a hand across his face, leaving a smudge of flour on his bulbous nose. “Our store of wheat flour is getting low. I’m not sure when we might expect the next delivery.”
She could remember when they’d first started increasing the quantities of rye in the mixture, in the winter of 1942. The levels were strictly controlled by the Gauleiter’s office.
“Don’t concern yourself, Gretchen.” He turned his back. “A little more than last month, that’s all.”
She let the subject drop, but she was concerned. The levels of rye affected her digestion. She had to eat the bread like everyone else, and she had to feed it to her sick husband.
By the time the oven doors were open and the four trays of Kommissbrot lay shimmering on the benches, Gretchen’s dress was stuck to her body and sweat was pouring down her legs. Outside, it was a hot day; inside the shop, the heat was unbearable. She ran her eyes over the bread. Did it look a little darker than usual or was that her imagination?
“Are you ready, Gretchen?” said the baker.
She gritted her teeth, running her hands down the creases in her dress. “Ready, Herr Korn.”
He opened the doors and the women flooded in waving their money and their ration books. Each person was entitled to 500 grams of bread, but not everyone would receive their allowance; there simply wasn’t enough for everybody. The scene quickly descended into chaos. The noise was deafening. Korn and Gretchen struggled to keep order. As the bread supply began to dwindle, the women fought more and more fiercely to get served. There were indignant shouts, cries of pain and anger as the women elbowed one another out of the way in frustration, pushing and shoving, using their handbags as weapons.
Those with the sharpest elbows, the most body weight or the loudest voices got to the front and were served; those at the back went away empty-handed.
Within 15 minutes all the bread was gone, apart from four loaves hidden in an oven – two Herr Korn had set aside for himself and two for Gretchen.
Herr Korn ushered the last disappointed customers out of the shop. “I’m sorry, ladies. That’s all we have today. Come early on Wednesday.” He locked the door.
Gretchen glanced at the large clock above the bakery door. It was after ten o’clock. If she didn’t leave soon, she would be late getting home. Oskar would start to fret.
“You’re free to go. I’ll tidy up,” said Korn. “How is Herr Schuster?”
“He’s much the same, Herr Korn.” She removed her apron, dusted the flour from her hands, and ran her fingers through her hair.
“Take the foal and give it to your husband with my blessing,” he said. The ‘foal’ was the wizened half-loaf made from the last few grams of dough.
She thanked him and placed the extra small loaf in her bag.
He unlocked the door. She stepped outside and he locked it again behind her. Shielding her eyes against the blinding light, she set off across the street.
A grey-green Kübelwagen shot past, forcing Gretchen to jump back onto the footpath. Stumbling to her knees, she bumped into a young woman pushing a pram and dropped her bag.
“I beg your pardon,” she said.
The young woman rolled her eyes. “Did you see who was in that car?”
Gretchen shook her head, picking herself off her knees.
“Two of the Gauleiter’s officers. I saw his crest on the door. They were going much too fast for safety—” The woman glanced down at Gretchen’s bag. “What do you have there?” “Nothing. It’s nothing.” Gretchen picked up her bag.
The young woman’s eyes lit up. “You have fresh bread. I can smell it.”
Gretchen hurried away to cries of “Wait! Come back!” from the young woman.
A line of women waiting at a bus stop turned to watch as Gretchen hurried onward, her bag clutched tightly to her chest. The smell of fresh bread was enough to start a riot on the streets these days!
The Road to Liberation: Trials and Triumphs of WWII
By Marion Kummerow, Marina Osipova, Rachel Wesson, JJ Toner, Ellie Midwood, and Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger.
Riveting stories dedicated to celebrating the end of WWII.
From USA Today, international bestselling and award-winning authors comes a collection filled with courage, betrayal, hardships and, ultimately, victory over some of the most oppressive rulers the world has ever encountered.
By 1944, the Axis powers are fiercely holding on to their quickly shrinking territories.
The stakes are high—on both sides:
Liberators and oppressors face off in the final battles between good and evil. Only personal bravery and self-sacrifice will tip the scales when the world needs it most.
Read about a small child finding unexpected friends amidst the cruelty of the concentration camps, an Auschwitz survivor working to capture a senior member of the SS, the revolt of a domestic servant hunted by the enemy, a young Jewish girl in a desperate plan to escape the Gestapo, the chaos that confused underground resistance fighters in the Soviet Union, and the difficult lives of a British family made up of displaced children..
2020 marks 75 years since the world celebrated the end of WWII. These books will transport you across countries and continents during the final days, revealing the high price of freedom—and why it is still so necessary to “never forget”.
Stolen Childhood by Marion Kummerow
The Aftermath by Ellie Midwood
When's Mummy coming? by Rachel Wesson
Too Many Wolves in the Local Woods by Marina Osipova
Liberation Berlin by JJ Toner
Magda’s Mark by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger
Pick up your copy of
The Road to Liberation
My background is in Mathematics and computing, but I have been writing full time since 2005. I write short stories and novels. My novels include the bestselling WW2 spy story 'The Black Orchestra', and its three sequels, 'The Wings of the Eagle', 'A Postcard from Hamburg', and 'The Gingerbread Spy'.
Many of my short stories have been published in mainstream magazines. Check out 'EGGS and Other Stories' - a collection of satirical SF stories. I was born in a cabbage patch in Ireland, and I still live here with my first wife, although a significant part of our extended family lives in Australia.
Marina Osipova was born in East Germany into a military family and grew up in Russia where she graduated from the Moscow State Institute of History and Archives. She also has a diploma as a German language translator from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Languages. In Russia, she worked first in a scientific-technical institute as a translator then in a Government Ministry in the office of international relations, later for some Austrian firms. For seventeen years, she lived in the United States where she worked in a law firm. Eventually, she found her home in Austria. She is an award-winning author and a member of the Historical Novel Society.
Marion Kummerow was born and raised in Germany, before she set out to "discover the world" and lived in various countries. In 1999 she returned to Germany and settled down in Munich where she's now living with her family.
After dipping her toes with non-fiction books, she finally tackled the project dear to her heart. UNRELENTING is the story about her grandparents, who belonged to the German resistance and fought against the Nazi regime. It's a book about resilience, love and the courage to stand up and do the right thing.
Rachel Wesson is Irish born and bred. Drawn to reading from an early age, she started writing for publication a few years back. When she is not writing, Rachel likes to spend her time reading and playing with her three kids. Living in Dublin there are plenty of things to do, although the cowboys and Indians of her books rarely make an appearance. To chat with Rachel connect with her on Facebook - authorrachelwesson. To check out her newest releases sign up to her mailing list.
Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, "The Girl from Berlin." Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.
In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger was born in Minnesota in 1969 and grew up in the culture-rich neighborhood of "Nordeast" Minneapolis. She started her writing career with short stories, travel narratives, worked as a journalist and then as a managing editor for a magazine publisher before jumping the editor's desk and pursuing her dreams of writing and traveling. In 2000, she moved to western Austria and established her own communications training company. In 2005, she self-published a historical narrative based on her relatives' personal histories and experiences in Ukraine during WWII. She has won several awards for her short stories and now primarily writes historical fiction. During a trip into northern Italy over the Reschen Pass, she stood on the edge of Reschen Lake and desperately wanted to understand how a 15th-century church tower ends up sticking out of the water. What stories were lying beneath? Some eight years later, she launched the "Reschen Valley" series with five books and a novella releasing between 2018 and 2021.
For more on Chrystyna, dive in at inktreks(dot)com.