Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

Dr. Helena P. Schrader is the winner of more than 20 literary accolades. For a complete list of her awards see: http://helenapschrader.com

For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Dissecting a Novel Part VI - "Worms' View" Characters

 The "Worm's View" plot line attempts to capture for the reader the feelings of people -- like you and me -- facing the catastrophic economic situation in post-war Germany and the growing manifestations of Soviet determination to make Berlin part of Stalin's empire.


In an age, when men dominated the corridors of power, women were the primary victims of bad politics and lost wars. No body of women suffered more than the women of Berlin, who were subjected to possibly the worst "reign of sexual terror" in modern times in the form of a Red Army occupation. These were not mere excesses carried out by drunken troops, it was a conscious Soviet policy that sanctioned sexual violence against women without inhibition as the "just reward" for Soviet victory. Modern historians estimate that more than one million German women were raped in Berlin. That is the number of victims, not the  number of rapes, which was much higher. Many women were gang raped by up to twenty men at a time or raped repeatedly over a period of time, again dozens or scores of time. Victims were as young as eight and as old as eighty. Rapes were often carried out at gunpoint, with extreme brutality and accompanied by insults and humiliation such as urinating on the woman and kicking her around after completing the sexual assault. 
No novel set in post-war Berlin can call itself complete or authentic without considering the consequences of this sexual terror on a population that was predominantly female. I chose, therefore, to make one of my leading characters a victim of Russian rape, a woman, now 30 years-old, who has lost her immediate family in the war and is struggling to find a reason for living at all. Charlotte Graefin Walmsdorf is a woman who hates herself because she is still alive after being used by six Russian soldiers. Raised on her father's estate in Pomerania, she was never rich or spoiled, but she is a countess with family pride that has now been completely shattered and suicidal thoughts lurk in the shadows of her psyche.

Compared to Charlotte, the other women characters in this plot line are well-off, yet also struggling with the consequences of the war. Kathleen is a single mother, raising her daughter on her own, after her husband was shot down over Berlin in January 1944. She returns to Berlin because Ken is buried there and she hopes that finally visiting the grave will free her to love again. Galyna, on the other hand, has never found love or a true home after her father was convicted of treason by the Soviet state. Although she has escaped to the West, where she had a grandmother, and has found contentment as a Russian translator for the RAF, she is at heart still Ukrainian -- something that soon brings her into danger.

The male characters of this plot line represent and depict on the one hand the fate of German civilians who are starting to pick up the pieces and put Germany back together again economically, and the fate of disabled veterans in the UK. Christian, Charlotte's cousin, is a former Luftwaffe officer, who has landed on his feet. He has returned from American POW internment healthy and untraumatized. His  estates in the American Zone produce desperately needed agricultural products and generate substantial income. But Christian is no farmer and not happy in a provincial, Catholic town. He is drawn to Berlin  -- and becomes fanatical about bringing to justice those whom he believes destroyed Germany and killed his brother: the Nazi leadership incorporated by a senior SS officer. The latter has  adopted a new identity and appears to have the protection of the occupation powers, which only makes Christian more determined to destroy him.

Kit Moran, on the other hand, lost half his lower leg when his Lancaster was shot down over Germany in the last days of the war. As he struggles to obtain a university degree in aeronautical engineering, he finds himself financially burdened by the arrival of his first child. The real problem, however, is that he soon discovers that job opportunities are few and far between in bankrupt Britain. His future begins to look as bleak as that of Britain itself.

Cold Peace is Book I of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series. 

Three years after WWII, Europe struggles with rationing, widespread unemployment and a growing Soviet threat. Hitler's former capital lies ruined under the joint control of wartime allies bitterly at odds. With the currency worthless, the population lives on hand-outs or turns to crime and prostitution. Deep inside the Soviet Zone of occupation, Berlin appears to be an ideal target for a communist take-over, putting the defenders of democracy on a collision course with Stalin's merciless aggression. 

A Battle of Britain ace, a female air traffic controller, a concentration camp survivor and an ex-ATA woman pilot are just some of those trying to find their place in the post-war world. An air ambulance service offers a shimmer of hope, but when a Soviet fighter brings down a British passenger liner, Berlin becomes a flashpoint. The world stands poised on the brink of World War Three.


Find out more at: https://www.helenapschrader.com/bridge-to-tomorrow.html

View a video teaser at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTuE7m5InZM&t=5s

Previous releases include:



 Riding the icy, moonlit sky,

they took the war to Hitler. 

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. 

Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew and the woman he loved. 

It is intended as a tribute to them all.  

Buy now on amazon

or Barnes and Noble


 "This is the best book on the life of us fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain that I have ever seen.... I couldn't put it down."-- RAF Battle of Britain ace, Wing Commander Bob Doe.

Winner of a Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction, a Maincrest Media Award for Military Fiction and Silver in the Global Book Awards.

Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/where-eagles-never-flew


 For more information about all my books visit: https://www.helenapschrader.com


Disfiguring injuries, class prejudice and PTSD are the focus of three tales set in WWII by award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader. Find out more at: https://crossseaspress.com/grounded-eagles









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