'This is history'
Former Iowa resident to share childhood memories of Nazi Germany
May 16, 2014
Anneliese Heider Tisdale addressed a crowd of more than 60 people in Jefferson this past November as she shared part of her book “Christmas Trees Lit the Sky” about growing up in WWII Germany. Tisdale moved to Iowa in 1947.
When she was 17, she watched as American soldiers, their trousers bloused at the bottoms, arrived in her home of Munich, Germany, signaling the end of World War II. Several years later, she arrived in Iowa as a newlywed. In the years that followed, she crafted her experiences into a book.
Tonight, Anneliese Heider Tisdale will share her tale in Carroll.
At 7 p.m. at Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery, Tisdale will read a chapter from "Christmas Trees Lit the Sky: Growing Up in World War II Germany," answer questions and sign copies of the book.
"We're always interested in reading and hearing people's stories, and this was a different type of event for us," said Rachel Brotherton, event manager at Santa Maria.
Those who want to attend can contact Brotherton at 712-790-0817 to reserve tickets, which cost $5 per person.
Tisdale's mother taught her at a young age to take any opportunity to learn. So while teaching at Kirkwood Community College, she signed up for a free book-writing and publishing class and began writing about her memories of growing up in Nazi Germany to satisfy her children's repeated requests for a written record of her experiences.
Her first chapter was returned to her with a large message in red ink: "This is not for your children. You must publish this. This is history."
In 2012, the former Greene County resident followed those instructions, publishing her story after more than a decade of writing.
The book follows Tisdale's life from age 11, when the war started, to age 17, when the war ended, and is sprinkled throughout with humor and German recipes. The title refers to the red and green flashes of light reflected by flares the Allied forces dropped before completing bombing raids on Munich. They were an innovation in warfare at the time, and the German civilians did not know how else to refer to them.
During a similar event in Jefferson in November, Tisdale described how after the Allied soldiers arrived, Tisdale and her fellow residents quickly learned that Munich had become a city "without a government." The high officials had fled, leaving a mere city clerk to sign the official surrender papers. Tisdale became a translator for the American Army.
"They hired the younger people because they thought we had less of an ax to grind," she explained.
With peace came dances - veritable balls for a teenager who had never had a date while her entire young adult life passed under the fog of war.
"When they said there were dances, we were there," she said in Jefferson with a grin. "My mother said, 'All you do, you come home from work and you change clothes and go leave again,' and I couldn't see anything wrong with that," she added, earning a laugh. "I danced the night away."
Before long, she fell in love with a soldier, who brought her back to Paton, Iowa, her passport identifying her as an "alien war bride" in 1947.
People often ask how the German people could have allowed the Holocaust to happen, Tisdale said. "Christmas Trees" reflects on this darker period of history through the eyes of a child who couldn't always comprehend the significance and nuances of the changing world around her. She knew of Dachau's existence as a jail for political prisoners, but not as an extermination camp. One chapter touches on her first experience being turned away from a Jewish shop by armed guards, another on the disappearance of a family running a needlecraft shop, one she now believes may have been Jewish.
Tisdale's adult reflection of her experiences as a child will appeal to everyone who attends the event, Brotherton said.
"We try to do events for different ages and interests, and this seems to be a topic all ages want to hear about and learn about," she said.
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