I had to do a lot of research for each of my novels, but none more than for Breadcrumbs and Bombs, my historical mystery set in the Sudetenland and Germany. I read nonfiction books about World War II, and I read novels set during the war. I researched on the internet.  I wrote down stories told to me by my Sudeten German mother and her sister, years ago. I did all of that because I wanted to create a realistic story about average German and Sudeten citizens trying to survive the war and the aftermath.

Since the book also involved ancestry/genealogy–a young man’s quest to find discover his own family tree–I searched my own family tree. For me, it wasn’t too difficult because my father and one of his sisters had done most of the work already, years ago. What I did was bring in more of my mother’s family tree, including photographs and photocopies of some old documents. I knew that my German grandfather had written poetry during the war, but I didn’t have any of his poems. Perhaps one of my German uncles has them, but I can’t communicate with my uncles. They don’t speak English.

Even though the family in the story was fictional, it gave me more insight into my own family–what my mother, her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins–all endured. It helped me understand why my mother was prone to being nervous, distrustful, and sickly. She was one of the millions of Sudeten Germans who were malnourished and forced from their homes and taken to internment camps after the war. She was a little girl at the time. How horrible that must have been.

In my research of the Sudetenland and the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, I found a wide range of stories. It seems as though not all Sudeten Germans were treated the same way. As far as I can tell, much depended on the location where they lived. In the northeastern part of the Sudetenland, they were expelled early because the Red Army was advancing into the area and taking control. In other areas, the Sudeten Germans weren’t expelled until after the war ended, and in some cases they weren’t even allowed to leave even if they wanted to. Often, they were forced to stay because they had skills that the cities where they lived needed. Some tried to escape and were killed for it.

I chose the Northeastern Sudetenland, near the Polish border, for my story because that’s where my family came from. One of my German uncles went back there, twenty-something years ago, to see how it had changed. I never got to see any of his photos, but I found a few black and white photos online. Those helped me get a picture of the area in my head.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings about my research.