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The great escape story

‘Following a four-year research, writing and publication journey, it was a joy to experience my debut book launch at Jarrold’s Department Store in Norwich,’ writes subscriber Phyllida Scrivens.

Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future is the biography of 91-year-old Norwich personality Joe Stirling, Kindertransport refugee and former Sheriff of Norwich. In 2011, seeking a subject for my MA in biography at the University of East Anglia, I came across Joe speaking of his early life to a group of students. Within minutes I knew that his life had to be recorded. After a year of regularly interviewing Joe I had hundreds of hours of transcripts. I was ready to send a proposal to Pen and Sword Books. Within only a few days, they emailed an acceptance. I could hardly believe it. The champagne corks popped!’

Escaping Hitler was published on 5 January and four weeks later I was facing over 200 people at the launch event. We signed over fifty books together that evening. How often does a biography have the signature of both the author and the subject? I was also able to announce that Skyhorse Publishing of New York have bought the rights to publish my book in the United States. Joe is an amazing man who has been totally involved in every step of the process. He continues to take a close interest in the marketing of my book and as a retired successful businessman offers me invaluable advice.

‘Joe was born Günter Stern in 1924 in the village of Nickenich in the German Rhineland. He was the only Jewish boy in the school. As the Nazi regime against the Jews escalated, his father was arrested on Kristallnacht and interned in Dachau concentration camp. Fourteen-year-old Günter could not wait for his Kindertransport visa to arrive; instead he ran away, planning to walk across Europe to the Hook of Holland and stow away on a ferry to England and freedom. Written with the anecdotal testimonies of 35 people who have known Joe, Escaping Hitler documents his education in England, the families who cared for him, his time in the British Army, his family life and his adult career, and also how Joe finally learnt of his parents’ murder by the Nazis.

‘I am proud to say that in May I will be presenting my book to the people of Nickenich, telling them about the remarkable life of their former resident.’

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