MüNCHEN, GERMANY August 1946
Daisy Ginsberg was travelling from Paris to Germany, an overnight trip by train. She was glad that the almost twelve hour journey afforded her time to think of all that had happened to her in the last year.
It was so different now on the train. The year they'd been taken to the concentration camp, the cattle cars had been overloaded with humans. Some of the older men had died while still on their feet, then were unceremoniously dumped out of the train wherever it stopped, before loading more passengers to be crushed together in the cars. They had stood for hours, unable to move, unable to breathe. The stench had overtaken all their senses but although later they had not been aware of it anymore.
Now she travelled in near luxury, seated in a cabin with a padded bunk. She sat back and thought of the child. She still missed Célestine. It had become easier to think of her as Célestine and not Zannah anymore.
She'd written Helmut to tell him that she'd read in an American newspaper sold in Paris, that Charles Miller was now a brigadier general and that he'd been awarded America's highest award for bravery. Célestine had performed for President Truman on that day.
Helmut had been happy. She had written Brigadier General Miller once and he'd replied that Célestine had been formally adopted by him. Célestine had also been accepted into the Juilliard School of Music where she would be continuing her education. She treasured the Tononi that Helmut had given to her. He was going to be overjoyed by the news. In her handbag, she carried letters from both Célestine and her father.
They had treated her with love and respect. While she had been accepted by her former school as a teacher of Mathematics, she only scraped together the courage months after returning to Paris to visit the Millers at their Paris home. Célestine had been overjoyed to see her. Daisy had been in tears when they accompanied her to the Paris cemetery where Joseph Blumenthal and Zannah Ginsberg lay buried. They'd bought flowers outside the cemetery gates and later, she had remained alone by the grave.
The Millers had had a new headstone made that now included Zannah's name, engraved in Roman lettering. Daisy had wept a long time. When she'd dried her tears, she'd taken the flowers tied in a posy with a simple ribbon and placed it on the grave.
"Repose en paix, douce petite fille. Que les anges chantent avec toi au paradis…."
Sometimes, just sometimes, she'd been glad Zannah had died instantly and was never subjected to the brutality of physical and sexual abuse in the camp. Zannah was spared that and it had taken all her ingenuity to save another child from those practices. Until the Millers had left for America, she had lived with friends in the city. She could visit Célestine and Célestine could visit her. Then she moved into the Millers' home in Rue Lion when they emigrated to the United States.
Sighing, Daisy sat back and thought about the goodness of the Millers whose house she could occupy for as long as she wanted, free of charge. "Besides," they told her, "we need someone to take care of our home. She had been overjoyed, for she'd lost her home, discovering it was occupied by complete strangers when she returned from Buchenwald. All she could turn to were her friends and the Millers. She owed them a lot. Helmut would have received a stiffer sentence if it weren't for Major General Miller and Célestine's testimony.
The train pulled slowly into Munich Station, which surprised her since she had hardly been aware she'd reached her destination. Her heart pounded as she got off the train. Everything was strange to her here. She could barely understand the German instructions, but the atmosphere was one of quiet yet urgent activity. She made her way to a taxi rank where she spoke to the first taxi driver in German and gave him the destination. He gave her a studied look, then nodded, appearing to shelve the question that seemed to lurk in his eyes. He appeared friendly, though. He drove for about fifteen minutes through winding roads until they reached the outskirts of Munich. There the vehicle stopped in front of a large building with giant double gates.
"Here we are. A fine day to visit a jail, Madame," the German said. "Do you wish me to wait?"
Daisy stared at the driver, her thoughts straying momentarily to a year ago when the situation between German and French had been so different, relations strained. She had feared every German except perhaps Helmut. She'd thought then that those breaches could never be healed again after so much hurt had been inflicted. Then she had looked upon them as the enemy. Things were different now, with Germany occupied by the Allies. Except for the destroyed buildings they'd passed, it was as if there had not been a war. She was not accustomed to their friendliness.
"Yes, please. We are returning to the station," she replied in German.
"Good. Good. I shall wait here. Not to worry, Madame."
"Thank you," she said, smiling a little because he appeared so friendly. She was perplexed, for had there not been a war a year ago when German and French towns and cities were laid waste? When Germans treated everyone not Aryan as inferior? When thousands were murdered in the name of the Reich? She looked at the driver and repeated her "Thank you."
Daisy walked to within ten metres of the big gate. Helmut had written to tell her where to wait. She had not been able to visit him but wrote him a letter almost every week and she had treasured all the letters he had written her. She didn't have to wait long. The great gates creaked heavily as two guards pushed them open.
Helmut stood there, a little ruck sack slung over his shoulder, afraid to move. Her heart ached for him. His face looked gaunt although the light of recognition sprang into his eyes when he saw her. He had always been lean of build but his clothes hung like sacks on his body. And oh, how she had missed his beloved face!
She couldn't move or even smile because it was such a momentous occasion. She had waited patiently for a year to see him again. Now it was approaching summer once more and her ankle length dress swayed gently against her calves. Helmut began walking slowly towards her. His hair had grown long and his eyes, once so crystal clear blue, now appeared darker, although they gleamed as they rested on her. She knew he had suffered in jail. Like the camps, there were few rules in prison. She had no doubt that a year was enough to have inflicted serious emotional damage on him. When he stopped in front of her, she raised her hand to caress his cheek with trembling fingers.
She stepped into his embrace, and despite his thin, sick frame, he held her tightly before he murmured into her hair, "Liebling..."
The taxi driver observed them from his taxi. It was very clear to him that the couple were deeply devoted just by the way the former prisoner held her so tightly. Once he had dreamed he could hold his wife like that, but she had died along with their two little boys during the bombing raids on Dresden. What was he but a simple foot soldier of a leader who let the world rain bombs on the innocent, wherever they were in the world?
Now, looking at a Frenchwoman who had travelled all the way from Paris, he presumed, holding her beloved like she would never want to let him go brought tears to his eyes. He had loved his wife and sons. He was a plain man, a gardener by trade, who had worked on a large estate. In the end der Führer had called up even the simple labourers like him to defend a crumbling Reich. He sighed heavily, his heart a little sore. Perhaps one day he might meet another fine young woman and have children by her so that he could live a life complete with a family again.
Only when the couple reached him did he realise he knew the former prisoner.
"Baron Freiherr von Wangenheim?"
The German frowned, then said quietly as recognition dawned, "Rudolph Steiner..."
"I worked on your estate in Munziger, Baron, before the war. It is an honour to meet you."
"Thank you, Steiner. You drive a taxi now?"
"Ja. It is good work, Herr von Wangenheim."
Helmut nodded, his hand on Daisy's elbow as he let her climb in the taxi before he seated himself next to her.
"Back to the station, Herr von Wangenheim?"
"Yes. Your wife and children, Rudolph?"
"They died during the Dresden bombings, Herr von Wangenheim."
"I am sorry to hear that," Helmut said.
Although they conversed rapidly in German, Daisy understood them. Steiner sounded like a genuinely friendly, good kind of person, she thought. Everyone had lost someone during the war. Very few remained untouched.
As they drove away from the prison to the station, Helmut turned to face Daisy. She gripped his hand tightly.
"We leave for Paris on the night train," Helmut told Steiner.
Steiner nodded, driving the vehicle expertly through the town to the station.
Helmut and Daisy sat quietly in the back. They'd made all their arrangements. First to the Millers' home in Paris where they would spend some time, then would take him to the cemetery before showing him around the city. They would get married in Paris, then depart for Munziger. He wanted to tie up all his affairs before leaving Europe for good.
PARIS – 28 July 1956
The velodrome of the Parc du Princes teemed with spectators. In the main stand facing the finishing line sat a group anxiously waiting for the riders to enter the stadium from the opposite end and ride the long curve of 330 yards until they crossed the finish.
Twelve year old Charles Bertrand Beaumont fidgeted next to his mother. On her right sat eight year old Katrine Beaumont who seemed too serene for Charles's liking. She could be a little spitfire at one moment and the next be an angel at peace with the world. He'd heard his parents complain that she was far too quiet to be a Beaumont, because Beaumonts were a noisy bunch all the time. They'd even thought at one point that Katrine was sick, but the way she ate her food was enough evidence that she was healthy. Sometimes he hated that she never got mad at him for teasing her. He always thought she was afraid to get angry. Once, when they'd ridden out in the country on their bikes, he yelled that there was an obstacle in front of her. She'd swerved hard then landed in a thorny ditch. He'd spent that evening without supper and nursing a very sore behind because Papa had no patience with admonishment by talking. Papa had taken his old leather belt and walloped him really hard. Charles had sworn then that he would never help Katrine into a ditch again.
So how was he to know that Katrine had a talent for being sneaky? It seemed to him that she developed her cunning right after her thorny landing. A few days later, he'd landed in a ditch and then Maman simply told him to remove his own thorns before both children were sent to bed without supper. Katrine had whined all evening because she missed her favourite dish that Maman cooked that night. All was forgotten and he'd hugged his little sister tightly and told her they were a team.
"Will you sit still, Charles?"
"I'm trying, Maman. The riders will arrive within the next ten minutes. I've worked out that Papa need only finish in the top five riders of the final stage. He is still ahead on points."
Brigitte Beaumont glanced at her son. She had loved him since the day he was born. Another man had fathered him but Bertrand was the father Charles loved. He'd been told very early on that Bertrand was not his real father, that his real father was a German soldier who had died during the liberation of St. Clair. Charles had given them both a long look, frowned heavily, then shrugged. She and Bertrand had had their hearts in their months that day for fear that Charles would be angry for the rest of his life. But their son was a champion. In physical appearance there was little of Welthagen in Charles. He looked mostly like both Brigitte and Berry. Charles had a lust for life that excluded morbid thoughts about "real father' or "birth father".
Only recently, before the Tour started, Charles had spoken about his heritage, the first time since he was about six years old. He didn't want to know anything about being German or having German blood. That day he'd told them with the heaviest frown he could muster that he was a Beaumont and that they should never forget that.
"I have a perfect family. Papa is my father. I have more love in my home than some of my school friends. You will always be my mother and father and Katrine my sister even though she irritates me."
They'd all given a collective sigh and life went on.
"Yes, you told me, Charles. Papa is ahead on points. He'll be wearing the yellow jersey, not so?"
"You know that, Maman!"
"Katrine doesn't. Do you Katrine?"
"I do not like yellow jerseys, " responded Katrine.
Brigitte gave Charles a warning look that said, "Don't you dare laugh at her." She loved her children and Berry loved them perhaps even more. He'd been completely bowled over by the tiny infant that was Charles Bertrand Beaumont, had declared that he'd loved his son even when he was still in his mother's womb. Today Brigitte still could not believe her good fortune, still could not comprehend completely why she'd rejected Berry who was always there, always so protective, always openly loving her. Yes, she sighed inwardly, she had been a fool, but regrets couldn't be turned into blessings. They came because of her regrets. She'd much rather count her blessings than dwell on things that could serve absolutely no purpose to her future happiness.
Berry was a good man, a good husband, a better friend. She could not have asked for more. Once, in the distant past she had loved Robert Davis. They had been so young then in a world in which the ominous signs of war rumbled. They had both been enriched for their experiences, for life had a way of showing them different paths. She was happy now and she was certain Robert was happy too.
Suddenly there was a noise at the opposite end of the stadium. They were coming in, the riders from many different countries.
"Maman! Look! A yellow jersey is in front!" shouted Charles who'd dropped his notebook and pen and rose to stand on the seat. He began yelling and jumping. It seemed the spectators followed his example and stood up, applauding, for right there, leading the riders in was Bertrand Beaumont in the yellow jersey.
Brigitte looked at the peloton entering the straight with Berry in front. At forty years of age, Berry was one of the oldest riders. He had led from the start when he won the 139 mile stage 1 from Reims to Liège. Thereafter he'd worn the yellow jersey throughout, winning Stage 5, 9, 14 and 21. Berry had always declared he'd win the Tour de France one day.
When the riders streaked past the finish to tumultuous applause and noise, began screaming in earnest. After glancing at her brother, who was echoing his mother's shouts of encouragement, Katrine joined in just as loudly.
Berry pumped the air as he sped past the finish. Brigitte shouted and wept. She didn't care who was watching or whether the children would tease her for shedding tears. It was her Berry winning the Tour de France just like he'd always said he would.
His third consecutive win.
"It's my last race, Brigitte. Charles is very good on a bike. It's time I trained him."
Those were his words just before the Tour started and they'd lain in bed talking long after midnight. He had wanted to focus on their business, building racing cycles. Because the business was growing, they'd had to relocate to Paris four years ago. Solange and Lamine had remained in St. Clair running the very lucrative Coeur de Lion.
She hadn't realised that Berry was leaning against the railing.
"Papa!" the children cried. "You won! Congratulations!"
Berry smiled at his children but had eyes only for Brigitte whom he had loved since she wore pig tails and ankle socks. She still managed to make his heart race so that he found breathing difficult. But she was his Brigitte forever. Brigitte who smiled at him with tears in her eyes, who had lost none of her sparkle. She would be ninety and still sparkle.
Forgetting everyone around them momentarily, then he pulled Brigitte against him and kissed her passionately. The podium and awards and trophies could wait. Katrine and Charles could wait. They were children. Their time would come one day. But right now, his Brigitte was kissing him, her arms rightly around his neck.
When at last they broke the kiss, he gazed into her eyes. He was a winner long before the Tour!
"I love you, Brigitte Beaumont!"
NEW YORK – Carnegie Hall – August 1956
The members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra tuned their instruments, bows skimming the strings of a cello, a flautist blowing a note in D major. They were sounds she had come to love for they filled her with excitement, a thrill that she was a part of it. As a young girl, she had dreamed of performing in the Carnegie Hall.
Through a narrow opening in the curtains covering the stage entrance, Célestine Miller's eyes swept over the first rows of the auditorium. It was the first row that caused her to catch her breath, her heart giving a familiar lurch. General Charles Miller sat next to her mother, Katrine. As always, her dad was in full dress uniform, cutting a resplendent, imposing figure. It always delighted her when he entered the foyer of a concert hall because he was such a presence.
The first time she had seen him, he was also in uniform. She had been a frightened child in a concentration camp and he the one who had come to liberate them all. She remembered that day very clearly when he'd told her, "Your name is Célestine…". That day her courage had broken through her fear when she'd thrown herself in his arms even before he spoke about her mother, even before he'd said that he'd married her mother.
She had vague memories of her own father, Joseph Blumenthal. Over the years, whenever they visited France, she made the little pilgrimage to the cemetery where he was buried with Zannah Ginsberg, the little girl who had died in her place. Célestine had loved her natural father, but life, she'd decided long ago, was made for the living, those who had passed on becoming fond memories. Her world was peopled by her parents, her brother Evan and her little sister Katya, her extended family.
Célestine gazed at her father, her heart filling with immense pride.
General Charles Anson Miller. War hero. Husband and father.
To this day she was still not sure why she'd reacted like she had that day when she hurled herself into his embrace, hugging him with her thin arms. He'd felt strong, unbreakable, invincible, a man she sensed intuitively she could trust. They connected as a team, father and daughter, a father who was present most times for her recitals, achievements and presentations. Yet he never let Evan and Katya feel excluded. Evan was fast making a name as a young cellist, an instrument he loved although he was bound for West Point once he graduated from high school. They all flourished because their parents supported them in all their endeavours.
Katrine Miller looked even more beautiful now. Her mother's hand was held in her father's. Célestine couldn't imagine a time when she hadn't seen them hold hands like that. She loved hearing stories about how they met, how they fell in love, how they married in Paris after just looking at a pair of rings in a store window. Katrine, they all knew by now, hadn't liked Charles Miller in the beginning because, according to her, he was so bossy.
She was glad they they were all here. They were her people, her fiercest supporters – all of them, from her mother and father to Pa Isaac and Ma Althea, the two boys and Charlotte and Katya. She loved them all.
This was her big concert with a major orchestra, one of the greatest orchestras in the world, under the direction of one of the greatest conductors. It was the start of her professional career after she'd completed her education in music. She had studied under the greatest tutors in America and had already made a radio recording for CBS radio. Giving a deep sigh, she dropped the curtain back.
Her instrument was tuned, her fingers holding the bow with a very light tremble. It was time… The concertmaster had walked onto the stage and taken a bow before a final tuning of his instrument after which he sat down.
"Ready?" Maestro Leonard Bernstein asked.
She looked up at him and smiled.
"As I'll ever be!"
General Charles Anson Miller sat in the front row and next to him was his wife, Katrine Miller, her hand clasped in his. On Katrine's side sat nine year old Katya and next to Charles sat fifteen year old Evan, a strapping young teen who already was almost as tall as his father.
Charles looked around, craning his neck to gaze at the rest of the family who had come to watch Célestine in her first performance in the Carnegie Hall. They sat two rows behind them. Sixteen year old little Charlie – lately he'd taken offence at the "little" since he was six feet tall – sat next to Edward. Both Charlie and Evan were headed for West Point when they graduated from high school, even though Evan was so proficient playing the cello. There was not a prouder father than Edward who had always dreamed of being in the armed forces. Lucy's hand was held firmly in her husband's. They too had a nine year old daughter, Charlotte, born on the same day as Katya. Winonah, who was fourteen years old, also played the violin. Katya and Charlotte wanted to row on the river at Poughkeepsie whenever Charles senior headed for the water course there.
Edward smiled as he gave Charles a thumbs up sign. The orchestra members had already taken their seats.
A hush fell in the concert hall. The concertmaster entered the stage from the left, turned to face the audience and bowed. Then he tuned his violin, followed by the orchestra who did the same. There was no applause during this short time as the concertmaster seated himself in the first violinist's position on the stage.
"When is she coming, Dad?" Evan whispered next to him.
"Can't wait. She said tonight is just for us, but look at all the people here! It's a full house!"
"I know, son. She is gifted and so are you. It's her official introduction to the world. They are discovering her now, okay?"
"I hope she smiles at you again, Dad, like she does every time!"
Charles's heart warmed at his son's words. Célestine had done many concerts, but those were in small venues and mostly with chamber orchestras. He and Katrine attended Célestine's concerts as their own busy schedules allowed. Tonight was too important not to stay away. Charlie knew the press was represented here. The family was hoping that one of the classical music labels would offer Célestine a recording contract.
Evan was right. Célestine always reserved a special smile for him, ever since that very first day eleven years ago in Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He had loved her instantly and would do anything to protect her and Katrine. Now, Evan and Katya were part of that circle.
A sudden stirring among the audience alerted him to the present again, his eyes now riveted to the left side entrance. Then, the applause as Célestine and Leonard Bernstein entered the stage. Bernstein shook the hand of the concertmaster before he turned to face the audience and both conductor and soloist bowed.
There was an audible gasp from the audience as Célestine walked to her position in a flowing peach coloured chiffon gown that draped to her ankles in a multitude of folds. The bodice of the dress, caught at the waist by a long sash, was adorned with Swarovski rhinestones that glittered continuously with the tiniest of movements. Charles recalled how mother and daughter agonised over colours, tones, fabrics, crystals. Katrine had been adamant that the V-line bodice be held up with thin straps caught at the back cross-ways. "How would it look if you moved about too much and the bodice dropped off your bosom?" Which had both women and Katya, only nine years old, almost on the floor laughing their heads off. In the end, common sense prevailed. Célestine had also insisted on a sleeveless dress, especially in summer. "I am not ashamed of having spent years in a concentration camp, Maman." Even today Célestine still used the French inflective, something her brother and younger sister also followed. They all spoke French fluently which both he and Katrine had encouraged in their children.
Célestine caught his eye and smiled. A warmth spread through him as he acknowledged his daughter whom he had raised from her tenth year. She was self-assured with a discipline honed through years of study at the Juilliard School of Music, followed by a Masters degree in music. She always acknowledged him as the primary inspiration for every achievement in her life. Katrine had overcome the early resentment she felt when Célestine connected so naturally to him, always ending with, "She takes after me!" Which was the truth which Charles had realised even when he'd just met Célestine at Buchenwald where she displayed the same little quirks as her mother. Sometimes he had a hard time breaking through a double wall of stubbornness which trebled as soon as Katya joined in the fray.
He glanced at Katrine whose eyes misted over as she gazed at Célestine. Katrine gripped his hand tighter. He knew it was her 'thank you' for the family life he had given them.
Katrine didn't have to look down at the programme when Bernstein launched the New York Philharmonic into the first bars of Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Violin. She knew the moment Célestine was going to balance the Tononi between her chin and neck to wait for the counterpoint, after the opening bars of the orchestra. The tattooed number was visible, something Célestine had never bothered to hide. She fielded questions from the press well, was gracious in her responses and never lost her cool. After a while, they simply focused on her near genius ability with the violin.
There was absolute quiet in the auditorium as Célestine Miller stroked the violin into the first soft strains of the concerto, her eyes closing as the music filled her soul, her face animated with emotion. She swayed gently to the rhythm of the music. At times the melody was achingly beautiful in its pianissimo passages, then just as suddenly came the firm, rousing surges in the second movement as the music became forceful, rising into crescendos that had the audience gaping.
This was Célestine Miller, saved from Buchenwald to share her gift with the world. She was never meant to die there. Katrine thanked God that it was Charles who found her, that had Charles gone to any other camp, he might never have discovered her. Had Daisy and Helmut not… Sighing, Katrine kept her eyes on her daughter, so self-assured, so beautiful and accomplished. This was Célestine who had the audience at her feet. This was where Célestine was meant to be. A sudden flash in which Katrine saw Joseph's face, looking directly at her, then at Célestine. Katrine imagined Joseph saying, "See? I knew our Célestine had a gift God gave her."
Thank you, Joseph, for Célestine…
Then the image disappeared and Katrine glanced at her husband, not surprised to see his eyes glistening with tears. Katya couldn't stop smiling as she gazed with rapture at her big sister. No one dared to cough to spoil a moment or a single line of notes lest it disturbed the wonder of a young almost twenty one year old violinist drawing every emotion imaginable from the strings of the violin.
She was always destined for greatness, Katrine thought. And almost, almost, the world had lost a prodigy who would set the world alight with her passion for music. Katrine played without the benefit of accompanying sheet music for she had committed the Tchaikovsky Concerto to memory. Once Leonard Bernstein turned to face her and he smiled as she caressed the instrument, creating perfect harmony with the orchestra.
It was a triumph as the last notes of the concerto died quietly. A pause before deafening applause broke out in the auditorium and Célestine curtsied before shaking the hand of the concertmaster. Bernstein stepped off the rostrum and kissed the back of Célestine's hand. The audience was on its feet, still applauding.
Then Célestine left the stage only to re-enter seconds later, curtsying again.
Charles, now a two star general, stepped close to the stage to take his daughter's hand and kiss it.
"Thank you, Daddy," she mouthed before leaving again.
Then Leonard Bernstein took to the podium again, facing the audience. As he raised his hand, they sat down, waiting for an announcement. It seemed they were not ready to leave.
"I was asked by our guest if she might play something for her father, General Charles Miller."
Charles looked at Katrine, frowning. Katrine simply smiled and held his hand. Katya said, "She is playing for you, Daddy!" Her voice was filled with great awe.
Next to Charles, Evan gave a knowing smirk. "Don't look at me! It wasn't my idea."
Bernstein's voice intruded. "She told me it is of special importance to her." Bernstein waved his hand, indicating that Charles stand.
Célestine entered the stage again, nodding to the conductor.
General Charles Miller had absolutely no idea what Célestine had planned with the conductor and orchestra. She took a few seconds to tune her instrument again. When she launched into the beautiful notes of the Mozart Wiegenlied, Charles experienced a breathlessness at the memories the lullaby evoked.
Célestine played it for the sick, the troubled, for him whenever he had nightmares. It was the only music, from the hands of his beloved daughter, that could still the savage images in his heart and memory. Katrine and Célestine… The young child who captured his heart just like her mother had so many years ago, now grown into womanhood, playing for him. She always made him feel special. But, he acknowledged, the world was waiting to meet its newest star.
When she finished, Charles saluted.
"I love you, Daddy."
Charles nodded, watching as she left the stage. Katrine, Katya and Evan would meet her in the dressing room later.
As people began exiting Carnegie Hall, none of the Miller family noticed a couple who remained in their seats in the back of the hall. Helmut von Wangenheim and his wife Daisy had tears in their eyes at the wonder of what they had witnessed tonight.
"She is beautiful, Helmut."
"She is indeed, my love. A beautiful young woman. She was never meant to die in Buchenwald."
Please do permit me the following things.
I would like to offer a quote here:
"I do not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from this Book, in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it, is so recent and strong; and my mind is so divided between pleasure and regret - pleasure in the achievement of a long design, regret in the separation from many companions - that I am in danger of wearying the reader whom I love, with personal confidences, and private emotions.
Besides which, all that I could say of the Story, to any purpose, I have endeavoured to say in it.
It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know, how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of a two-years' imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself into the shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I have nothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still) that no one can ever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I have believed it in the writing.
Charles Dickens - Preface on his novel David Copperfield - 1850
There was nothing that satisfied me more than the writing of the book during the past year. From the Introduction readers have learnt that a lot of work had gone into the research. I have lived with the characters for a long, long time. Building their backstories gave them a dimension and life I had underestimated, I suppose. Like Dickens, I felt the pleasure in creating the characters that peopled the story - good characters and bad, and the regret that however much I loved them, I have to let them go, but not forever!
I realised the importance of a "wholesome" story, as my husband called it, i.e. an outline and "story board" fixed at the very beginning. That became my basis for writing "A thousand years of Darkness". And, as the Muse often confounded writers, many elements were entered that were not part of the original outline. Daisy Ginsberg, for instance became an important [original] character whom I had not written into my original notes. I figured if I wanted Célestine to survive Buchenwald, what better chance than a woman who would take upon herself that burden!
DID YOU KNOW?
a) Lieutenant Robert Davis was supposed to die on the battlefield. I never really wanted to pair him with Brigitte as I thought that after eight years they would have moved on with their lives. In that respect I veered away from the Killing Game idea that there could have been more. Besides, Berry [Bertrand] Beaumont became far more interesting!
b) Célestine was supposed to die in the camp.
c) Helmut von Wangenheim was supposed to man the roadblock just outside St. Clair and killed when Miller and his company wreaked havoc there. Instead, I put him inside Buchenwald.
d) I had a "Neelix" character penned in my original notes and discarded the idea when Helmut's character began to shape more three-dimensionally.
e) I drew a map/plan for the main part of the town of St. Clair so that I could have an idea of where exactly I was and my characters were. There was also a map for the Languedoc Wine Estate with its hidden bunkers.
f) I had never actually thought of doing anything with Lucien Blériot [Katrine's ex] until I had Lamine kill him off.