Author's Words on Truth in Ash02.12.2014 00:10
Where did the title come from?
‘Truth in Ash' is a double play on words. If I added, ‘es’ to the phrase, it would have an entirely clear meaning. Throughout the book, we are challenged as to what is the real truth. Even at the end of the book when Elena thinks she has done the right thing, she is left exposed that it was all a lie. The second meaning of the title concerns the significant role of the Ash tree in the Pagan culture that dominated the SS Schutzstaffel. In Pagan religion the Ash or Yggdrasil is a holy tree in which Odin hung himself. Finally, the last meaning reflects the cover picture which portrays a picturesque lake in which were dumped the ash remains of the burnt victims. Their histories were consumed and only the ash was left behind to tell the truth.
Who are the main characters of the book?
Franz Wolff Franz is again the main character of the book. We see him grow up in a typical family surrounding with all the privileges. He is bewitched and joins the SS. His stay in Auschwitz is told in ‘Whispering Birches’, but we find out his struggle and heartbreak when trying to reunite with Elena. At the end of the story we hear of his post war trial where his old love turns the tide of hatred and saves him.
Elena Prikaznova Franz’s lover in the Auschwitz camp rejects him after the war, choosing instead to help construct the new Israel.
Magda Wolff Franz’s wife stands and defends her husband with almost absolute loyalty.
Josef Wolff Franz’s father tries to prevent his son from joining the Nazi movement. He sympathizes with their suffering, but is ultimately too weak to stand up to the tide of hatred.
Maria Wolff Franz’s mother is viewed as a character beset with guilt, for she knows that she encouraged the behaviour of her son.
Markus Wolff Franz’s cousin originally leads Franz into the Hitler Youth movement, but sees the light when his friend the gypsy musician is murdered by his friends. Despite his loyalty and lifelong friendship, it is Markus who arrests Franz.
Lukas Armbrecht Franz's best friend is a cynical opportunist and womanizer, who later refuses to deny the camp's existence and purpose.
Dieter Krüger Dieter is Franz’s commanding officer who relates the story of Franz’s wounding in Leningrad.
Mihael Rosenthal Mihael escaped Auschwitz and tries unsuccessfully to halt the Hungarian transports. He later joins the Prague uprising and attempts to convince Janek to join him in revenge upon Franz.
Janek Aniolov The Ramp Kapo survives the camp but loses the will to live
Gavriil Ahrenski Russian POW associated with the traitor general Vlasov. He relates the story of Franz’s escape from the Czech Hell.
Paul Gottschalk Paul is an Austrian lawyer who ably defends Franz.
Are the names real people?
The characters are loosely based upon real people and events; The Vrba-Wetzler report was written by Walter Rosenberg after he escaped the camp. Franz Wunsch was tried for race crimes both by the Gestapo and by the Austrian government after the war. Helena Citronova testified for him travelling from Israel to do so. Otto Graf was tried with Franz Wunsch and known as the man who drove the Sanka vans to the Crematorium. These characters have some similarities with Mihael Rosenthal, Franz Wolff, Elena Prikaznova and Oskar Kühnemann respectively. However it should be understood that all characters are fictional and do not represent opinions or actions of real persons.
What is the role of the Bible in the story?
The story has many references to the Roman Catholic faith. The main part of the story is related by the Apostles Dieter, Janek, Paul and Markus. The father and mother of Franz are Josef and Maria signifying the poverty of Christianity during the conflict, for the child is a war criminal and not a symbol of hope. The only major apostle missing is Matthew who presents Jesus as a Messiah. Clearly in this period the church with its complicit role in the rise and execution of Nazism was clearly without a Messiah.
Please explain some of the terms used in the book:
Many terms are specialized to this topic. This Glossary will help the reader understand terms used. Please click here.
What inspired the story?
I have already explained what inspired the Whispering Birches. One of my key inspirations for the Truth in Ash is the painting by Albrecht Dürer.
Music to enjoy while reading Whispering Birches
Truth in Ash is available in Paperback of Kindle format.