Author's Words on Whispering Birches29.11.2014 09:56
Where did the title come from?
'Whispering Birches' refers to the birch tree coppice behind which were hidden the Crematoriums of Auschwitz. The camp is situated in an exposed and flat area. When the wind blows it sounds as if the lost souls are all whispering their lost stories.
Who are the main characters of the book?
Franz Wolff Franz is the main character of the book. He starts the book as a hardened SS veteran, but falls in love with Elena and ends up helping inmates.
Elena Prikaznova She survives the camp, thanks to her affair with Franz. Initially she fell in love with Mihael who later rejects her as a collaborator.
Janek Aniolov Kapo of the Ramp Crew. They are responsible for collecting possessions of arriving transports and delivering them to Kanada. He joins the Escape Committee with Mihael.
Ruth Stössl Kapo of the Kanada camp who manipulates Elena to lead Franz on. She exposes corruption of the guards of Kanada camp.
Lukas Armbrecht Franz's best friend is a cynical opportunist and womanizer who later refuses to deny the camp's existence and purpose.
Mihael Rosenthal Originally Mihael knows Franz from school. As a Jew, he is sent to Auschwitz and encounters Franz whilst working with janek in the Ramp Crew. He leads Escape Committee and escapes to expose Eichmann's plans regarding Hungarian Transports.
Gavriil Ahrenski Russian POW associated with the traitor general Vlasov. He smuggles gunpowder between Monowitz and Birkenau helping the Rebellion.
Rafael Romaniotes Greek dentist who Janek tricks into the Sonderkommando, where he pulls gold teeth from corpses. He witnesses the camp Rebellion.
Are the characters 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 headed the Kanada section and was tried for race crimes both by the Gestapo during the war and by the Austrian government after the war. Helena Citronova testified for him travelling from Israel to do so. Oskar Grönig worked in the Currency Section and rejected the denial of Thies Christofersen. These characters have some similarities with Mihael Rosenthal, Franz Wolff, Elena Prikaznova and Lukas Armbrecht respectively. However, it should be understood that the characters are all fictional and that opinions or actions described in the book are not those of real persons.
What is the role of the Archangels?
The main characters of the camp have names related to the Archangels. 'Whispering Birches' is Part I of a book series to be known as 'The Tree of Faith'. The series will cover the role of five religions, Orthodox, Catholicism, Paganism, Judaism and Protestantism in their influence over WWII. In this part, the Orthodox church plays a prominent role in the structure of the book. The angels play a a central role in this religion which dominates the countries of Southern and Eastern Europe. These angels feature as a common denominator across most religions and even in Islam. In the novel, three of the characters are Orthodox being Janek, Gavriil and Rafael.
Please explain some of the terms used in the book:
Many terms are specialized to the topic of Nazism and the concentration camps. A Glossary is included in the book to help the reader understand terms used. By clicking this link, you will see the main terms explained. Please click here.
What inspired the story?
Lawrence Rees is an English historian who produced the BBC programme interviewing both guards and inmates of the Auschwitz camp. The series allowed a glimpse of real people, living through the Nazi years. It was an important historical step, particularly given that many of the people were reaching the end of their lives. The stories told, and particularly that of Helena Citronova and Franz Wunsch, inspired me to write this novel. We are now seventy years after Auschwitz and it is appropriate that we remember this event in a balanced and respectful manner.
Music to enjoy while reading Whispering Birches
Writing requires patience and time. The dreaded block can strike at any time. My defence is to listen to music which can often help you to overcome the temporary periods of stress.Everybody has their own taste but this is music that helped me write the book. Beethoven's 7th, Rackmaninov's 2nd, Tschaikovsky Marcia Slava.