By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — Imagine being so starved that you would eat weeds, and so scared that you would hide in a cellar while bombs fell from the sky shattering your entire world.
Marlies Adams DiFante, author of “Queen of the Bremen” came to Wayland Free Library to talk to the Wayland Lowell Club about the second edition of her famous book.
In the book “Queen of the Bremen” DiFante talks about how she survived Germany under Hitler’s rule during World War Two. The book goes into great detail about how she was born from German parents in Naples NY, and how after her mother got news of her father’s illness they went back to Germany. Unfortunately, for the family this was right when the war happened, which meant they were no longer allowed to go home for several years.
The nightmarish atrocities the family went through in that time period was unforgiveable.
DiFante gave some examples of her book at the library for those interested in her heroine story.
Some background shared with us told the group her father was a German World War One soldier who was wounded in battle. Once he came back home, he decided to go to America.
Afterwards, he returned to Germany and met his wife-to-be. After some back and forth letters of pleading and a dying mother’s wish the two were married. Upon arrival in Naples NY they had two children; Peter and Marlies. The mother would get pregnant with another child as they set sail back to Germany on the Bremen. Once on the Bremen the two children were told to entertain the ship, which made them King and Queen of the Bremen. This is where the name of the book and the cover photo came from.
“My mother, Elizabeth was very homesick. She married my father, John, and they lived near the St. Michaels Mission. Once she had Peter she didn’t feel so lonely. I was born less than a year later, and we kept our mother busy. Peter has always been my best friend. We all spoke German,” DiFante said. “Once my mother found out that my grandpa was dying of cancer, she got very ill. The doctor told us we had to take her back home to Germany. Since we were able to say prayers in both English and German this helped us on the Bremen.”
Once in a crowded German city they were made to live in a housing complex with Nazi’s all around them. John was forced to work in the underground ammo factory. Elizabeth had to walk five miles every day to report all the documents of her family. They were all rationed to almost starvation since the Nazi Party had everything from the villages and farmers.
“The German people had no way to protect their homes. People joined the Nazi Party just to survive. The Nazi’s were not rationed. They would inform on their neighbors, so no one trusted anyone. The Hitler Youth started which drafted all the youth. The males ages 13, 14, and 15 were set at the towers to shoot down the planes. The females of the same age were told to write letters to the German soldiers telling them how great everything was with Hitler in ruling. It was all lies they were writing to these men,” DiFante said. “The British Pilots began to drop explosive dolls and fountain pens for the children to pick up. In Germany we had the dolls that if you tip the heads they would say mama. These young children were picking them up and the dolls and pens would explode killing them.”
Since this nightmare was happening the German people had no choice but to send their children outside of the fly zones for a whole year.
DiFante said she was forced to go live with her evil aunt in a small village. It was there that she was so horribly treated that it would stay with her for most of her life.
“I was very scared of her and didn’t want to live there. I would write my mother every single day begging her to come get me. I never got a letter from my mother. My aunt told me my mother and father were dead. She told me my brother was dead,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to change my clothes or bathe. I had lice so bad that it ate away all of my eyebrows. They would crawl all over me as I would try to sleep. I was kept in the barn with the cows. The cow was my only friend. I didn’t have human contact or any kind word for a whole year. I kept praying to God to get me through this, and I really think he sent me that cow. That cow is what kept me alive.”
After Elizabeth had a horribly nightmare about her daughter covered in lice and crying as she wrote letters to her, she awoke and demanded to go get their daughter. Upon arriving at the aunt’s home, they would see in shock and horror that the nightmare was true. John would become so enraged by the mistreatment of his little girl that he almost killed his sister.
DiFante talked about the horrors that plagued the family from the moment they got to Germany to even when they came back home. Once back in America they were treated like Nazi Germans. No one would be kind to them, but a dying man who offered his home.
DiFante said that she spent most of her life unable to forgive her aunt for what she had done to her in that year trapped at her home. However, once she had a dream of a golden gate extended to Germany and America. Jesus opened the gate and asked if she had forgiven her aunt, but once she confessed, she hadn’t there was sadness in his eyes. Jesus told her he couldn’t forgive her unless she forgave. At that moment she saw her aunt standing behind Jesus in the dream. It would take many years after that dream for her to forgive her aunt.
“My aunt stole my childhood from me,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let her take Heaven away from me too.”
DiFante began to wonder is her aunt even knew how to love, and if certain things in her life made her so evil.
“All I know now is that I don’t hate anymore, and that is the best feeling,” she said. “I was told that I had brought sunshine back to the valley when I came back to Naples.”
An entire new chapter about forgiveness as well as updates within the book are in the second edition of “Queen of the Bremen” which is only available through the author. The first edition is still being sold at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon.
To get an autographed copy of the second edition for $20 contact Marlies Adams DiFante at firstname.lastname@example.org