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Escaping Hitler (Hardback)

A Jewish Boy’s Quest For Freedom and His Future

P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History WWII

By Phyllida Scrivens
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 70
ISBN: 9781473843646
Published: 30th January 2016



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Escaping Hitler is the true story, covering ninety years, of a fourteen-year-old boy Günter Stern who, when Adolf Hitler threatened his family, education and future, resolved to escape from his rural village of Nickenich in the German Rhineland. In July 1939 Günter boarded a bus to the border with Luxembourg, illegally crossed the river and walked alone for seven days through Belgium into Holland, intent on catching a ferry to England and freedom. The outcome was not exactly as he had planned.

The author gathered her information through interviews with Günter, now known as Joe Stirling, and with those closest to him. During an emotional ‘foot-stepping’ journey in September 2013 the author visited Günter’s birthplace, met with a school friend, discovered the apartment in Koblenz where he fled following Kristallnacht in 1938, drove the route of Günter’s walk through Europe and retraced the final steps of his parents prior to their deportation to a Nazi death camp in Poland during 1942.

Article featured in

Norwich Evening News

Article: 'The Norfolk travel boss who escaped Nazi Germany'

Eastern Daily Press

As featured in

Great Yarmouth Mercury September 2021

Tributes to Sheriff of Norwich who fled Nazi Germany twice

Norwich Evening News, 13th February 2020 - Rowan Mantell reports

Author talk as promoted by

Diss Express, 14th February 2020

Publicity for author talk at the Hethersett Library, Queens Road as featured by

Norwich Evening News & Eastern Daily Press

As featured on History of War

History of War

Promotion for October 9th 2018 author talk as featured by

Diss Express, 21st September 2018

As mentioned in

Great Yarmouth Mercury

As featured in

Norwich Evening News

As featured in

Beccles and Bungay Journal

"Using personal diaries and log-books preserved by the family, Barry Marsden has crafted a compelling account of Swale's life that is rich in first-hand detail...The book stands as a tribute to the Great War airmen, who continue to inspire to this day."

Keighley News

read it in 2 days, electric

Amazon reviewer

Very well researched book, on an amazing life, which started with Joe's escape from Germany and the awful treatment of Jews, to his life in Britain. I found the book very easy to read in bite sized sections which started with quotes from Joe mostly, and others interviewed by the author. I couldn't put it down.

Amazon Customer

What begins with a harrowing journey culminates in an inspiring portrayal of one man's determination to succeed through hard work, civic duty and kindness. This beautifully written book emphasises the humility and dignity of Joe Stirling and walks us through his life with empathy and aplomb. I highly recommend.

Amazon reviewer

An inspiring story beginning with Joe Stirling's walk across Europe alone as a young teenager and his new life in Britain. Refusing to let the tragedy of the Holocaust embitter him and ruin the rest of his life, he brought energy and drive to community and charity projects, becoming Sheriff of Norwich, and built a successful and respected business in the city. A readable book about a remarkable man, with snippets of life in Norwich which will bring back memories for many residents of the city.

Amazon reviewer

Joe Stirling (a.k.a Günther Stern) arrived in the UK as a Jewish refugee, via the famous Kinder transport. This book details not only the amazing courage which he showed before escaping from Nazi Germany, but also goes on to illustrate how Joe faced up bravely to every single challenge which he encountered throughout his working and private life. Instead of wallowing in misery and becoming embittered by his experiences, he embraced life and love. He became not only a a successful businessman, but also something of a philanthropist, working tirelessly to improve and enrich the lives of others. I salute him! Thanks to Phyllida Scrivens for bringing this story to us, with such amazing attention to detail!

Amazon reviewer

This is a well-researched and well-written account of the extraordinary life of an exceptional man. It tells the true story of Joe Stirling who, as a young boy, faced horrors and heartbreak and who determined to enrich his life and the lives of people around him through his endeavour, courage and generosity of spirit. Phyllida Scrivens deserves our thanks and applause for having captured this complex story sensitively and thoroughly.

Amazon reviewer

As featured in

RZ Andernach

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RZ Koblenz

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The inspiring account of one man's long life...

... This wonderfully researched book, including a 'footstepping' trip to Germany, succeeds in doing justice to a long and hugely eventful life - more than 90 years.

Lion Magazine April/May - Margaret Kimberly

'Phyllida Scrivens tells this epic story in clear, precise prose, never missing a beat as the drama unfolds.... she has proved herself equal to the challenge of delivering top-class biography.'

Surrey and Hants News

The author gathered her information through interviews with Gunter, now known as Joe Stirling, and with those closest to him. During an emotional 'foot-stepping' journey in September 2013 the author visited Gunter's birthplace, met with a school friend, discovered the apartment in Koblenz where he fled following Kristallnacht in 1938, drove the route of Gunter's walk through Europe and retraced the final steps of his parents prior to their deportation to a Nazi death camp in Poland during 1942.

Antiques Diary, May - June 2016

As featured in

Essence Magazine

As featured in

Dereham Times

Fascinating biography.

Lets Talk!

As mentioned in

Diss Mercury

As featured in

Gloucestershire Echo

As featured in

Just Regional Magazine

'Phyllida can be justly proud of her work – it is a must read!'

Norwich Evening News

'… Phyllida Scrivens brings the ninety years of Joe's remarkable life together in an accessible and entertaining narrative...'

Suffolk & Norfolk Life

As featured in

The Forester

As featured in

Gloucester Citizen

'It is a fascinating, heartening story, shot through with adventure, love, loss and some of the bleakest and most terrifying events of human history.'

Eastern Daily Press

'It's a remarkable story..'

Norfolk Magazine
 Phyllida Scrivens

About Phyllida Scrivens

Phyllida Scrivens lives with husband Victor in Thorpe St Andrew, just outside the city of Norwich, overlooking the picturesque River Yare. In 2016 she achieved a life-long ambition when her first biography Escaping Hitler, was published by Pen and Sword Books, followed by Skyhorse Publications of New York in 2017. Her second book, a group biography entitled The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017, won the Best Biography Prize at the East Anglian Book Awards in November 2018. The Thorpe Great Railway Disaster of 1874 took place less than half a mile from Phyllida’s home and has fascinated her for many years, directly leading to her third non-fiction title.
Phyllida studied for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction with Biography from the University of East Anglia, graduating in 2014.

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