An often-neglected aspect of WWII is the point of view of all those German civilians who didn’t approve of the Nazi regime but didn’t have the means of leaving the country. Amongst them, and standing out for the cruelty of its circumstances, is the true story of nine-year-old Eleanor.
Born in New Jersey, USA, from German parents, Eleanor was educated according to her ancestors’ principles, learning the language and the traditions of their native country. In 1939, her father received a financially attractive job offer from Germany and decided to move the family back. Briefly discussed within the domestic walls, the country’s political situation under Hitler’s rule was considered a guarantee of economic stability, war seemed a remote possibility.
On 1st September 1939, Eleanor, her parents and her elder brother Frank had just left New York on an ocean liner when the captain made the announcement that Germany had invaded Poland, marking the start of WWII. In a climate of uncertainty, but only marginal concern, the ship continued its journey towards Europe, eventually delivering its passengers in Hamburg.
Once settled in Berlin, the conditions appeared to be much more dramatic than they had imagined. Despite various attempts to return to the US, the family was unable to leave the city until 1946. Faced with food shortages and relentless bombing, Eleanor and her brother also endured the discrimination deriving from their American origins, whilst the soaring death toll and dehumanising misery experienced would have changed them forever.
Years after the end of the war, Eleanor Ramrath Garner’s story became an award-winning memoir and has been adapted and brought to the stage by her granddaughter Ingrid Garner. Sharing a wealth of details and vivid recollections with the seemingly naive approach of a young girl, Garner’s touching 60-minute monologue is echoed by the deep sighs coming from the stalls.
Completed by a carousel of photographs projected onto the backwall, this challenging one-hander requires continuously shifting accents and a rollercoaster of emotions, which Garner delivers effortlessly and without hesitation. Her dedication to these episodes is the greatest tribute her grandmother could have ever received.
Based on an original book by: Eleanor Ramrath Garner
Adapted By: Ingrid Garner
Produced by: AJZ Productions
Playing Until: 4 March 2020
Booking Link: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/eleanor-s-story-an-american-girl-in-hitler-s-germany-af2020