To celebrate the release of Ensnared by Ann Bausum on January 12th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive articles from Ann, plus 5 chances to win a hardcover copy!
Picturing the Past
by Ann Bausum
Often the best way to bring history alive is to share it through the eyes of people who witnessed it happening. Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair is bursting with cherished photos, personal recollections, and primary source documents about the family punishments that followed the failed attempt to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944. Although the book focuses on a handful of affected families, I deliberately folded breadcrumbs into its pages about many others. Savvy readers can trace additional relationships using these embedded strands of history.
Consider the Hayessen family, for example. Although the children are never specifically mentioned in the main text, readers can learn about them by using visual clues and the book’s supplemental reference material. Take a good look at the meticulous inventory of families that appears in the back matter. Not only do readers discover the names, ages, and genders of each person; the itemized listing includes a key that helps to identify their individual fates.
By consulting this guide, we can surmise that Hans-Hayo Hayessen, the oldest child in the family at age two, had probably barely begun to talk by the time of his family punishment detention. Volker, at age nine months, was unlikely to even be walking. We can tell from the Hayessen family listing that the boys’ father died because of his involvement in the attempted coup, and their mother was detained.
Using the book’s index we are taken to the last photo ever taken of the family. This image captures an ordinary family moment that would, within months, be impossible to regain. The facing page authenticates some of the family’s trials by showing the certificate Margarete Hayessen received when she was discharged from Ravensbrück concentration camp.
BTW—here’s a tip to keep in mind when reading German dates: Europeans typically present the date and month in the reverse order from the American pattern. So the day shown on her discharge certificate of 6–10–44 represents the date October 6, 1944.
Would you like to follow some more breadcrumbs?
Let’s start with Dagmar Hansen. We can tell from the itemized listing of families that she was a newborn during this period, and this fact is reinforced several times in the text. By using the index we can find a family photo that predates her birth, and we can read about how her christening served as an alibi for her father on the day that the conspiracy unfolded. Subsequent text references are indexed in the book, including the revelation that Gestapo agents took Dagmar away from her mother when the girl was just two weeks old.
Visitors to my author website will find a series of classroom suggestions for Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair. Among other ideas I challenge students to research various families using the book and other resources. A good first stop beyond my book is the German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin. If the site displays in German, click the EN option in the upper access menu to switch the text to English. Then use the BIOGRAPHIES tab that appears at left in the home menu to find brief biographical essays about all coup conspirators.
Are you curious about other family members? Savvy internet users will discover that one of the 46 detained children became a famous German model and actress. (Hint: you’ll find a childhood photo of her on page 44.)
“I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children.” –Gestapo agent, August 24, 1944
With those chilling words Christa von Hofacker and her younger siblings found themselves ensnared in a web of family punishment designed to please one man—Adolf Hitler. The furious dictator sought merciless revenge against not only Christa’s father and the other Germans who had just tried to overthrow his government. He wanted to torment their relatives, too, regardless of age or stature. All of them. Including every last child.
During the summer of 1944, a secretive network of German officers and civilians conspired to assassinate Adolf Hitler. But their plot to attack the dictator at his Wolf’s Lair compound failed, and an enraged Hitler demanded revenge. The result was a systematic rampage of punishment that ensnared not only those who had tried to topple the regime but their far-flung family members too. Within weeks, Gestapo agents had taken as many as 200 relatives from their homes, separating adults and children.
Using rare photographs and personal interviews with survivors, award-winning author Ann Bausum presents the spine-chilling little-known story of the failed Operation Valkyrie plot, the revenge it triggered, and the families caught in the fray.
ANN BAUSUM is an award-winning children’s book author who brings history alive by connecting readers to personal stories from the past that echo in the present day. Ensnared is her 11th book for National Geographic Kids and her fourth look at international history. While researching the book, she traveled twice to Europe to get to know the people and places that became intertwined in 1944 after the failed effort to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair. Previously Bausum has explored international history with such works as Stubby the War Dog; Denied, Detained, Deported; and Unraveling Freedom. Many of her books highlight themes of social justice, including her National Geographic title The March Against Fear. In 2017, her body of work was honored by the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. Individual titles have won numerous starred reviews and been recognized with a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Award, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, among other distinctions.
One (1) winner will receive a hardcover copy of Ensnared
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