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Reviews

Bittersweet Coming-Of Age Memoir - Review by Ruth Imler Langhinrichs (PDF Format)

Recollections of a Hamburger was a finalist for the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Award of the Florida Writers Association. Judges’ comments included ––

“This book has been well-researched. The narrative contains a great amount of detail. As family history or a source, this manuscript is superb. The brief historical sidelights lend the story even more authenticity and put the personal story in perspective.”

…”this manuscript stands as a valuable historical reference for any historian or historical novelist writing about Germany – circa 1943-1960.”

“The author demonstrates a sure grasp of English; it’s hard to believe that English is her second language. I’m impressed!”

Speaking of foreign languages, DAS FENSTER, the oldest German language monthly in the United States, is featuring Recollections of a Hamburger in its February 2010 edition. DAS FENSTER editor-in-chief is doing a series of memoirs by German-Americans. Here is your chance to test your German skills! Check out the article in the Interviews & Articles media section.

Great Read!
This is a wonderful read of a young girl’s memories of her life in Germany post WWII. Although there is much sadness, loss and hunger, Behnke Gehlert's later years as a teenager make this book a page turner. I was up late into the night reading how a German teenager saw the world, loved boys, and James Dean, in the same way American girls must have been in the early 1950's. I am 39 and found this so fascinating. Baby boomers, as well as all of us who survived the teen years will enjoy this book.
-Aimee L. Skiba

A Memoir of days long gone
A page turner. Sad. Funny. Poignant. The author was born in Germany in 1941 during WWII, and vividly describes her formative years during and after the war. Hunger and wanting haunted her growing up years among the rubble of post-war Germany. After graduating from High School, she went to England, where she lived as an au pair and learned for the first time the truth about the war. She was shocked that the genocide of Jews was never discussed in school or in her home. Eventually,the author came to the United States and became a citizen. Beautifully written, this book is destined to be read and discussed both here and abroad.
-Betty J. Carroll

War and peace, and love and learning
Christel Behnke Gehlert's RECOLLECTIONS OF A HAMBURGER recounts the life of one common, ordinary German girl in war and peace, from her family's terrified dashes for the neighborhood bomb shelter to, virtually the next day, playing in the fresh rubble to uncertainty as to the family's next meal, let alone the piece or two of coal with which to warm it. Onward to classrooms in which German's WWII culpability is barely whispered about to handsome, sharply black-suited Mormon missionary boys who nearly charmed her into religious conversion before she realized she only desired their command of the English language, and a subsequent lark to Hamburg's harbor and the aircraft carrier and the friendly boy in his best navy blues, eager to give her a personally escorted tour.... Common and ordinary, after all? Decide for yourself when you read her.
-Kate M.

Feel the turmoil
“Recollections" makes the reader feel the turmoil the German people had to experience during the war. The Behnke family endured bombings, bunkers, and daily strife.
Christel Behnke Gehlert expresses these years in such detail. She shows the resilience of the human spirit. The history of Hamburg being under British occupation and the curriculum of the schools makes the reader even more interested in the times. Very candid and compelling.
-Dorothy H.

A Fascinating Memoir
Don Heinrich Tolzmann, Book Review Editor of “German Life” noted that, “Memories of German-speaking immigrants who experienced the Second World War as children help us understand postwar immigration to the United States by providing insight into their personal experiences. Many of them are only now telling their stories, which are often gripping as well as fascinating.” After he wrote the above, “two more such books soon appeared on my desk, demonstrating that immigrant memoirs of World War II are rapidly filling up shelf space as a definite category of German-American autobiography.

RECOLLECTIONS OF A HAMBURGER: GROWING UP GERMAN, 1941-1962 by Christel Behnke Gehlert (iUniverse, 2007) ….presents a vivid portrait of her youth, including descriptions of family life, making it a fascinating memoir, as well as valuable historical document of the time.
-Don Heinrich Tolzmann

Readers' Quotes

"Eloquent and educational in its details, charming, personal, and humorous."

"Puts people who have never known war first-hand into the mind of undauntable children of war."

"The book transports me back to my own coming-of-age––I can relate."

"I found myself laughing out loud one moment and crying the next."

"Inspiration of children growing like flowers in the wreckage of war."


Interviews & Articles

DAS FENSTER Article (PDF Format)

Article in Germanfest Brochure 2008 (PDF Format)

Hometown News Article (PDF Format)

National Public Radio Interview (MP3 Format)

Local Television Interview (Windows Media Format)

The Communicator, a publication of Indiana-Purdue Student Newspapers, Interview(PDF Format)


Event Images


Book signing at Indiana/Purdue University Fall International Festival, November 18, 2008


Meet the author at Germanfest, June 4, 2008


Book signing at Barnes & Noble, June 6, 2008


The author at Barnes & Noble, Fort Wayne, Indiana, June 6, 2008