Eleanor Ramrath Garner

Eleanor’s Story

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Eleanor’s Story Summary

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Eleanor Ramrath Garner is the author of Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany. It was published on August 1, 2003 by Peachtree Publishers. It won the IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Older Reader Category, the IRA Teacher’s Choice Award, the American Library Association: A Best Book for Young Adults, YALSA, and the National Council for Social Studies/Children’s Book Council: Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.

Garner is a retired editor. She has written a number of fiction and non-fiction articles on the topics of psychology and religion. She graduated from Boston University as a student of Jungian psychology. She lives in San Diego, California. When she was just nine years old, Garner’s family moved from America to Berlin, Germany, after her father was offered a job opportunity overseas. While crossing the Atlantic, the Second World War broke out. Eleanor and her family were stranded in Germany for the duration of World War II (WW II).

Eleanor’s Story is an autobiographical account of Garner’s childhood as an American survivor living in Berlin during WW II. It is a coming-of-age memoir told from Garner’s unique point of view. Excerpts taken from her personal journal help to illustrate her profound process of self-discovery during a time of turmoil and lends a hand in developing her authentic voice. Garner struggles to retain her American identity during tumultuous times and in spite of the upheaval surrounding her. She prays for an Allied victory, while at the same time, she and her family have to survive the Allied bombings of their city and neighborhood. Her family faces bombings, Gestapo threats, separations, and starvation. She witnesses the final battle for Berlin and the Soviet invasion and occupancy. She and her family are finally able to leave Germany and return to the United States in 1946 when Garner is 16 years old.

This is a first-hand account of surviving WWII from a young civilian’s perspective. Garner’s story immerses the reader in the human aspects of war and its daily struggles for survival all while growing up. It exposes the horrors that were faced and reminds each of us that every causality is a real human being with a life lived. Some of the most significant themes covered are: family, friendship, relationships, culture, immigration, assimilation, adaptation, economics, war, survival, courage, WW II, the Nazi’s, and the Great Depression.

The book is divided into four parts. Chapters fall into one of these four categories which allow for more ordered discussions. Students will experience the trials of growing up alongside wartime atrocities. Eleanor’s Story follows a typical chronology beginning with her life in the United States as a young school girl during the Great Depression. The major events of the thirties and forties that affect her life are covered in the book. In the fall of 1939, Garner and her family leave New York aboard the SS Hamburg bound for Germany, in anticipation of her father’s notable job opportunity. Through Garner’s eyes, the reader experiences her shock and confusion as she becomes educated on the realities of war. Fresh in Garner’s mind is the picture of the life she has left behind, while having to quickly acclimate to a new life in a war-torn city and while trying to maintain her dignity and stay alive.

Included in the book are photos, as well as Garner’s poetry. Books also play an important role in her life, which is reflected in her story. She is an intelligent and sensitive voice with a distinct gift of recollection. Her recollections bring to life the fears, horrors, injustices, and realities of war and allow the reader to draw parallels between her experiences and their own.

Eleanor’s Story comes to life through a production written and performed by Garner’s granddaughter, Ingrid Garner. Seven years have been condensed into an hour-long, one-woman show. Ingrid portrays her grandmother from the ages of nine to sixteen, along with members of her family, her neighbors, teachers, and other characters who contributed to all Garner endured, both good and bad. Ingrid uses snippets from Garner’s journal as well as targeted words and language to make the story come alive on stage. The use of sound effects and video technology heighten the intense emotions and offer a unique experience.