on July 25, 2005
I sat down on Saturday morning around 11:00am to read all my mail, etc. that had piled up over the week and there was your book. I started to read and couldn't put it down. I finished it around 7:00pm. It was absolutely wonderful. My mind was consumed for several days just thinking of my childhood and how it "connected" to all that went on in my life during that timeframe. I remember it vividly, the blackouts, the air raids. But like you I couldn't understand because I was too young.
on July 13, 2005
In "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle", Frank Koerner brought alive, via chronological stories, his parents' heritage and homeland, which had vanished in 1946. To recapture his parents' homeland, these spellbinding stories include history and emotion from a trip that was made fifty years after the Sudetenland's extinction. No one before has taken on this task in such great detail and with such insight and storytelling ability. "A Flight of Fancy, The Talk of the Town, A Sampler of Ethnic Cleansing, and The Plot of the Mystery" are only a few of the many unique stories where the reader can appreciate the author's unique writing ability. This is a deeply human story of bravery and love, and lost heritage to be sure, but also of the struggle to carry on and function despite the anguish of despair. If you are tempted to read this book, you will certainly love it and will want to curl up by a cozy fire, not putting it down until "the very end".
on October 9, 2009
One week can make all the difference in the world. "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle: A Memoir Uniquely Set in a Vanished Sudetenland" is the reflections of a single week in Frank Koerner's life where everything about his life seemed to change. An honest and frank memoir that Koerner hopes will inspire other readers, he holds fast that you don't need to be famous to have an autobiography, and "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle" is his evidence.
on February 6, 2009
Far too often history is written as an "objective" recitation of "significant" events from which all elements of the merely personal have been expunged, leaving a desiccated shell that belies the profoundly human nature of the subject. Mr. Koerner has the ability to meld his deeply felt personal experiences with the impersonal sweep of 20th century history to create an engaging - and at times chilling - tale of the loss of his parents' homeland and culture, and his own journey to rediscover and reclaim his heritage.
In post-war Europe of 1945-46, Czechoslovakia forcibly expelled practically all of the 3.5 million German-speaking native inhabitants of the Sudetenland, amounting to over 20% of the Czechoslovakian population, via the Benesch Decree. As Mr. Koerner describes it, these people "were expropriated of real and personal property, herded into open railroad cars, transported initially to concentration camps, and then summarily deported. Sudetens who resisted were cruelly beaten or murdered. It is documented that several hundred thousand Sudetens lost their lives during the deportation via direct violence or starvation. The Benesch Decree banned the return of the deportees in perpetuity." Under today's Czech Republic, that Decree is still legally binding.
Although Mr. Koerner was eight years old at the time and living in New Jersey with his parents, who had emigrated to the United States in the period between the two World Wars, the impact of the Decree on him and his family was profound and far reaching. In 1992, after the Iron Curtain had fallen, Mr. Koerner set out for Czechoslovakia in an attempt to find the childhood homes of his parents, and recover the missing piece of his heritage. This book is the story of his travels, the extraordinary ordinary people he encountered along the way, and the heritage he found. His passionate connection with his "homeland" (Heimat) is palpable throughout, and quite contagious. His step-by-step presentation of the puzzle kept me thoroughly engrossed - as though I were reading a mystery novel (or a novel mystery, as the case may be). His inclusion of photos and maps does much to underscore the very personal human face of what is otherwise a deliberately obscured and abstract piece of history.
My two favorite chapters are the ones that describe his parents as youngsters: Chapter 13 A Sampler of Ethnic Cleansing and Chapter 21 The Beat of a Different Drummer. Chapter 5 A Picture-Perfect Day, describes the impact of the Benesch Decree on his parents, particularly his father: "His voice trailed off and became laden with resignation as he continued, `What can you do? Everything is changed. Now it is all gone!' As he spoke, I watched his eyes tear over. Embarrassed, he quickly brushed away the moisture from his eyes."
Throughout the book, Mr. Koerner paints vivid pictures of the individuals he met, rare German-speaking people who had been allowed to remain because they were married to ethnic Czechs. These people welcomed him to their homes, and went out of their way to help him locate his parents' childhood homes, telling stories, sharing photos, and providing connections to long-lost and totally unknown relatives.
Mr. Koerner brings a reflective and insistent intelligence to his search and his writing - coupled with a lively wit and a knack for drawing loops around a collection of disparate facts, gradually drawing the loop in and weaving the facts together to form a coherent whole. A thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating and compelling read!
Judith Hemenway, author of The Universe Next Door: A Personal Odyssey
on November 6, 2006
Frank Koerner has brought to life a little known true story that took place in Europe after World War II. The author's parents had been evicted from their home in Moravia in order to create the country of Czechoslovakia from a region that had previously been the loosely defined area of Sudetenland. The big story is not that they were evicted by themselves, but along with 3.5 million others! Occasionally a great movie is released at about the same time as a movie of similar subject matter, only the latter stars the hot celebrity of the day and the former one was done by a little-known production company. It may not have mattered much at the box office that the big movie was not as nearly well constructed as the lesser-known one. This is what happened to this story of 3.5 million displaced ethnic Germans: The Holocaust happens to be the big story everybody knows. This fact does not make Mr. Koerner's story of any lesser consequence.
New Jersey native Frank Koerner and his wife left their warm home in California in 1992 to visit the somewhat bleak, semi-deserted landscape of Sudetenland to seek intimate knowledge of the event in 1946 that had so altered the lives of many. Armed with ancient b&w snapshots and a modern camera that would add to their photo album, Frank and Elke sought to capture the essence of a small bit of property that should have been theirs to inherit. The property was no longer in Moravia or Sudetenland because those regions as a whole no longer existed. Many other descendants of the natives of this area have visited in recent years, too, but mostly from nearby Germany. Frank and Elke took on the expedition from a much more distant perspective. Missing Peace will take you through the process in an enlightening, delightful manner. Both the old and new photos are included within text that is a lot more lighthearted than you would expect from such somber subject matter. Grab your camera and go on vacation with Frank and Elke. You'll be glad you did.
on November 1, 2005
A look at Frank Koerner's book: "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle"
One can safely say that 90-95% of the peoples residing in North America today are of "foreign" origin and can trace their ancestry to other parts of the world. The only native North Americans are, of course, the First Nation peoples. One can also safely say that most people are at least somewhat interested in their "roots".
Frank Koerner "fits" into both categories perfectly. A first-generation American, he was born in New Jersey, to parents who had emigrated from a part of Europe which ceased to exist after 1945 - the "Sudetenland" (the area of German settlement in Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia). This area was "returned" to Communist Czechoslovakia at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 and under the subsequent "Bene Decrees" (after Edvard Bene, first president of Czechoslovakia after WWII), some 3.5 Million German-speaking people had all their property confiscated and were forcefully expelled from homelands which they had occupied, in some cases, since the 9th Century! Frank became interested in his heritage while he was still in school and vowed one day to travel to the land of his ancestors and to write a book about it.
Remaining true to his vow, Frank did exactly that. In late 1992, just six weeks prior to the split of Czechoslovakia into today's separate Czech and Slovak Republics, he and his wife Elke embarked on a week-long voyage of discovery, a voyage that changed him in many ways, a voyage which prompts him to utter: "Of one thing I was absolutely certain. I would never be quite the same again." His book of anecdotal chapters, most of which were published separately in a wide variety of publications prior to being compiled in one comprehensive venue, represents a spiritual catharsis for Frank. While his voyage of discovery triggered illumination and a deeper understanding of the tragedy of the Sudetenland, recounting his experiences in his homeland, putting them to paper and compiling them into a book provides him with the emotional cleansing needed to focus his feelings about his heritage and lets him find the "missing peace" he seeks. He finally truly comprehends what his father meant about "never being able to go home again".
Frank's writing style is often tongue-in-cheek and he has a penchant for word-plays ("the missing peace"; "reality czech"; "altar ego"), but he has done his homework and provides the reader with an informative, entertaining and "easy" read. The subject matter lends itself to considerable potential "axe-grinding", but Frank manages to avoid that trap for the most part and tries to focus on facts and on possible realities for the future: "Our land of common heritage has vanished, but it has not been vanquished."
Donald James Dunn
English Editor, "DEUTSCHE RUNDSCHAU", Toronto, Ontario, Canada
on October 24, 2005
In the July 2001 issue of The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research (JRPR) an article by Frank Koerner was published entitled "Déja Vu....All over again....One more time." It related to part of a trip that he and his wife took to find his parents' homeland, the place called Sudetenland, where his parents were born and lived for several years before they left for the U.S.A. Sudetenland was irrevocably damaged in 1946 when the government of Czechoslovakia summarily forced out all of the Germanic people and usurped their home and property, The substance of the JRPR article related to a 1992 visit to Sumperk, which was formerly known as Schønberg, where Frank Koerner intuitively took several photographs of places in the city. Later, when going through old photos at home, he found out that those placed he had photographed had important personal references to his family. In the article's conclusion, he wrote, "What occurred may be neither happenstance nor coincidence. It is what he (Carl Jung) termed synchronicity. Synchronicity is the merging of intellect and environment. Conceivably, it is definable and usable elsewhere. If so, I would appreciate help in defining what occurred. I am open to suggestions on ways to harness the capability. I would most certainly use the technique of extrasensory perception in furthering the quest for my heritage in Europe."
Well, that article is just one of many that was published, both in English and German, about Frank Koerner's memorable and synchronous trip to the former Sudetenland. Even though The Missing Piece of Heritage Puzzle is a compilation of many articles, it is organized in a logical, easy to follow manner that would make an interesting novel, but this "novel" happens to be true. I personally learned a great deal about his parents' former homeland and the unbelievable circumstances that led to its ethnic cleansing. The book is well written, interesting and enjoyable to read. Hopefully, some officials of the Czech government will read it as well and maybe some reasonable resolution can occur for the descendants of Sudetenland.
Donald R. Morse, DDS, PhD
The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research
on September 25, 2005
I would guess that some readers have researched their family histories, and some have ventured a trip to the homeland to find their ancestral home. Author Frank Koerner has done both and has written a wonderful book about his experience.
The book is written from Frank's 1992 trip to his Sudeten homeland. But his writings are far from a day-by-day travelogue. Frank's unique way of descriptive writing puts the reader in his hip pocket and in his conscience mind as he travels the back roads of a vanished Sudetenland in search of his heritage. Here is an excerpt teaser from the book describing the scene as he approaches his ancestral village of Benke.
..."The rise of the field on the left melded down into that very level, tiny open field directly ahead. Far ahead, the meadow disappeared around a bend to the right as it crept into the pine forest. A small creek halved the grassland itself. The creek wandered back and forth through its middle until it passed under a bridge directly in front of our car. To the left in the meadow, a smaller footbridge had been constructed. We came around a small bend in the road and this picturesque scene awaited us! It meant nothing extraordinary to Elko, but I was absolutely floored by it. I took in the full panorama in an instant. My eyes shifted involuntarily through the setting. The flowing line of that rolling farm field above and to my left lent itself to their movement..."
I highly recommend this wonderful, well written book if you are interested in your family history, if you are of German or German-Bohemian desent, if you enjoy travel novels, or if you would just like a few hours away from the daily grind of everyday life. You will find it hard to put down.
on January 28, 2006
As a descendant of Germans from the vanished Sudetenland, I was thoroughly fascinated with Mr. Koerner's account of his parents homeland -- or should I say lack of a homeland. I admire the painstaking research that was involved in compiling this book, which represents what a true memoir is supposed to be: a story of discovery based on fact. In this book, Mr. Koerner tells a touching story about his family's Americanization and his own youthful lack of understanding and confusion about his family's sad history. His parents spoke German, but their passports were Czech because hundreds of years earlier the Koerners had migrated to that region. Then, the book explains that after World War II, the German people who had lived in the area for centuries were summarily deported as undesirable foreigners. Hence, the book does more than just reconnect with his roots; it reveals a seemingly great and long-overlooked injustice. The book says that the German people of the region lost their livelihoods, their homes and their centuries-old way of life not for wrongful acts, but for their ethnicity at an awful time in history. I recently visited the region, and while this story of a forgotten people is little-told here in the U.S., it is an issue that is still very much alive in the newspapers in Prague. Mr. Koerner's book is a contribution to the ongoing battle for recognition of a wrongful government act committed in that world long ago.
on October 25, 2005
Some time ago, I discovered one of Frank Koerner's wonderful stories on the Internet and immediately identified with the author's fascinating experience of visiting his parents' vanished homeland. Mr. Koerner has a very unique, often haunting and always captivating way of telling of his odyssey, sometimes playing at the diverse meaning of words.
"Wow" I thought, "I have been there! I have done this! I know what he is talking about." To a child of Sudeten parents, "The Missing Peace of a Heritage Puzzle" is more than intriguing, entertaining fireside reading. As you grew up, you felt your parents' pain, but didn't understand. You listened, but didn't hear. Faithfully, you followed the traditions of "Daheim", but often questioned. You were too young. Finally, you visited the former Sudetenland, walked "familiar" roads, sat on dusty church benches, listened to the whisper of the trees, starred at vandalized cemeteries and met the people who were "left behind". You may even have shed some tears and suddenly you knew the meaning of " being touched by the ghosts of the past". You wanted to wrap your arms around this little town. You knew you were part of it.
This book may touch you deeply, or it may just introduce you to one of those whitewashed, cold facts of history. You may read this book several times and experience your own Déjà vu. This is a well-written book and I highly recommend it.