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The Box from Braunau: In Search of My Father's War Hardcover – May, 2009
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"This is father-daughter memoir at its most poignant." --Sacramento Bee
“Recognizing that her father probably suffered from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Elvin offers an honest and unsentimental account that should benefit soldiers past and present now experiencing PTSD, as well as their families and all readers interested in the consequences of PTSD. She also shows that asking respectful questions can facilitate the healing and understanding of traumatic war experiences.” --Library Journal
As a small child, Jan Elvin thought very little about the tin box with the simple inscription her father had brought home from World War II. To her young eyes, it seemed ordinary enough, featuring a rough etching of a man and woman with the words, “Braunau 1944.” What she would later discover is that the box had been a gift from an inmate at a German slave labor camp when her father was just a young soldier. And what it contained would start her on a long journey to uncover some of the fascinating and horrifying history surrounding the Second World War—as well as a search to understand the man forever haunted by its memories.
The Box from Braunau is both a memoir of a father-daughter relationship damaged by the ghosts of war, and a chronicle of a World War II veteran whose return to civilian life was permanently scarred by nightmares of combat and concentration camps. We explore the lives of Bill Elvin and his daughter through excerpts from the diary he kept during the war and private letters, as well as newspaper articles he wrote as a journalist on his return. We follow him from his first days on the battlefield as a lieutenant in Patton’s Army to his time at the Ebensee concentration camp where he witnessed firsthand the prisoners’ sufferings brought about by Nazi atrocities. Through his life, we gain a new understanding of the War and its effects on the men and women who fought in it. Featuring exclusive interviews with family members and fellow soldiers, as well as with survivors of the camps, The Box from Braunau is an illuminating look at war through the eyes of one family.
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Top Customer Reviews
While he returned home a decorated veteran, and went on to own and run a most successful suburban newspaper, he was besieged by demons that lurked just below the surface. Bill Elvin was affected by what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But without benefit of a diagnosis or any notions of treatment, the Elvin family found themselves dealing with confusing mixed signals.
Ms. Elvin tells her Dad's fascinating story, skillfully describing his early life as a Scottish immigrant, his war experiences (artfully using his own War Journal), his return to civilian life, and his progression to old age. She not only tells his story, but provides great context, by explaining how his War experiences affected his own life and the life of his family.
I highly recommend this interesting and very readable book to anyone struggling to better understand the challenges faced by combat veterans, as well as those with an interest in learning more about WW2 combat and the Nazi concentration camps.
All through Jan Elvin's childhood, she and her siblings were warned to be careful around their father. They were especially warned to never be close-by when waking him, as he may attack. He was anxious and controlling. He often appeared apathetic to his family and their needs. What they didn't know then, was that he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Jan Elvin had a somewhat strained relationship with her father, as he seemed incapable of really opening up to anyone. Then, a few years before he died, Jan stumbled upon a familiar box from her youth. It was a metal box, upon the side of which read "Braunau 1944". When she questioned her reticent father about its significance, she discovered that he had been a part of a regiment that freed a slave labor camp in Braunau, Austria. He received the box from a prisoner out of gratitude.
Bill Elvin also revealed that he had witnessed first-hand the atrocities of the concentration camp Ebensee. Desperate to discover more about her father's experiences, which were too painful for him to articulate, Jan Elvin began a four-year quest to find out about Ebensee and Braunau. The Box from Braunau is the result of her research.
Jan's research literally took her around the world and introduced her to many of America's finest, who served with her father. Through those experiences, and through her father's journal, she was finally able to paint a better picture of her father, and of the war in which he fought.
The Box From Braunau alternates between narratives of the author's memories of her family and journal entries made by her father during the war. She supplements those entries with factual information garnered in her research. The combination of memory, journal, and research provides an insightful and personal look at one of the worst experiences of mankind.
In addition to the book itself is a comprehensive bibliography for those who wish to research the war further. Jan Elvin also includes resources for those who wish to research their own family's history as it relates to WWII.
It is an interesting read for anyone who is interested in WWII. It is also a sharp reminder to listen to your father's stories, and to embrace him while you still have him.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which was originally published at Andi's Book Reviews.
Through the eyes of a daughter, Jan Elvin has conveyed the story of her family's personal struggle with the perils of what is left after war. At the same time, she doesn't forgot to share the extraordinary measure of a man in the most difficult of circumstances.
Key to this heartfelt story are the letters and journals of the author's father along with her keen intensity to follow the story through research.
The book is very compelling and continues to "squeeze the heart."
My husband, retired Navy aviator, is currently captivated by the book and often wants to share excerpts from the book as he reads.