Author of the Sturmtaucher Trilogy

Month: January 2023

My Holocaust Memorial Day

I’m not a Jew. None of my family, or anyone I know, has ever been the victim of genocide, but the Holocaust Memorial Day has become of great significance to me over the years.

From the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) website, the Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘The international day on 27th January to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and during more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.’

27th January was chosen because it is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

The Holocaust Memorial Day was created on that day in January 2000, when representatives from 46 governments around the world met in Sweden to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

At the end of this meeting, all attendees signed The Stockholm Declaration, a document committing their countries to preserving the memory of those who have been murdered in the Holocaust. It was updated in 2020.

So what does it mean for me? As I said, I’m not a Jew, but from an early age, about ten or eleven, when I read Diary of a young Girl by Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and its victims, have never been far away from my thoughts.

An avid reader for most of my life, reading a book a day as a child and as a teenager, I found myself regularly picking up a book about the Holocaust; both novels and non-fiction books and, throughout my life I have been drawn to films like Schindler’s list, and Shoah, Claude Lanzmann’s incredible 12 hour documentary of interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators during visits to German Holocaust sites in Poland.

I thought I had a reasonable understanding of the Holocaust, but when I decided to write a novel about the Holocaust, set in Kiel in Northern Germany, I immersed myself in research and, the deeper I delved into the archives, the more I realised how little I knew. Even now, six years of research on, with a million word trilogy under my belt, I feel as if I have only just scratched the surface.

Since I started writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a day, sometimes even an hour, doesn’t pass without a thought about the Holocaust seeping into my mind and, as the number of survivors still with us dwindles every coming year, we must come to a stark realisation that the only witnesses to the horrors of the Nazi years will be on the written page, or in film archives.

It is imperative that we remember every victim: Jew, Roma, Sinti, Communist, Jehovah’s Witness or homosexual. And that we do not allow Holocaust deniers to go unchallenged.

I’m not a person of faith, but the characters in my trilogy were deeply religious. I do not own a menorah, but I will light a candle on Holocaust Memorial day and stand quietly, reflecting on those who perished, those who survived, those who perpetrated, and those who stood by and let it happen.

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The Shearwater – Pencil, Poetry and Brush

For a writer, there is a special thrill when a reader is inspired to be creative after finishing one of their books, especially when it happens twice.

I’d already posted a painting of Der Sturmtaucher, the gaff-rigged ketch which has a central role in The Flight of the Shearwater, sent to me by Mark Jardine, one of my beta-readers, and the owner of a working gaff-rigged ketch called Birthe Marie, a converted traditional Danish fishing boat which he uses to sail visitors around the beautiful islands of Mull and Iona on Scotland’s stunning west coast.

Der Sturmtaucher in the North Sea, Mark Jardine

Then, in September this year, William A McMillan was one of the poets reading at an event at the Tidelines Book Festival in Irvine, where I also did a reading from The Sturmtaucher Trilogy. It was a reunion of sorts, but we hadn’t seen each other for a decade. so it was lovely to catch up.

William A McMillan reading at the Tidelines Festival

We chatted about my books, his poetry and his art, much of it centred around wildlife and the countryside of South Ayrshire. It was a pleasant surprise to discover our respective new ‘careers’.

Then, towards the end of November, he got in touch saying that he’d been inspired by reading the Sturmtaucher Trilogy to write a poem about a Manx Shearwater, the seabird that runs as a theme through the Sturmtaucher Trilogy (Sturmtaucher is German for Shearwater), in Antje Kästner’s art, in the sailing passages in the North Sea, and in the gaff-rigged ketch named for it.

He’d also done a drawing of a shearwater to accompany the poem. Here is the poem, and the picture.


Gliding low over rising tides

Swooping through scooped out troughs of air

That run beneath the soaring sides

Of mountainous wave crests growing there

Sheer walls of water shall be your home

Cutting your way through the ocean’s grain

Journeying forth by the green spume foam

The shearwater flies, far from safe nests

From cradled burrow to watery grave

The wanderer ploughs on, alone

Her life, an endless long-distance race

Stark sentinel in a timeless place

A streamlined vision of nature’s grace

The salt-laden miles are her dominion

The wind and the weather her constant companion

Crying her song to the fathomless ocean

Surfing the churn of the water’s swift motion

Never halting, never ceasing

She glides out her life in headlong flight

Wing tips circling the depths of night

Drawn by some instinct within her soul

That points her to home where the breakers roll

At last, to the cliff by the soft grass furrow

And the quiescent peace of her own safe burrow

William A McMillan

Manx Shearwater. William A McMillan

Many thanks to William for allowing me to post both the poem and the drawing, and to Mark Jardine for giving kind permission to reproduce his painting.

You can see further examples of William’s artwork, photography and poetry on his Facebook page.

Mark Jardine and Birth Marie can be found at

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