Welcome to Novel PASTimes! The job of a foreign correspondent is to report the news, not create it, but girl reporter Evelyn Brand is known for not following the rules. Today, Miss Brand is here to tell us about her shocking adventures in Hitler’s Germany, to be revealed in her much-anticipated book, coming in early 1939. Miss Brand, please tell the curious readers of Novel PASTimes how you came to be a correspondent in Germany.
Thank you for this interview. After I graduated from college, I did my stint at a copy desk at a major newspaper in New York City. Since I’ve always loved travel and adventure, I leapt at an opportunity to report in Paris with the American News Service. After two years, I was transferred to Germany.
There’s a story floating around among the correspondents about an incident in Paris. Would you care to elaborate?
That story will follow me forever. One of the French government ministers had banned female reporters from his press conferences. To say this inhibited my work is an understatement. How was I to write my assigned stories if I was banned from the main source of information? Never afraid to break the rules, I dressed up as a man, wearing a man’s suit with my hair pinned under a fedora. However, I failed to use enough pomade and pins. Early in the press conference, my curls began to spring out from under the fedora. I was expelled from the room, and I’ve been teased about the incident ever since. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
That leads us to your assignment to Munich. From what we’ve heard, you were less than pleased. Why is that?
Berlin is where everything happens in Germany. It’s where Hitler governs, where Goebbels gives his press conferences, where the generals and officials and everyone of importance works. Although Munich is beautiful and rich in culture, it seemed like a dead-end assignment for a correspondent.
Of course, that’s why my bureau chief wanted me there—to keep me out of trouble. He hoped to keep this “girl reporter” quiet covering “feminine” topics like concerts, Mother’s Day festivities, and interviewing American students at the University of Munich. Little did he know—
Before we proceed, that article on the American exchange students was my introduction to your writing. I was surprised to hear our “junior year abroad” students were having such an enjoyable experience in Nazi Germany.
That’s a common experience among American and British tourists and students in Germany. As much as it pains me to admit, Hitler’s harsh policies have brought security at home and low unemployment, even in the middle of the Great Depression. Clean streets, new roads, and new museums cause many to overlook the brutal oppression of the Nazi regime.
From what I understand, that particular assignment at the university led to an interesting personal development for you.
Yes, it introduced me to Peter Lang, an American graduate student teaching at the University of Munich, a man who became entwined in the adventure and danger of the past year. And—although I dread sounding coy—the rest of that story will be told in my book.
At least something interesting came out of your assignment to Munich.
Many interesting things. Little did my bureau chief know that being in Munich would give me a front-row seat for the most important events of 1938.
It has been a momentous year. Germany’s annexation of Austria, the Munich Conference, and Kristallnacht—and you were able to report on all of these. Which event was most important for your career?
That’s a hard question to answer. The annexation of Austria was the first solid news story I was able to write in Germany, the Munich Conference was definitely my break-out story, and Kristallnacht—well, I wasn’t able to report on it, but—
But you dread sounding coy, and it’ll be in your book. Yes, we understand. Are there any particular challenges you face as a girl reporter?
As a woman, I do face greater challenges in my job. My mentor, Mitch O’Hara, told me, “Your dues are twice as high as a man’s, and the penalties are twice as high as a man’s. It isn’t right, but that’s how it is.” If a man hunts down a lead, he’s called bold. I’m called pushy. If a man finds an unconventional way to get a story, he’s called clever. I’m scolded for breaking the rules.
However, I’ve found some advantages too. I’m forced to be more creative in seeking angles and sources, which has led to some interesting opportunities. Also, women are more likely to open up to me, and I’ve found some juicy story leads that way, like my scoop for the Munich Conference.
What other challenges did you find reporting in Nazi Germany?
When you’re raised in a nation with freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it can be difficult to learn how to report in a police state. Although the German government doesn’t directly censor our articles, they effectively do so. They read our outgoing mail and telegrams, and they confiscate any they don’t like. Most of us phone our articles in, but the Germans listen in on our calls. In addition, their embassy staff in the US reads our newspapers and reports back on unflattering articles. The German government has the right to expel foreign correspondents from the country, which can damage a reporter’s career.
Also, on occasion the Gestapo has tried to frame correspondents for espionage. Plus, we have to consider the safety of our informants, who risk their lives to bring us information. We walk a thin line between reporting the truth and endangering our own lives and the lives of brave men and women.
Thank you, Miss Brand. We’re all looking forward to your new book. After the tumult of 1938, here’s hoping your book is the most—and only—memorable event in 1939!
Sarah Sundin’s novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library
Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The Sky Above Us received the Carol Award, her
bestselling The Sea Before Us received the FHL Reader’s Choice Award, and both
Through Waters Deep and When Tides Turn were named on Booklist’s “101 Best
Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” Sarah lives in Northern California. Visit
www.sarahsundin.com for more information.