Reflections in an Oval Mirror
Memories of East Prussia, 1923–1945
by Anneli Jones
8 May 1945 — VE Day — was Anneliese Wiemer's twenty-second birthday. Although she did not know it then, it marked the end of her flight to the West, and the start of a new life in England.
These illustrated memoirs, based on a diary kept during the Third Reich and letters rediscovered many decades later, depict the momentous changes occurring in Europe against a back-cloth of everyday farm life in East Prussia (now the north-western corner of Russia, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland).
The political developments of the 1930s (including the Hitler Youth, 'Kristallnacht', political education, labour service, war service, and interrogation) are all the more poignant for being told from the viewpoint of a romantic young girl. In lighter moments she also describes student life in Vienna and Prague, and her friendship with Belgian and Soviet prisoners of war.
Finally, however, the approach of the Red Army forces her to abandon her home and flee, encountering en route a cross-section of society ranging from a 'lady of the manor', worried about her family silver, to some concentration camp inmates.
||Royal Octavo paperback
||8 May 2008
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||8 May 2017
Review (in German, with an English machine translation) in the Angerapper Heimatbrief [PDF]
This book was originally written in English, for English readers. It has however also been translated into German, as Vor dem ovalen Spiegel. The memoirs of Anneli's sister Marlene were also originally written in English (see Skating at the Edge of the Wood), but these too have now been translated into German (see Schlittschuhlaufen am Waldrand).
The long-awaited sequel to this book, Carpe Diem, is now available.
Some links for those seeking more information on the topics and locations mentioned in this book:
- Google Map of Anneli's trek — http://j.mp/AnneliTrek
- Evacuation of East Prussia - Wikipedia
- Eastern Front (World War I) — Wikipedia
- Eastern Front (World War II) — Wikipedia
- Detailed 1937 map of Mikalbude area, overlaid on modern Google/Yandex/OpenStreet maps.
- Detailed 1937 map of Mikalbude area — as above. This version is in Russian, but also offers contemporary photographs from the area.
- More maps: lots of high quality geo-referenced maps of East Prussia and surrounding areas through history
- Russian maps of Germany throughout history — particularly good views of the changing Eastern Front, 1941-44
- Large Soviet map of Suchkovo area — direct link to detailed map (to find Anneli's childhood home, look for the 54°20' Polish/CCCP border at the right edge, then head west just above the 28' line to find the Олёхово (Olyokhovo) settlement and then Сучково (Suchkovo = Mikalbude) just to its eastern side.
- Grieben / Olyokhovo / Олёхово in Wikipedia (German & Russian) — where the Mukhina family live, now the closest settlement to Mikalbude
- Prussian/German/Russian placenames
- Meyer's Gazetteer - lists and descriptions of old placenames
- Further reading on East Prussia (UK) - a list on Amazon UK list of selected / suggested books as in the bibliography, both in English and German
- Further reading on East Prussa (international) - a 'geo-targeted' list of general books relating to East Prussia on your local Amazon site (including the UK but also US, DE, FR, etc.)
- There are several neutral groups on social networks sharing memories, pictures and so on, e.g. Tolerantes Ostpreussen (Facebook)
- There are also many websites relating to East Prussian history & culture — e.g. ostpreussen.de (in German) or exulanten.com (in English) — but some of the websites, books, videos and the organizations behind them seem to have a strong right-wing bias (e.g. highlighting Soviet atrocities and German suffering only), so they should be viewed with great caution.
- Reflections in an Oval Mirror — http://j.mp/OvalMirror — a short link to this page, if you want to share it