Year of Graduation
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Dr. Lisa Fraustino, Professor Ruth Sanderson
Although a plethora of documentaries, movies, and literature surrounding the trauma of
World War II and its aftermath exist, a relative paucity comes from the German people – perhaps
due to the collective guilt and shame that surrounded the horrors of the Holocaust.
This thesis project is a middle school graphic novel memoir based on a true story of a German boy (pseudonym: Hans) during the years 1940 to 1949. Hans becomes a member of the prestigious St. Thomas Boys Choir in Leipzig and finds that Bach’s music, which he is constantly singing, helps to keep his soul alive in the midst of the trauma of war. Following the war and the realization of the harshness of Soviet occupation, he tries to find a way of escape to Switzerland or western Germany with his friend Werner. The turmoil in a boy turning young man’s life and the inner choices he subsequently makes are examined through both words and illustrations. The method of research took place over five years and consisted of the author’s first-hand interviews (prompted by her personal relationship since birth with the protagonist), scrutiny of non-fiction and fiction books covering this time period for context and perspective, extensive investigation of the places and people described in journals and letters written by author’s father during the post-war period as he worked with displaced youth in western Germany, and a research trip to Germany to visit many of the localities involved in the story and to conduct interviews with several generations of Germans concerning their experiences during and immediately after World War II.
Failinger, Martha Marie, "Escape from the East" (2019). Children's Book Writing and Illustrating (MFA). 2.
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