The world today certainly looks very different than when it did when Vivianne Knebel was a little girl growing up in Berlin, Germany. In her memoir, Vivianne Knebel details what it was like for her growing up in the years following WWII, the challenges she overcome, and the beautiful life she built for herself. Her message – of gratitude, resilience, and hope – is one that carries significant weight in the current climate.
How would you describe your book?
It is a chronicle of a child growing up in the aftermath of WWII in Berlin, Germany, the challenges that families faced and how one young girl deals with them. The book demonstrates what the human spirit can accomplish through will and determination.
When did you decide you wanted to write about your life?
I decided to write about my life two years ago when I turned 75. I wanted to write this book as a gift for my husband’s 80th birthday as a token of my appreciation for him believing in me and encouraging me to learn and grow.
Although your life is now a happy one, you went through some very challenging times, were those difficult to relive while writing your book?
As I reflected back on my life, I thought about the time when I attempted to end my life at just seventeen. How unthinkable this is to me now. One of the trappings of youth is that one has very little sense of perspective. I became emotional and writing about; it was liberating.
What would you like readers to come away with?
I would like readers to remember to never give up hope. We can overcome obstacles. I want to remind readers to have determination and perseverance – both of which are omnipotent. Above all, remember to have gratitude. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
What surprised you the most about writing the book?
I realized what a journey my life has been, and how far I have come and grown. I realized that all the challenges I have overcome have propelled me to a higher state of awareness, and have brought me to new levels of appreciation, deepened my understanding of myself and the world around me, and driven me to become my best self.
Who or what brought you hope during the most challenging moments of your life?
As a young child it was definitely my mother brought me hope and believed in me. In my teenage years it was my hope to improve my station in life and have a brighter future that helped me overcome the most challenging moments.
Why do you feel this book is particularly relevant now?
I feel that my book is particularly relevant now because these are challenging times with great uncertainty and many people are in despair. I can relate to that and know never to give up hope. Obstacles can be overcome. Americans are resilient! In being resilient we exercise purpose, not just to survive, but to do something positive for ourselves and the world around us.
Are you working on any other projects?
I am presently not working on another project. I want to continue to use my remaining time, which is the most precious treasure, to make the absolute best of this gift of life.
In these particularly dark times, it’s important to remind oneself that uplifting stories of resilience are out there. For more information about Vivianne, you can visit her website her. If you’d like to pick up a copy of her memoir, you can do so here.
Vivianne Knebel was born illegitimate in 1943 in the epicenter of Nazi power, Berlin, Germany. Her free-spirited and strong-willed mother, Marija, fought to keep her alive among falling bombs and Soviet attacks. After the end of World War II, with much of Berlin razed to the ground, Vivianne came to know poverty and constant hunger. As a teenager, she immigrated to Canada, but in her new homeland, times became so desperate that she had to beg for money to eat. After dropping out of school to find work, Vivianne became the victim of sexual harassment. Spiraling into depression, she attempted to take her life, but was miraculously saved by a six-year-old child.
Falling in love with a fellow German immigrant, Wiland, proved a pivotal turning point for Vivianne. He saw a wellspring of potential in her and believed that she could become more than she had ever imagined. They married and moved to the United States. In the land where so many immigrant dreams are built, Wiland encouraged Vivianne to pursue endeavors that would test her mettle, including piloting a plane, running a marathon, and taking on a key role in supporting his business enterprise. Vivianne's journey of personal growth later gave her the courage to battle cancer and embrace a spiritual life.
Through hardship, demoralization, yearning, searching, loving, inspiration, and growth, Vivianne has discovered the ultimate secret to a life well lived: a grateful heart.