…in this debut biography, editor Claire Ohlsson Geheb offers readers a unique view of 20th-century German history as seen from the perspective of a single family…caught up in the sweep of history

In 1900, Willy Geheb was the fourth child born to a blacksmith and his wife in…Germany. He served in the German military during World War I, and saw the early years of the Weimar Republic. He immigrated to Brazil in 1923, and then lived in Mexico before finally settling in Chicago and raising a family of his own. He continued to write letters home to his German relatives, receiving news of the republic’s economic troubles, the rise of Adolf Hitler, and the horror of World War II and its aftermath. In 1980…a chest of the German-language letters as well as his personal diaries was discovered by his son, John. He and his wife, the credited editor here, finally secured the services of a translator in 2013, and they published the material in English to offer readers a unique view of 20th-century German history as seen from the perspective of a single family: “The Geheb family personalities, beliefs, relationships, daily activities, employment, and life styles described in the letters bring the history and living conditions of the times to life,” says editor Geheb in an introduction. Indeed, the letters of the Geheb family members, and of Willy in particular, are filled with moments of warmth, humor, and charming specificity. Willy is also capable of disarming profundity when commenting on current events: “Dear Father,” he writes in March 1927, “it is certainly to your credit to take the fate of Germany to heart, but look at the history of the world, and ask yourself, where are the mighty kingdoms now?” His accounts of the final days of both world wars are particularly compelling. A charming portrait of a German family caught up in the sweep of history.
Kirkus Reviews

They never stop dreaming of more, and that also makes this a fascinating tale of immigration success, one with extreme heart and consideration for the hardships of others. History fans will delight in real photographs and ‘at the time’ evidence from Willy himself, and overall I’d say that Dear Willy, The True Story of a Life Well Lived is a real triumph.
K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

This story of an immigrant’s journey to create a new life for while still maintaining bonds with the family he left behind is unique in that we have access to many letters from both sides of the Atlantic. As Willy travels through several countries and he and his family experience historic times, we listen to both parts of this long conversation, gaining insights into the psychological complexities of migration, where both those who leave and those who are left behind must struggle with memories of the past while building new lives for the future.
Kevin M. Kurdylo, Librarian and Archivist, Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, UW–Madison

This is an unusually interesting compilation of family letters and personal journals, kept in a suitcase by Willy Oswald Geheb (1900-1988), a blacksmith’s and small farmer’s son from Schmirma in rural Saxony-Anhalt in the eastern part of Germany. After the First World War, he leaves his home village to make his fortune in Brazil, Mexico and finally Chicago where he becomes an American citizen in 1934. He maintains-and keeps-a correspondence with his parents and siblings, much of which survived to be discovered after his death.
Trevor Pateman, retired university teacher, author, blogger.

Overall, Dear Willy is a treasure trove for readers who care about history and the immigrant experience. From its humble beginning as an authentic bildungsroman, this lovingly transcribed memoir truly lives up to its subtitle, “A Life Well Lived.”
Laurel DiGangi, Writer, Adjunct Professor, Woodbury University

It’s a story few of us are familiar with, if or when we read of the life of the Germans following the end of the war under Soviet rule. It’s another whole side of humanity, the story which is somewhat lacking in other war stories. Still, it’s a struggle won by the familial connection never lost of a prodigal son.
Virginia Williams, author, reviewer, blogger, and publisher of Stanley McShane books. Rosepoint

About The Book

This is a story told through the descriptive journals and letters written by ordinary people living through extraordinary times. In their own words, the Geheb family share their adventures. heartaches, love, and passions from 1914 to 1947 in Germany and America. You will be inspired by the strength and perseverance of the German Gehebs and the never-ending love and devotion that Willy Oswald Geheb had for his family.

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