D. E. Haggerty Interviews Rudolph from Searching for Gertrude
Searching for Gertrudeis the story of a German man, Rudolf, who fell in love with his Jewish neighbor, Gertrude, while growing up in Germany in the 1930s. Gertrude’s family escapes the Nazi regime and flees to Istanbul where her father takes a position at the University of Istanbul. Eight years after Gertrude left, Rudolf finally follows her to Istanbul where he meets Rosalyn. Together, Rudolf and Rosalyn, search for Gertrude. They are willing to do anything to find Rudolf’s lost love, including working for a British intelligence officer who promises his assistance. As the danger increases and the search for Gertrude stretches on, Rudolf and Rosalyn grow close, but Rudolf gave his heart away long ago. This is an interview with Rosalyn Buchman.
DEH: Tell us when and where you were born?
RB: I was born in New York City in 1918, the first of three girls.
DEH: What influence did your birth family have on you, your choices, your life? Explain why and how.
RB: Being born Jewish has determined my current path in life. I can’t stand by while people in Europe are being prosecuted merely for how they were born or what religion they practice. This has lead me to secure a nanny position in Istanbul. Luckily, my father is my biggest champion and supports my decision to work in Istanbul, although there was a lot of discussion and negotiating before he finally agreed to allow me to travel.
DEH: Tell us what goal(s) you hoped to accomplish?
RB: I was appalled by the sinking of the SS Patria in the Haifa Harbor in 1940. Since that moment, I’ve been determined to help Jews who are fleeing the Nazi regime. I traveled to Istanbul to work as a nanny to be closer to Europe. Although Turkey is not involved in the conflict, I hope being close to the war will allow me to help those fleeing the tyranny of the Nazis in some way. Now that I’m here, I’m not sure how I can actually help, but I’m determined to try.
DEH: Tell us why you believe women really are/are not the weaker sex?
RB: I don’t understand how anyone can truly believe women are the weaker sex. Women bear and nurture children. Without women, the human race would become extinct. Women, because of various prejudices, also have to work twice as hard as any man at the same job. I have personally experienced this in my teaching position in New York City. Succeeding despite these adversities makes us stronger, not weaker.
DEH: If you could live in a different historical period, which would you choose and why does it appeal to you?
RB: The Jewish Golden Age in early Muslim Spain has always fascinated me. The Islamic rulers of Southern Spain and Portugal allowed the coexistence of Muslims, Jews, and Christians during this time. The region became a key center of Jewish life during the early Middle Ages. I would like to experience living amongst different religions who coexist in harmony for once in my life.
DEH: Did you turn out the way you expected? The way your parents predicted?
RB: My mother did not predict I would turn out to be a headstrong woman. She would prefer I stayed at home and had children. In fact, she tried to set me up with Jewish boys in the neighborhood, hoping I’d find a suitable match and quit working. She took to her bed when I announced my decision to travel to Istanbul.
DEH: What are you most proud of about your life?
RB: I’m proud that I boarded a ship in New York City to come to Istanbul during a time of war. As a single woman, the journey wasn’t easy. First, I had to convince my father to allow me to travel. Luckily, I had already found a suitable position with a Jewish family before I asked his permission. My father was able to find a couple traveling on the same ocean liner to escort me. I’m not sure he would have let me travel without an escort.
DEH: What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Why?
RB: I stood by while Jews were suffering and did nothing. Actually, that’s not true. I tried to do something. I went door to door to raise money and gather blankets and food for the Jewish men and women stuck on the Struma. In the end, however, it made no difference to what happened to those poor people. I’m sorry. I can’t talk about this anymore. It’s too upsetting.
DEH: What are you most afraid of?
RB: I fear that there is no power strong enough to stop Hitler’s march of terror across Europe. Thus far, no nation has been able to defeat him or even slow him down.
DEH: What do you want from life?
RB: I want to be free to love who I love, no matter my religion or his religion for that matter. I want to be safe from persecution regardless of my religion. Is that too much to ask?
While growing up in Germany in the 1930s, Rudolf falls in love with the girl next door, Gertrude. He doesn’t care what religion Gertrude practices but the Nazis do. When the first antisemitic laws are enacted by the Nazi government, Gertrude’s father loses his job at the local university. Unable to find employment in Germany, he accepts a position at Istanbul University and moves the family to Turkey. Rudolf, desperate to follow Gertrude, takes a position working at the consulate in Istanbul with the very government which caused her exile. With Rudolf finally living in the same city as Gertrude, their reunion should be inevitable, but he can’t find her. During his search for Gertrude, he stumbles upon Rosalyn, an American Jew working as a nanny in the city. Upon hearing his heartbreaking story, she immediately agrees to help him search for his lost love. Willing to do anything in their search for Gertrude, they agree to work for a British intelligence officer who promises his assistance, but his demands endanger Rudolf and Rosalyn. As the danger increases and the search for Gertrude stretches on, Rudolf and Rosalyn grow close, but Rudolf gave his heart away long ago.
How far would you go to find the woman you love?
I grew-up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.
Searching for Gertrudeis my twelfth book.
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