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If every agency was open, honest, and competent, and every country was consistent in its requirements, then books like this one wouldn't be needed. However, I feel that EVERYONE considering international adoption should be armed with the information contained in this book even if it's only used to evaluate agencies before you make your final decision. Furthermore, those choosing to adopt independantly need a guide to sort through the tons of misinformation they will encounter throughout the process.
Keep in mind that ANY info contained in this guide or any other is only the latest info available at the time of printing. Every step along the way, I checked for variations and/or changes with some recent adoptive families from my network of Armenian friends. I also relied on Internet government sites for updates on paperwork requirements.
I also liked the step-by-step approach. In addition to making the whole thing easier and less overwhelming, breaking the process down like this, really helped us understand how international adoption works and what government agencies oversaw each part of the process. We could also really track our progress.
The book was also very helpful to us in researching and choosing the right agency and the right country.
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone even considering the possibility of international adoption.
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Heino R. Erichsen
For the most part this is a very readable book. It traces Heino Erichsen's story from capture in North Africa as an eighteen year old German soldier through prison camps in the United States, to repatriation to Germany, and ultimately to return to the United States.
Erichsen's book initially interested me because in the town where I grew up in central Texas there had been a German prisoner of war camp. Mr. Erichsen's book answered my questions about life in those camps. The initial prison camp to which he was sent was Camp Hearne, Texas. The town was so depleted of agricultural labor that when the prisoners arrived at the camp, according to Erichsen, who spoke English, they were greeted with "Hi y'all, come on in." As it turned out three-fourths of the prisoners were NCO's, who were exempted from work by the Geneva Convention. Accordingly, later, the locals dubbed the camp, "The Fritz Ritz".
During Erichsen's stay, Nazis murdered an English-speaking prisoner, who had translated for the camp's commanding officer. The translator was thought to be too friendly to the Americans. Erichsen wrote that his American captors failed to distinguish between the Nazis and the non-political types who made up most of the German army. This oversight led to incidents such as the translator's murder.
This book also discloses the fact, unknown at least to me, that after the war the German prisoners in the U.S. were not returned directly to Germany. Instead they had to serve one to two year terms in England, Scotland, Belgium, and France working on farms, in mines, or repairing war damages to make up for the manpower losses that those countries had suffered. Erichsen captured in 1943 did not make it back to his hometown of Kiel in north Germany until 1948. He writes that over 58 percent of the buildings had been destroyed. The city was barely recognizable.
After a while, Erichsen was able to get a job as a translator for a British government organization. Outside of work, Erichsen wrote of the postwar period in Germany, it was difficult to have a social life of any kind because the men of his age had lost their contemporaries and the young women had lost their innocence. Surviving consumed the thoughts of women his age, he wrote. After six years, he returned to the United States with his new family.
Life in the U.S. was not an immediate success for Erichsen. He had given up an excellent job in Germany. After weeks of interviews, he learned that his references and education counted for nothing. He was a foreigner with an accent. Eventually, he got work. Later, his wife left him. He married again. He and his second wife went on to found an international adoption agency, which placed hundreds of orphans. This became his life's work and his way of coping with his wartime experiences.
Although "Reluctant Warrior" lacks the dramatic power of books such as "Destined to Witness" and "German Boy", two other books by Germans about their wartime experiences, it is nonetheless an interesting book. Its coverage of the lives of German prisoners in American POW camps provides an original insight into a somewhat forgotten aspect of our history.
As for the soldier, you see the human side of a German boy, raised in a middle class family, whose parents secretly opposed the war and Hitler's grand schemes. Frail as a lad, required to participate as a member of the Hitler Youth Program, and schooled for office work, Heino was inept as a soldier before he became a member of the Afrikan Korps under Field Marshall Rommel in February 1943. His story could easily have been the life of a similar American youth, except for location, culture, and circumstance of war.
For Heino Erichsen, that circumstance included being captured and shipped to the United States as a Prisoner of War. On reflection, it was perhaps a more fortunate fate for him than for some of his American counterparts interned as POWs in Germany - but not a good thing at best.
What he made of his life, despite the war, the onus of being a POW, and many other obstacles in his path, is a tribute to Erichsen's self discipline, work ethic, faith in his God, and a good wife - a combination manifest in his many good works worldwide since immigrating and becoming an American citizen.
I interviewed Heino and Jean after reading a story about them in the local paper. I was so impressed by both of them that I purchased The Reluctant Warrior for my own library. After reading it, I was even more impressed with what they have made of their life, and I strongly recommend their book to you. It is interesting, educational, and quite revealing.
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