Two NUI Galway-based historians have put together a collection of family stories of World War II told by staff at the university.
Dr Róisín Healy and Dr Gearóid Barry have compiled and co-edited Family Histories of World War II: Survivors and Descendants, which focuses on how the conflict impacted those that lived through it and the generations that have come after them.
The book includes 13 unique stories ranging from an Irishman who flew in the Royal Air Force and fell into captivity in Yugoslavia to a Spanish communist in the French Resistance and the tale of two Jewish girls in the middle of the Siege of Leningrad.
Dr Healy, who specialises in modern German history, said the idea for the book stemmed from her time hearing war stories while based in the country.
“After many years as a researcher in Germany, I got to know many Germans and had the privilege of hearing their families’ experiences of World War II.”
“It struck me that many others, including people living in Ireland, have war stories of their own. My hunch was that an approach to colleagues at NUI Galway, which now has a very international staff, would yield many such stories. I was bowled over by the response,” she added.
A recent surge in interest in family histories is outlined by Dr Healy and Dr Barry in the book’s introduction and stresses the value this has had in uncovering ordinary people’s experiences of the war.
The book sheds light on the long-term effects the lived experience of World War II has had on future generations and the people who have retold those stories.
“The variety is notable,” said Dr Barry, a specialist on modern France.
“The story of a grandfather who served the Nazis became a burden that divided one family while the story of a father who survived Nazi captivity became a lesson in resilience for a daughter with personal difficulties.”
Family Histories of World War II also zones in on the different ways in which these remarkable war stories came to light within each family.
“In some cases, memories of the war were popular topics of post-war conversations, as in one Greek village active in the resistance. In other cases, memories emerged only decades later, often prompted by the curiosity of younger family members,” Dr Healy finished.
Family Histories of World War II: Survivors and Descendants is published by Bloomsbury Academic and is available to purchase now.
Further information on the book is available via bloomsbury.com.