against all odds

Against All Odds - otherwise called “The Abandoned  Village” by Friedrich Thieme, is a must-read German classic, now brought to us in a brilliant new translation by the scholar and author Rudi Stiebritz.  

The novel that is set amid the horrors of the Thirty Year War of 1618-1648, tells of the power of love to heal all.  

Rudi is no stranger to the horrors of war himself (see his gripping book Pawn of War which deals with his personal experiences on the Russian front in WW II).  

Rudi is particularly suited to bring this story to the English reading public. Its narrative of religious bigotry and fanaticism and the horrors that attend upon them will resonate with contemporary readers, who will find much to learn about the redemptive power of human love even in the midst of the most dire circumstances. ………Dr. Gary McLennan  

In Store Price: $29.95 
Online Price:   $28.95

ISBN: 978-1-921731-26-6    
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 351
Genre: Fiction


Author: Rudi Stiebritz
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
Language: English





Adapted from  


By Friedrich Thieme

English version by Rudi Stiebritz

And Jay McKee 



Foreword by Rudi stiebritz:

I first read ’Das Verlassene Dorf’ over Christmas 1932 suffering a chronic bout of appendicitis; I was nine years old and confined to hospital for four weeks.

The original story was based on fragments found in the journal of the village teacher’s daughter Margarete (Greta or Gretchen in the familiar forms). Some events were added from the archives of churches and cities that survived destruction. Hence the story is faction: fiction based on facts. 

The futility and destruction of war and the struggle of survivors just to stay alive must have made an indelible impression on me. Ever since then I have been strongly anti-war. This probably accounted for my reluctance to be totally committed in World War II, as revealed by my attitudes in the 2001 book ’Pawn of War’ (also written in tandem with Jay McKee).

Equally important I suppose was the fact that the events in this book took place ’in my own backyard’, the region around my hometown Jena, where many of my happiest boyhood memories were forged. They were free and happier times; we ventured into the valleys and the hills, mostly with family but sometimes with a group of friends.  Many of the places mentioned in this novel are familiar to me, places we visited or discovered on our expirations and wanderings. 

Just knowing that the ravages of the Thirty Year War had such a devastating effect on the region where I Lived gave me a keen sense of history and an understanding of the terrible ravages suffered by the general populace during such a war, the loss of innocent lives, the rape and pillage, the torture, the starvation, the shattering of family units. 

The seventeenth century war was a holocaust in the real sense of the word. Of the fifteen million citizens in 1618 in Germany (as it was in those days) only five million survived by the end of the war. Admittedly, the dreaded bubonic plague that swept through Europe at that time also accounted for many of the deaths on both sides of the war.

We need to understand that the massacre and demolition were achieved without modern weaponry: there were no nuclear arms or bombs or bazookas or even machine guns in those days. Gunpowder had been developed and guns and pistols that fired lead shot were relatively sophisticated in those days. Pikes, staffs (staves), and lances were still in common use and armies had mounted sections armed only with these defenses. Ever since Pawn of War became a literary success I have had the thoughts of translating the novel that was my dominant inspiration. My oldest sister Charlotte had a copy of the original 1913 edition and her grandson Eberhardt found it in a box in the loft of his house. He sent it to me and to my delight it was the book I had read in hospital over seventy years ago. I approached Wolfgang Wagner, the son of an old friend in Wöllnitz, to take photos of some of the localities mentioned on the book. I also asked if he could find any descendants of the author. He managed to contact the granddaughter of Friedrich Thieme in Weimar, and she in turn granted me permission to translate the book onto English.  

I trust my readers will enjoy the book as much as I did, and hope you will agree that willful destruction and massive loss of lives in order to carry out the will of rich and greedy or power-hungry rulers never be justified. 

Rudi Stiebritz (Brisbane 2009)

—— *  *  *  ——


To assist readers who know little about the Thirty Years War, this thumb-nail sketch is sufficient background to acquaint you with what caused the war, why it was so shocking with regards to deaths and destruction, and why it became so protracted.

Firstly, you need to know that this was a religious war, a battle between the Imperial (Roman Catholic) Church and the new protestant faiths (Lutheranism and Calvinism).

At the height of its power, the Holy Roman Empire extended all the way from Italy to the North Sea. After the decline of the Empire the local leaders remained and ruled for roughly 1000 years over the mini-empires, principalities, dukedoms and other fiefdoms. The citizens and peasant farmers paid heavy taxes to these catholic rulers but in many cases these rulers became weak, corrupt and greedy, while their subjects lived in poverty. The influence of the Catholic Church waned, and lost the support of the citizenry.

Gradually influential thinkers and serious Christians rebelled. Luther led the development of a Protestant church in Germany, and his followers soon spread more widely, over neighbouring countries, among Christians disenchanted with the Catholic Church. By 1608 protestant princes formed the Protestant Union, which provoked the catholic rulers to form the Catholic League (1609). So the stage was set for a show of strength, each religious group determined to defend its power and influence.

The struggle ignited in 1618 in Prague, armies were raised and battles raged. That they continued for thirty years was largely due to the rest of Europe becoming involved, according to their religion, to defend their faith. Denmark, Spain, France, Sweden und to get a piece of the cake in the end.

Jena in Thüringen lay roughly in the centre of Germany in those days, so successive waves of battle raged through the Region and places like Kunitz were obliged to billet forces sympathetic to their protestant religion as well as battalions of imperial forces defending their catholic religion.

This may clarify for non-European readers many aspects of the story. 

Happy reading!

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