Sunday, September 19, 2021

White Bear Lake woman writes book about uncle’s escape from Nazi-occupied France

Bud Wilschke’s plane caught fire and the only way out was downstairs.

A 23-year-old Chicago boy emerged from the falling wreckage of his B-17 Flying Fortress and struggled with his parachute. This was his first real jump and he was going straight into Nazi-occupied France.

That leap of desperation was the start of a six-month trial in 1943 as Wilschke and another surviving friend hid in attics, barns and hay wagons, helping a network of Frenchmen across the country and the Pyrenees mountain range. Independence.

Wilschke survived the war (despite being declared KIA), married his waiting girlfriend and told his family about his ordeal. He closed it on occasion by sharing only a brief sentence, such as “I climbed the Pyrenees to escape the Nazis.”

a childhood memory

This was the bullet point that entered the mind of White Bear Lake resident Barbara Wojcick. During a book club meeting in 2015, a member’s comment on a World War II book about an airman who had fled France in the same way his uncle once revived a childhood memory.

James “Bud” Wilschke was just 23 years old when his B-17F flying fortress was dropped on German-occupied France in 1943. (courtesy of the Wilske family)

“One of my book club members said[about the author]’Oh, he made it. Oh, it’s so extraordinary. It couldn’t have happened,'” Barbara recalled. All I could think about the rest of the book club was what that story was about?”

Getting the story, which she and her husband Jim recently published, turned out to be a five-year obsession with an unfortunate deadline. As she began researching what “Bud’s Jacket” would be, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and given only a few years to live.

“I got to the point where I couldn’t really write or do anything anymore,” she said last week, sitting in her sun room and speaking with short, measured breaths. “Jim took over and I said, ‘We have to get this out the door. We have to get it done.’ “

The couple will do their first public book signing on Friday, August 6 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, essentially ending WWII. they will be here Lake Country Booksellers at White Bear Lake. After that, he is booked for a few speaking engagements, at a Minnesota History Center group. Dr. Harold C. Deutsch World War II History Roundtable, a Zoom interview with Chicago Media and another with the Holocaust Museum in Illinois.

memory box

“I didn’t want Bud’s story to get so lost as many are,” she said. “They are put in a box and the box is not given to grandchildren or anyone or anything. Sometimes the cans are thrown out. And I didn’t want the story to get lost.”

White Bear Lake woman writes book about uncle's escape from Nazi-occupied France
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