We have heard from many readers since Tilli's Story was published. Your comments have been wonderful to receive. It's gratifying to know that Tilli's Story has touched so many of your hearts!  We thought we would share some of the comments here (reprinted with permission). Please feel free to send YOUR comments, questions, or blog posts to us at comments@mythoughtsarefree.com. Thank you!

I just finished reading this book. How interesting this story is to me. I have read dozens of books and seen many films about WWII. I have read books written by Germans, Russians, Italian, Jewish, you name it.  None of them were like this though. I felt like I know Tilli and share her sorrows and fears and joys. It has made me talk with my grandchildren about how lucky  we all are – even in this age of seemingly unhappy people who can never get enough.

I am proud of Tilli for doing what she did, leaving her home to make a new one.  I hope she has had much joy here in America.  She did the right thing, because it was right for her.

~Sandy Briggs, Elkhart, IN

Loved, loved your wonderful book!

I found it so interesting to read about, from your perspective, the effects of WW2 on a family that was not Jewish. I don't think it is realized what non-Jews went through during this time.

Your courage and determination is to be admired, as well as your friends and family. Your mother was an incredible woman who raised an equally brave daughter.

Thank you for sharing your story.

~Susan Orenstein, Atlanta, Georgia

Tilli's Story Will Stick With Youblog post by MinnesotaTransplant, 3/29/11

The overt story is about a girl who grew up in East Germany during World War II and the country's subsequent occupation by the Soviet Union, but the underlying story is about the strength of women.

"Tilli's Story: My Thoughts are Free" by Lorna Collier and Tilli Schulze tells how Schulze drew up on a farm southwest of Berlin, first under the rule of the Nazis and then the Soviets. She escaped to West Germany in 1950 only to languish in a battle of paperwork before emigrating to the United States.

This is a different story about Germany in World War II than has been told in the popular media. It is not about Adolf Hitler, the extermination of the Jews or America's triumph -- it is about an ordinary farm family caught in the crossfire of  politics.

As one might expect from a war-era story, much of the story revolves around soldiers, bombs, war atrocities and fear, but at its heart, Schulze tells how education and her mother's love gave her hope and ultimately led her to freedom. The story begins and ends with the courage and quiet defiance of her mother in the face of a philandering husband and more than one oppressive government. One strong woman raises a daughter to be another strong woman.

Read the rest of the blog post by MinnesotaTransplant Monica Lee. (Thanks, Monica!)

Yesterday afternoon I spotted your book on the book shelf of the local Walmart. Last evening I started reading, and continued until about 11 p.m. By this morning at 10, I was able to set everything else aside and get back to the book, and at 8:45 p.m., I closed the cover and cried.

Thank you for this book. You are 75. I am 81. We both lived our childhood and much of our adolescence oceans away from each other -- but you lived the actual hell, while I only knew about the hell and still have not recovered from what I knew about, but not firsthand.

This is an amazing book. I am stunned by your ability to tell the story and totally thankful that you have done so.

I have always been fascinated by, while nauseated by, the WWII happenings in Europe. I was a young gentile girl who was granted a scholarship at Chicago's Francis Parker School from the seventh grade on. This was the Jewish private school on Chicago's near north side. I, however, was gentile and most of us on scholarship were gentile so that the school became a wondrous blend of both. My sister and I were also offered scholarships to Girls Latin, the Protestant private school alternative on Chicago's near North Side. Interestingly, we had the opportunity to visit both schools and make a choice. We chose Parker because of the warmth and gentleness we found. But that's another story.

I was caught up in your story from page one. I most appreciated being reminded of what our German faculty members -- who were Jewish and had endured much during the war -- taught us about those years that were so devastating for them. That truth was that all Germans were NOT Jew haters. That NOT all Germans were sadistic killers. That NOT all Germans were supporters of Hitler and all he stood for. We learned that the German people themselves were the victims of Hitler's madness, hunger for power and apparent fascination with power, and totally inhumane recklessness with people's lives, and that the German people were propagandized into believing that Germany's defeat in WWI needed to be turned into ultimate and complete victory in the years of WWII.

Most fascinating to me was your eye-witness account of the devastation of Germany overall, and of the German people in particular. While I knew this in my head, your book has made me realize it in my heart as well. I so appreciate your honesty, clarity and heart-breaking details.

I had a mother who, during the Depression, was wiped out financially and left with two young girls to raise. Her story is a great one. I saw her courage and will never forget the sacrifices she made just to keep us fed and safe. She reminds me in many ways of your mother, even though your mother's situation was not just a lack of pennies, but a total lack of security and safety for you and the rest of your family.

I could not even imagine in my mind what life must have been like for your family and ALL the people caught in that deadly, inhumane 20 years. Even as I read, I could not imagine how you -- a young girl -- found the inner strength to make it to America and freedom. However, your story and your willingness to capture those years and to describe them to those of us living today is a magnificent tribute to your mother, brother, aunts, uncles, etc., and ultimately to the need for all of us to have a greater understanding of what staying alive and holding onto hope can mean to everyone.

Thank YOU for getting this story told.

I have taught literature and education for over 45 years: 25 years at Carlinville High School in Carlinville, Illinois, and the rest of the time at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois. I have taught about those WWII years and hope I have given those years the respect and awe which I feel for all those who lived through the years or who died through those years. Your book has given me new insights, and I appreciate that.

~Ann Reichmann, Blackburn College, Carlinville, Illinois

I just finished the book and want you to know it was brilliant. Absolutely one of the best books I ever read and I have read a ton... I have encouraged others to buy the book as I just think that much of it.

~ Samantha Syoen, Executive Producer, NBC News, Florida

Our book club absolutely loved the book! It is very rare that we all like the monthly selection. We rate our books every month on a 1 to 5 scale. We have never had a book get the best rating overall until now.

~ Nancy Paulson, Menomonee Falls, Wis., Newcomers Club book club member

Your book, "Tilli's Story, My Thoughts Are Free," has to be THE best book I have read in years.  "Tilli's Story" kept me glued to the pages and at times on the edge of my seat.  I have never been that intrigued by a book before.  I have to also say that reading "Tilli's Story" has opened my eyes and heart to the people of Germany and the suffering that they endured before, during and after WWII.  I learned so many things from this book that was never taught in school.  So many things that I never knew. Please pass my heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Schulze for telling her story and I thank you also for doing such a wonderful job writing it. I will recommend it to anyone who will listen.

Lisa Harrolle, Davis Junction, IL

I could not put the book down. I felt as if I were standing beside Tilli in Germany 60 years ago. The book was so well written. What a riveting story...so intense and interesting. It is unbelievable that such horrible things happened to so many innocent people. I applaud Tilli's courage and convictions. Everyone should read this book. I also think it would be a magnificent educational tool for students learning about Europe during that time period. Congratulations on a wonderful work...I will be recommending Tilli's story to everyone!!!!

---Mary Johnson, Rockford, IL

What an amazing story.  I was crying with Tilli and her family, smiling when Tilli went to the dance, scared when Tilli was in the attic and walking alone to and from school, every emotion Tilli had is how I felt reading this book.  I could not put the book down until I was finished with it.  It took a few hours but I started the book and finished it yesterday.  Tilli is a remarkable person to share her experience like she did.  This had to be like reliving everything over and over.   This story ought to be in our school systems.  I think our kids could learn a lot from Tilli.  The book was written fantastic.   I  was so happy to read that Tilli had her surgery and is doing good.  Tilli and her family will always be in my thoughts and prayers.  Thank you for writing such a wonderful book.
---Sherry Christiansen, Machesney Park, IL

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the excerpts from the book in the Rockford paper.  I can't wait to get a copy of the book to read from cover to cover.  This book moved me like I never imagined it would.  I plan to share it with the rest of my family after I finish, to share some history and to remember what others went through that we didn't.  I have German ancestory, but no one in my immediate family had to live through what Tilli did to be free.  May God bless you, Tilli, and Lorna for helping her get her story out!
---Teresa Kurzrock, Dixon, IL

Thank you so much for sharing your personal life story and for helping bring further realization to the present population that all people are basically the same. We all get hungry, need to rest and work, want to be loved and respected, feel secure and safe, especially within our own homes. Our lives here in the United States are far too often grossly taken for granted and disrespected. Your book is going to remind people to be thankful and to appreciate the many blessings we are privileged to experience in our wonderful nation. Regardless of who is in office, the shape of the economy, the lack of health care plans, or paying taxes, these issues are a drop in the bucket compared to countries who are controlled and dominated by fear and oppression. We enjoy so many daily freedoms and choices here in America.

I thank you for opening my eyes even wider to the truth that the majority of the German people honestly didn't even want the war or to support Hitler and his Nazi Party. I believe that some prejudicial attitudes were formed towards Germans during and after WWII. Your book is going to aid in shattering falsehoods believed about German nature, temperament, and personalities.

In sincere appreciation to you and Mrs. Collier,

---Dawn L. Rittmeyer, Winnebago, IL

I am so excited and honored to get your book. I am going through a difficult trial in my life and the excerpts from the paper help me to look at my circumstances differently and to count my blessings.

God bless you for all you have endured and for getting this out to us. May you prosper and may this book touch the hearts of those who try to say that the Holocaust and all that you have experienced is fabricated."

---Lori Keinz, Rockford, IL

I find the point of view of a child to be very unique. I could see my students relating to it.

---Mary Rabideau, 5th grade teacher, Belvidere, IL

I am enjoying reading Tilli's Story in the Rockford Register Star newspaper. Thank you both for writing the story; I think it is
important for people to know what happened and how it affected peoples' lives. The courage it took to live through what you did and
to recall the story are inspiring to me.  May your story inspire others to value the freedom we have in this country!
---Elaine Delfinado, Rochelle, IL

Your story needed to be told. We pray this will never happen again to others. We are thankful you did find freedom.

---Geneva Charnesky, Rockford, IL

 I have been reading the excerpts from the book in the Rockford Register Star and find the firsthand account compelling.  Thank you for sharing this story with the public. It definitely reminds us about the freedoms we take for granted.  

---Mary Lego, Rockford, IL

I can't wait to get your book in my hands!  The response to the words you & Tilli Schulze have put on paper so well is not something that can be expressed in words---it is something felt in your heart.
---Karen Tuttle, Marengo, IL

The book is very well-written and it gives one insight on how the war affected the German people who were caught up in the tragedy.

---Rosemarie Niedermann, Belvidere, IL

From the moment I opened this book, I could not put it down - a rarity in today's literary market. Ms Collier drew me into Tilli's life and recreated the places and experiences so vividly that these images remain fresh in my memory. This is a story that must be read by everyone - especially our young people! In a nation where we take our freedoms for granted, this is a fresh reminder that things can change in a heartbeat! This was truly a story of great faith in the face of horrific tragedies - and incredible sacrifice. Thank you, Tilli, for sharing your life with us! A truly inspirational read!! BRAVO!!

---Kris Foushee, Gastonia, NC

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