Author Interview: H. Peter Nennhaus, Author of QUO VADIS, ISRAEL?

H. Peter Nennhaus, a retired surgeon and Illinois resident, was raised in Berlin and became a U.S. citizen in 1961. He is the author of Boyhood, the 1930s and World War II, Memories, Comments and Views from the Other Side. Among his various interests, the study of the history of the 20th century, the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism has been a persistent focus.
You can visit his website at www.outskirtspress.com/quovadisirael.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Peter! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Well, I hate to admit I’m in my seventies. I grew up in Berlin during Hitler’s time and first came to this country on a Fulbright scholarship in 1951/2. I came back in 1955 and have been a U.S. citizen since 1961. I practiced surgery in Chicago but liked to write just the same. It was only after my retirement that I had the time to turn to my hobbies, one of which was writing. My first book dealt with my youth during the war and also dealt with its historical background. That took years of study so that my first book Boyhood, The 1930s and the Second World War, was not published until 2002, even though its first chapters were jotted down in the 1970s.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

That is an unusual story. A cousin of mine told me about a trip they had taken to a stretch of land currently called the Kaliningrad Territory. That is the northern part of the old German province of East Prussia at the southern Baltic coast. When Germany lost the war, the Soviet Union and Poland annexed the province. It was the northern, Russian part where my cousin had traveled and his report was appalling. It is a failed state –- drugs, alcoholism, corruption, poverty, the Russian mafia, the works. The report struck me, for I remembered what a beautiful and prosperous land it had been. Suddenly, out of the blue, there was a thought: How prosperous and healthy would this land be today, had, in 1948, Israel been created here instead of in the Middle East. Lithuania and Poland, its only neighbors, have no claim to the land and so, there would be nobody in the world to accuse the Jews of having stolen their land. They would live there forever unchallenged in peace and prosperity. It was, of course, no more than a brief pipe dream and I dismissed it. Problem was, the next day the thought came back. Could it be that we transfer Israel there today, in the 21st century? That was a foolish thought as well and I promptly dismissed it too. Day after day, the intriguing idea came back, though, and it did not leave me alone. I guess I’d become progressively concerned about the fate and future of Israel in its war torn environment and was hoping for some kind of different solution. After perhaps ten days I made a decision: Look, I said to myself, you’ve got nothing else to do. Do a little research. That will finally prove this idea to be absurd, ridiculous and crazy and will dispel it once and for all. That’s what I did and to my surprise, after many months, my investigation proved the exact opposite: The transfer of Israel to the Baltic area was indeed feasible, affordable, beneficial for everyone involved, and, more than that, it was the only conceivable way to promise Israel permanence as a truly Jewish homeland. Obviously, that was big stuff to voice out loud in this world and far away from any Roadmap we have heard about. Yet, it would have been inexcusable to keep it a secret. It was a concept that needed to be promoted and discussed instead of being discarded right out of hand. And so I wrote it down, hoping it would catch some wind in its sails and attract attention.

You might wonder about the title. The question “quo vadis?” is well known to those of us old enough to remember a famous book written by the Polish Nobel prize winner Henryk Sienkievicz a hundred years ago, entitled Domine, quo vadis? It means, Lord, where are You going? “Quo vadis” entered the vernacular of many languages and is used to inquire about someone’s worrisome future. It seemed perfect to describe the concern about the future Israel is facing.

What kind of research was involved in writing “Quo Vadis, Israel?”?

Several questions had to be answered. What was the background of Zionism? What has happened to its goodwill and idealism? Why hasn’t peace been achieved in sixty years? How do the Arabs look at Israel and the West? What would have to happen to appease their animosity? What are the chances that peace and harmony are ever to come about in the Middle East? Is Israel’s permanence endangered by the higher birthrate of the Israeli Arabs? If so, how long will it be until they outnumber Israeli Jews? What are the history, climate, fertility and economic viability of the Kaliningrad Territory? Why would Russia sell the land to the Israelis? What are the chances that the Israelis agree to this plan? Who is going to pay for it and is it affordable? What benefits accruing to the Israelis, the Russians presently living in Kaliningrad, the Middle East, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the world at large?

The literature and the internet are replete with answers and thus, my research consisted of their careful review.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Outskirts Press offered a wide range of design and print for me to make my selection.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I guess the subject matter of the book looked too outlandish for regular publishers to venture into. Therefore I wasted about ten months in the attempt to find a publisher. Once I signed up with Outskirts Press, a demand self-publisher, the ball got rolling rapidly.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Four months. That could have been shorter had it not been for two reasons: I had to wait for photographers to give me written permission to use their photos and also, I was out of the country for weeks. It seems otherwise it would have taken as little as two months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

This is the first time I approached agents. I doubt I’d try them again. They all declined, but more importantly, their responses were unimpressive or even unprofessional and it was my impression they look for established authors and not much in serious non-fiction.

Do you plan subsequent books?

I have extensively edited and expanded my previous book about my youth in Berlin and plan to republish it. I’m in the early stage of sending out queries.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Mornings are better.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?


It appears there are various promotion routes available nowadays, but I’m not sure I can make an intelligent choice among them. Right now I’m perfectly happy with Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I have not done anything offline yet with this book. My previous experiences with book signings, libraries, bookstores and the like have been very discouraging. As far as I understand the process, it has been my press release that has gotten the message to those whose business it is to promote my book that seems to be the way to go.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Here is the wisdom of a novice: Three things are necessary in non-fiction. Firstly, you have to be a scholar to gather the data. Secondly, it is a true art to put it down in good English. And thirdly, you have to pray to heaven in order to find a publisher.

Thank you for coming, Peter! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is http://outskirtspress.com//quovadisisrael? It will direct you to amazon.com and bn.com.
Peter's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and choreographed by Cheryl Malandrinos. If you would like to leave Peter a comment or ask him a question, click here!
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