KINGSPORT – Christine Egbert was stunned when she learned the story of the complete strangers who helped more than 7,000 Danish Jews escape to neutral Sweden during World War II.
Soon after, she realized it was time to tell the story through her historical fiction novel, “Miracle Across the Sound.”
“I always thought I knew just about everything about World War II,” Egbert told The Times News. “But when I found out how Denmark had practically saved all of its Jews after three years of Nazi occupation, I was shocked because I had never heard of it. I thought, ‘I have to put that in a novel.’ ”
Egbert’s novel weaves the fictional story of a 20-year-old Jewish student and his former Lutheran fiancé with the true events of October 1943, when ordinary Danish citizens and the underground smuggled nearly all of their fellow Jews across the sound – the body of water that separates Denmark from Sweden.
Although the story includes the romance between the two characters, the true events that took place in Denmark and Sweden serve as the backdrop and focus on their own.
“To move the story forward, and because I wanted people to really see what happened there,” Egbert said, “I put smaller scenes in between the fictional scenes that actually looked like to little docudramas of things that actually happened.”
The story of half-Jewish physicist Niels Bohr, who eventually traveled to the United States to help Albert Einstein build the bomb that helped end World War II, is one such true event. As mentioned in “Miracle Across the Sound”, Bohr refused to leave for the United States after arriving in Sweden until the king publicly announced that the country would allow Jews to seek asylum. This announcement allowed the underground to continue its rescue efforts.
“I find things like that absolutely fascinating,” Egbert said.
What might most strike readers, as it did for Egbert, is the true story of average citizens, from fishermen to local families, who helped people in danger to escape to Sweden even before the work of the underground does not begin.
“The majority of people who helped were not high profile people,” Egbert explained. “It was not initially the underground. It started when word got around that the ships were in port, and at midnight the Nazis were going to start looting the homes of the Jews.
“Before that, only ordinary Danes heard about it and started hiding those they knew (were in danger), and complete strangers started welcoming people.”
For over 70 years these brave men and women have helped hide, protect and ship Danish Jews to safety. Yet Egbert said she believes the importance of illustrated history throughout her novel also applies to the faith and courage needed in today’s world.
“I realized that the days are getting darker and darker that we live in,” Egbert said. “Everyone knows all the darkness of World War II, but in the midst of all that is really dark, with faith, doing the right thing and trusting in the Lord, miracles happen. I think that’s what people need to know today.
Soon this message may be shared through Egbert’s story in a different format.
Egbert told The Times News that actor, producer and screenwriter Christopher Hensel had expressed interest in making his novel a movie through his faith-based company, Jeb Stuart Productions (named after the character Hensel played in the “The Dukes of Hazzard TV show. .”) She said Hensel plans to work on book-to-movie production within the next three months.
“It’s the Lord,” Egbert said, referring to Hensel’s interest in history, “because his company makes films that are faith-based, family-friendly, and have traditional values. . That’s exactly what I wanted.
Egbert is originally from Key West, Florida, and moved to Kingsport 15 years ago with her now deceased husband, John. Her husband’s dementia offered challenges over time, which led Egbert to begin writing as she did as a young girl, but this time with a fervor that led to a few unpublished books and eventually ” Miracle Across The Sound”.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I went through the crisis of realizing my husband had dementia that I started writing again, this time doing fiction,” Egbert said. . “I actually used to write scenes of conversations we had that were so frustrating, but I would rewrite them as they would be in a perfect world.
“It didn’t take long after I did that for the writing to become its own end and it wasn’t just therapy anymore.”
Egbert spent time writing wholesome, secular fiction, but eventually vowed to delve into religious writing. She later published “Miracle Across the Sound” through publisher Betrothed of Little Roni Publishers in Clanton, Alabama.
“I told the Lord that from now on I would write only for him,” Egbert said.
Through it all, Egbert said she hopes others learn to lean on their faith and act with courage, just like the heroes did in “Miracle Across the Sound” and in the real events of October 1943.
All it takes, she says, is to do the work and keep faith that God will do the rest.
“I know (the book) will get into the hands of those who need to read it,” Egbert said. “And that’s my goal.
“God only connects the dots when it is His will to do so.”