Welcome to my website and - if you've been here before - my brand new author image which was taken by my very brave husband (I'm not an easy person to catch with a camera). I seem to have followed a rather meandering career, including marketing and teaching and politics (don't try and join the dots), to get where I have always wanted to be, which is writing historical fiction. I am a story lover as well as a story writer and nothing fascinates me more than a strong female protagonist and a quest. Hopefully those are what you will encounter when you pick up my books.
I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. Both my children have left home (one to London and one to Berlin) which may explain why I am finally writing. If I'm not at my desk you'll most probably find me in the cinema, or just follow the sound of very loud music.
I'd love to hear from you and there are lots of ways you can find me, so jump in here via my contact page or on my Cat Hokin FB page or on twitter @cathokin
As well as historical fiction, I write short stories which have been published in magazines including Writers' Forum, iScot & Myslexia and placed in competitions. You can read some examples at:
Stolen Moments - Scottish Arts Club Finalists 2015
Hot Chocolate For One - Winner, Flash 500 Competition 2019
Like all historical fiction writers, I spend a lot of time doing research. I will be publishing a lot more about the background to writing The Fortunate Ones over the coming months, but here is an extract from an article which I wrote for The History Girls about the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp which is one of the key locations in the novel.
And I know one thing more - that the Europe of the future cannot exist without commemorating all those, regardless of nationality, who were killed at that time with complete contempt and hate... Andrzej Szczypiorski, Prisoner
The above quote appears on the wall at Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp on
the outskirts of Berlin whose liberation took place seventy four years ago today,
on the 22nd April 1945. I visited the camp a few months ago as part of a research
trip. It was, of course, a deeply unsettling experience - like any of these facilities,
no matter how much you read before you go, you are not prepared for the
emotions they engender.
The first thing that is difficult to comprehend about Sachsenhausen strikes
you before you get to it: this is no isolated space tucked away from prying eyes.
The camp is situated in the small town of Oranienburg, 22km or less than an hour's train journey from the centre of Berlin. High-ranking officers lived in mansions around the perimeter and a large SS housing estate bordered the camp - local girls married the men who served there and families lived backing onto the walls and within earshot of the camp's brickworks and shooting gallery. Prisoners were marched through the town between the camp and forced labour details and there are accounts of the residents closing their doors and shutters at the sound of marching feet. The Camp Commandant's office was landscaped with trees and a duck pond and the barracks for the guards were surrounded by gardens. It is almost surreal how much part of the local fabric the camp was and how much of a village feel was created for the men who ran it.
Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 and was initially used to imprison
"undesirables" during the prettifying of Berlin that formed the background
to the 1936 Olympics. Between then and 1945, over 200,000 people were
interned there, including Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, “career
criminals” and “antisocials”. By 1944, about 90 % of the internees were
non-Germans, primarily citizens of the Soviet Union and Poland. The camp
quickly became the model of what the National Socialists believed a
concentration camp should be: an expression of absolute power. The barracks'
triangular placement, fanning out from the parade ground, means that every
aspect was overlooked by a huge machine gun set on top of the gate. If the
prisoners faced the other way they were confronted by a gallows and the
roll-call area is bordered by a running track where shoes were tested on a variety
of materials, including cinders and cracked stones, by men carrying heavy packs of sand on their backs. Few survived this treatment for more than a matter of days. Visitors (including the industrialists who used its forced labour) were offered tours, the SS were trained there and, in 1938, the “Inspection of the Concentration Camps”, the central administrative office for all concentration camps in the territories controlled by Germany, was moved here.
Due to its proximity to Berlin, Sachsenhausen was a keyforced labour camp. As well as the details in the camp itself, prisoners made up the workforce for the massive Klinkerwerk brickworks on the nearby lock, as well as the munitions factories operated by AEG and Siemens. By 1942, more than 100 satellite details and satellite camps worked out of Sachsenhausen. Tens of thousands of internees died from this forced labour, or from hunger, disease, and the medical experiments which were a feature of the site. In addition many were deliberately murdered, either in a specifically-built “neck shot unit” (the fate of 13,000 Soviet POWs in 1941) and, from 1943, in a purpose built gas chamber. When asked at his trial why he introduced the mass extermination facility, Commandant Anton Kaindl responded "because it was a more efficient and more humane way to exterminate prisoners." On a busy day with school parties everywhere on site I have never been anywhere so silent as the remains of that chamber.
In 1945, with the war nearing its end, Sachsenhausen,along with the rest of the camps, was cleared. In February an SS special unit headed by Otto Moll murdered 3,000 internees who were considered dangerous (which could mean because they had military training) or were declared unfit and another 13,000 were taken to be killed at Mauthausen and Bergen-Belsen. On the 21 April more than 30,000 remaining internees were marched off on Death Marches towards the north-west, the intention, according to Kaindl's trial transcripts, being "to drive them onto barges out to sea and let them sink." The number who died remains unknown. On 22 April 1945, units of the Soviet and Polish armies liberated the 3,000 prisoners left behind due to sickness. 300 of the camp’s former inmates did not survive their liberation and died, and are buried, there.
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