Today is release day for No Neutral Ground, the second book of my Promise For Tomorrow series. Get to know Jennie Lindquist, one of the stars of No Neutral Ground. You can order it now on my Books page.
You traveled overseas in 1944. What did you do in the war years before that?
I worked at the Chicago art museum where I put together special exhibits like “Art in War: American Artists’ Record of War and Defense.” I also conducted tours through the museum for school groups.
What prompted you to go overseas?
Rumors of layoffs swirled around the museum, with the understanding that the last hired would be the first fired. I don’t know how true the rumors were, but my dad saw them as an opportunity to spread my wings and go to Sweden, where he was a military attaché.
My boss at the museum thought that was a great idea. He said, “Sweden is one of very few countries escaping the destruction of war. It represents a unique opportunity to be near the conflict but not involved. Think of it. You could have a ringside seat.”
Being ringside to a vicious war didn’t sound appealing, but he also said I could scout out possible exhibitions for after the war. Other countries wouldn’t be able to take part in exchanges, what with the mess they were in and their art stolen or destroyed. The possibility of scouting for the museum was enticing, and a job would be waiting for me when I returned.
Were you aware of what was happening to museums in occupied Europe?
Yes. We knew works of art had been taken from France, Belgium, and other occupied countries to Germany for what the Germans called safekeeping. An anonymous French museum official says they were quite capable of caring for their artwork, and they had grave fears of ever seeing it again. The Germans just took whatever they wanted.
You traveled across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. Were you concerned about submarines?
By 1944, the U-boats weren’t having the success they enjoyed earlier in the war. Both of the Queens were supposed to travel so fast, the U-boats couldn’t set up a shot. I never heard of either ship having a torpedo fired in their direction. That gave me confidence I wouldn’t have had if I’d traveled on a Liberty ship.
How did you like being one of few women among all the troops making the crossing?
Over twelve thousand servicemen packed in, plus the nurses in a few medical units. But you know, being so crowded made it safer for us. There was no privacy. No man could be improper toward us without someone to rescue us.
You managed to have a shipboard romance.
Oh, I wouldn’t call it a romance. Rafe and I did spend a lot of time together, and I hoped to see him again after the war. I wondered about him often. Being part of a B-17 crew was so dangerous. And then his plane crashed in Sweden and there he was, covered in blood. My heart stood still.
You had a brief but intense training course for the OSS. You saw no danger there?
I was convinced I’d work behind the scenes. And I was going to Sweden. That was hugely different from being an agent in Germany. Still, when I was assigned to leave the legation and meet with agents, I definitely had qualms. Not until Rafe joined me did I start to enjoy our outings. They could still be nerve-wracking, but Rafe made it fun. Of course, as a former German national, the war was very personal for him.
Do you have any misgivings about Rafe being from Germany?
Never. I knew the day we met that he was angry with the Germans and with his father for rejecting him and the rest of their family because of Jewish ancestry. It hurt him to see Germany being destroyed. By war’s end, he came to understand how his father had been unable to cope with the belligerence of the Nazis. How would any of us react if we’d with a government turned so vicious? I’m so glad we found Rafe’s father in Cologne after the war and their relationship began to heal. Remembering their embrace still brings tears to my eyes.
|My model of Jennie|