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Love Among the Ruins: A memoir of life and love in Hamburg, 1945

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At 22, the war is over for RAF serviceman Harry Leslie Smith – the now 92-year-old activist and author of the acclaimed Harry’s Last Stand – but the battle for love and hope rages on. Stationed in occupied Hamburg, a city physically and emotionally ripped apart by Allied bombing, and determined to escape the grinding poverty of his Yorkshire youth, Harry unexpectedly finds At 22, the war is over for RAF serviceman Harry Leslie Smith – the now 92-year-old activist and author of the acclaimed Harry’s Last Stand – but the battle for love and hope rages on. Stationed in occupied Hamburg, a city physically and emotionally ripped apart by Allied bombing, and determined to escape the grinding poverty of his Yorkshire youth, Harry unexpectedly finds a reason to stay: a young German woman by the name of Friede. As their love develops, they must face both German suspicion and British disapproval of relations with ‘the enemy’. Harry’s ardent, straight-from-the-heart memoir brings to life a city reduced to rubble, populated with refugees, black marketeers, corrupt businessmen and cynical soldiers. It’s a unique snapshot of a terrible period in Europe’s history, and a passionate love letter to a city, to a woman, and to life itself.


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At 22, the war is over for RAF serviceman Harry Leslie Smith – the now 92-year-old activist and author of the acclaimed Harry’s Last Stand – but the battle for love and hope rages on. Stationed in occupied Hamburg, a city physically and emotionally ripped apart by Allied bombing, and determined to escape the grinding poverty of his Yorkshire youth, Harry unexpectedly finds At 22, the war is over for RAF serviceman Harry Leslie Smith – the now 92-year-old activist and author of the acclaimed Harry’s Last Stand – but the battle for love and hope rages on. Stationed in occupied Hamburg, a city physically and emotionally ripped apart by Allied bombing, and determined to escape the grinding poverty of his Yorkshire youth, Harry unexpectedly finds a reason to stay: a young German woman by the name of Friede. As their love develops, they must face both German suspicion and British disapproval of relations with ‘the enemy’. Harry’s ardent, straight-from-the-heart memoir brings to life a city reduced to rubble, populated with refugees, black marketeers, corrupt businessmen and cynical soldiers. It’s a unique snapshot of a terrible period in Europe’s history, and a passionate love letter to a city, to a woman, and to life itself.

30 review for Love Among the Ruins: A memoir of life and love in Hamburg, 1945

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    ‘Love among the Ruins’ by Harry Leslie Smith (2015) – the acclaimed author of ‘Harry’s Last Stand’, political commentator, activist and campaigner. ‘Among The Ruins’ is Harry’s autobiographical and very personal story of his relationship with young German woman, Friede in occupied Hamburg (post WWII) and his subsequent quest to overcome bureaucracy, taboo and stigma and his attempt to marry her. ‘Among The Ruins’ is recounted in a relatively matter of fact and pedestrian manner, but is nonetheless ‘Love among the Ruins’ by Harry Leslie Smith (2015) – the acclaimed author of ‘Harry’s Last Stand’, political commentator, activist and campaigner. ‘Among The Ruins’ is Harry’s autobiographical and very personal story of his relationship with young German woman, Friede in occupied Hamburg (post WWII) and his subsequent quest to overcome bureaucracy, taboo and stigma and his attempt to marry her. ‘Among The Ruins’ is recounted in a relatively matter of fact and pedestrian manner, but is nonetheless enlightening for that. Enlightening too, to read Smith’s portrayal of what life was like for much of the German population of occupied Hamburg post the end of WWII – the extreme squalor and the deprivation that he witnessed and that was suffered by so many. This is an important side of the ‘Victory in Europe’ story that we (certainly in the UK) heard and hear so very little about. Interesting too to read about the practical difficulties faced by a member of the British armed forces in a relationship with a German national.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fergie

    In today's age of Trump where obnoxious, boisterous claims against decency and kindness have become all too commonplace, the world needs a refresher history course on what can occur when the world follows the lead of Fascism. Who better to give that lesson than Harry Leslie Smith, a 95 year old Great Depression and WWII British RAF survivor? I became aware of Mr. Smith on Twitter where he can often be found advocating for the humanity of the refugees of our current world. Harry believes so much In today's age of Trump where obnoxious, boisterous claims against decency and kindness have become all too commonplace, the world needs a refresher history course on what can occur when the world follows the lead of Fascism. Who better to give that lesson than Harry Leslie Smith, a 95 year old Great Depression and WWII British RAF survivor? I became aware of Mr. Smith on Twitter where he can often be found advocating for the humanity of the refugees of our current world. Harry believes so much in his compassionate calling that he has pledged to spend the rest of his life visiting refugee camps to shed light and advocacy on the moral dilemma facing us regarding this ever too present issue. LOVE AMONG THE RUINS gives us the roots of his fierce commitment to the plight of refugees. Following the end of WWII, Harry found himself in British occupied Hamburg, Germany after the defeat of Fascist Hitler. There he witnesses firsthand the atrocities of war and the suffering of the thousands of German refugees who survived the Allied bombings of their town and the countless foreigners flooding into western Germany in their desperate attempts to flee the oppressive Soviets. It's clear in reading anything written by Harry that he has a keen sense of history. With his equally keen wit and intellect, Harry is the proper advocate for the compassionate progressive ideals that strive to protect humanity from the darker forces of the world. Harry's telling of how he found love among the ruins of destruction is a moving story of how the ideal of love can survive the impact of war.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Flapper72

    I had been following Harry for the last year or so of his life on twitter so felt I wanted to know more about him. this book definitely helped me feel that I did that. Harry served in the second world war, non combative, and then continued to serve in the RAF after the war as he felt his quality of life was better than going back to his mining community in the North of England (he would be warm, fed, watered and away from his not overtly loving family). Whilst in Germany he met and started dating I had been following Harry for the last year or so of his life on twitter so felt I wanted to know more about him. this book definitely helped me feel that I did that. Harry served in the second world war, non combative, and then continued to serve in the RAF after the war as he felt his quality of life was better than going back to his mining community in the North of England (he would be warm, fed, watered and away from his not overtly loving family). Whilst in Germany he met and started dating and fell in love with a German. At the time it was illegal for a British Citizen to marry a German. So the story begins and we hear their gentle but touching story. I guess it proves that nothing is new, just slightly different. I understood interracial dynamics in the early '70s but thought we were the first to experience it - far from it. Just different groups of differences that have been a challenge rather than the joy they proved to be for Harry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    The only thing I didn't like about this book is that it ended too soon. This is a beautiful love story and if you don't know who Harry Leslie Smith is, you need to learn about him. The only thing I didn't like about this book is that it ended too soon. This is a beautiful love story and if you don't know who Harry Leslie Smith is, you need to learn about him.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Claire Hackeson

    A must read. Will definitely be reading more from Harry Leslie Smith. A legend. RIP.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Bywater

    In this book Harry shares his memoirs from just after the end of the Second World War. Harry is now twenty-two and was ready for peace. He has spent the last four years in the RAF as a wireless operator. Living in Hamburg and with no desire to return back to his hometown in Yorkshire, knowing there is nothing for him there anymore, Harry meets and falls in love with a young German girl called Friede and in this book their remarkable love story is told. The war may be over but prejudices are still In this book Harry shares his memoirs from just after the end of the Second World War. Harry is now twenty-two and was ready for peace. He has spent the last four years in the RAF as a wireless operator. Living in Hamburg and with no desire to return back to his hometown in Yorkshire, knowing there is nothing for him there anymore, Harry meets and falls in love with a young German girl called Friede and in this book their remarkable love story is told. The war may be over but prejudices are still high and romance does not run smoothly for the young sweethearts, from two completely different cultures divided by war. Can they fight to stay together and be together against the church and the government? I was really looking forward to reading this book after reading Harry book 1923: A memoir Lies and Testaments, which I really enjoyed and found really interesting and I was not disappointed with this book. A wonderful romantic story, about two people in love that are thrown obstacles in their way to keep them apart. This to me personally is the best way to learn social history, by authors like Harry, who have wrote down and shared their own true life personal experiences all about what real life was really like and how they lived it. This is a fascinating story. I really admire Harry’s determination to be with the woman he loves. This book is an excellent read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doug DePew

    I just finished "Love Among the Ruins", and I'm nearly speechless. I spent a couple years living in Germany decades after the author, but I still found many bits and pieces that seemed familiar. Harry Leslie Smith has written a masterpiece. The plotline is gripping, the narrative flows, and the dialogue is stark. This memoir is beautifully written. He sets scenes with such detail that I felt as if I was experiencing the story with him. It's just a great book. I truly got to know Harry, Friede, a I just finished "Love Among the Ruins", and I'm nearly speechless. I spent a couple years living in Germany decades after the author, but I still found many bits and pieces that seemed familiar. Harry Leslie Smith has written a masterpiece. The plotline is gripping, the narrative flows, and the dialogue is stark. This memoir is beautifully written. He sets scenes with such detail that I felt as if I was experiencing the story with him. It's just a great book. I truly got to know Harry, Friede, and the other characters as this story progressed. It gives us a glimpse into a little told part of the World War II story. Prior to this account, I knew almost nothing about life in the British zone of occupation Germany. Mr. Smith has given us a rare gift by telling his story and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in WW-II history or a good love story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Not only is this an educational first hand account of life in postwar Germany but, ultimately, it is a wonderful and touching tale of true love and romance that will leave you with a warm feeling.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gabriele Goldstone

    What a beautiful memoir about a time and place that I knew little about it—Hamburg between 1945 to 1947. The core of the story: A British soldier falls in love with a German teenager. Very well written with lots of detail about the after-effects of war, both for the British and for the Germans. Here's an example of the author's style: "Scuttled Luftwaffe fighter planes sprouted around the edges of the landing zone with their noses dug into the ground like discarded cigarettes." (page 87). What a beautiful memoir about a time and place that I knew little about it—Hamburg between 1945 to 1947. The core of the story: A British soldier falls in love with a German teenager. Very well written with lots of detail about the after-effects of war, both for the British and for the Germans. Here's an example of the author's style: "Scuttled Luftwaffe fighter planes sprouted around the edges of the landing zone with their noses dug into the ground like discarded cigarettes." (page 87).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Harry Smith has written something you rarely find these days; a genuine, unpretentious and honest memoir that is at once a fascinating story of the early years in post-war Germany and a heart-felt coming of age love story. Love Among the Ruins was hard to put down. Smith's clean, honest prose and eye for detail never fail. As an American born in 1941, I was too young to experience the war, nor did I have any real concept of what life was like for the average working man in England after the war. Harry Smith has written something you rarely find these days; a genuine, unpretentious and honest memoir that is at once a fascinating story of the early years in post-war Germany and a heart-felt coming of age love story. Love Among the Ruins was hard to put down. Smith's clean, honest prose and eye for detail never fail. As an American born in 1941, I was too young to experience the war, nor did I have any real concept of what life was like for the average working man in England after the war. I have studied WWII extensively, but I learned more about the human reality from Smith's excellent book than I would have expected. Highly recommended. Honesty in memoir needs to be rewarded.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie Butterworth

    This book reads a bit like post apocalyptic fiction but it's acutally set in the past. A superb read - as well as being heartwarming , the realities of life after the war are not talked about or taught in history. I found it enlightening, and it casts our current politics in an interesting light. I love his writing style- at once shedding light on details and keeping the pace moving This book reads a bit like post apocalyptic fiction but it's acutally set in the past. A superb read - as well as being heartwarming , the realities of life after the war are not talked about or taught in history. I found it enlightening, and it casts our current politics in an interesting light. I love his writing style- at once shedding light on details and keeping the pace moving

  12. 5 out of 5

    Annette Brampton

    This book I would recommend everyone it a story of romance found in Germany just as the second world war is ending in Germany. A beautiful tale of how a Englishman fell for a lovely German girl and his story how he fought to marry her.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia L'Hirondelle

    Another extremely well-written and moving socially relevant memoir from Harry Leslie Smith. Thank Harry for sharing your personal story in such a generous and insightful way.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jocco

    HLS writes so beautifully. Loved it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Harry Leslie Smith was an amazing, compassionate man. This book talks about the early years with his future wife Friede, who he met in Germany shortly after the Second World War ended when he was there with the RAF. Their relationship endured despite the hardships faced by German civilians post-war and the discouragement towards British/German relationships; and even when the law changed so they could marry, the road was not straightforward. Interesting, well-written account of the time and his Harry Leslie Smith was an amazing, compassionate man. This book talks about the early years with his future wife Friede, who he met in Germany shortly after the Second World War ended when he was there with the RAF. Their relationship endured despite the hardships faced by German civilians post-war and the discouragement towards British/German relationships; and even when the law changed so they could marry, the road was not straightforward. Interesting, well-written account of the time and his experiences and a wonderful story of love enduring against all the odds. The only disappointment was that I would have liked to have known a little more beyond where it ended when Friede joined him in Yorkshire, but I know their marriage did endure into old age and I very much enjoyed the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Avra Gibbs Lamey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I appreciated the rich descriptions provided in this true story, set against the backdrop of the end of the Second World War and the dire nature of life in Germany. I was disappointed to get to the end, and I hope that some of his other books talk at least a little more in detail about their life after Germany.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mancman

    A fascinating portrait of what life was like at the end of WWII. The author writes candidly of the conditions and attitudes prevailing in the period following the end of the war. It’s an eye opener in terms of the average persons view of life at the time, and reflects the mistrust and suspicion on both sides. It’s written with a warm tone, and the cynicism doesn’t mar the tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Jason Bourne

    Harry is my hero ... This is a must read after ‘Harry’s Last Stand ‘, it is touching first hand account of post war lives like I’ve never read before .. Harry’s impeccable style and some humour thrown in .. I highly recommend this after you’ve read ‘Harry’s Last Stand ‘. I’m glad he told his story - with Salutations to Harry

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Moseley

    This a lovely simple love story set in the ruins of post war Hamburg. I like this a lot, perhaps not the greatest work of literature but a good story and what are good book but just good stories. It is also a good reminder of the destruction of our forefathers least we forget the ability of man to destroy. I felt an empathy for the characters and wanted to know how it all turns out.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    Unfortunately I couldn’t complete this book, unlike Harry’s last stand which I thoroughly enjoyed. I found the love of Harry’s life too manipulating, maybe she had to be right after the war, maybe it was just my interpretation, who knows. I might try to read this again another time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Garth

    The first of Harry Leslie Smith's autobiographical books. I greatly admired Harry and strongly relate to his humanitarian views. The first of Harry Leslie Smith's autobiographical books. I greatly admired Harry and strongly relate to his humanitarian views.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tia 🌻

    💓

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This man. I'm grateful for him and everyone else sharing their difficult histories so we can (hopefully) learn from them. This man. I'm grateful for him and everyone else sharing their difficult histories so we can (hopefully) learn from them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adellet

    A sweet love song to a woman and a city. It was just a little 'rose-coloured glasses' for my liking. A sweet love song to a woman and a city. It was just a little 'rose-coloured glasses' for my liking.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathrin Peters

    Very interesting and moving in parts. The language is a little simplistic and despite a lot of elation and hardship being described, I felt the author kept his readers at a safe distance.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Skord

    Both a touching personal account and a brief window into an almost forgotten period of history. Germany in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Essential read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lolin

    HLS writes well and it is a love story as well as memories The fondness in which he recalls are endearing and nice. I would have liked a bit more about the parts after they returned too England but then again that is not part of the voyage to get married as it happend after. A nice light and lovely read

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Byrne

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet Roberts

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anne Vespry

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