Dead Still Cry Out: Towamba author reconstructs father's chronicling of WW2 atrocities

Author Helen Lewis shorlisted for the 2018 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award.
Author Helen Lewis shorlisted for the 2018 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award.

Author Helen Lewis of Towamba has been placed on the shortlist of a prestigious literary award for her publication,  The Dead Still Cry Out.

Ms Lewis became quickly obsessed researching her father’s history and time he spent at Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp.

As a child she had stumbled across his old suitcase hidden in a cupboard at home. Inside it were the most horrifying photographs she’d ever seen—a record of the atrocities committed at Bergen-Belsen. 

They belonged to her father, Mike, a British paratrooper and combat cameraman who had filmed the camp’s liberation with nothing but two cameras and a pistol. 

Her book, The Dead Still Cry Out, is an extraordinary biography memoir of her father which has caught the attention of literary experts.

Ms Lewis is in the running to take home a top prize of $20,000 in the 2018 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award, which celebrates excellence in research and writing in Australia.

“I have felt honoured to have been shortlisted among other authors who have put in such a great amount of work,” she said.

In her spare time, Ms Lewis has spent the past decade piecing together her father’s story. 

“I really wanted to tell a good story and let people into the life of a British cameraman and what it was like,” she said.

“Not much had been done on the British Army Film and Photographic Unit.”

Ms Lewis valued her visits to museums around the world, finding details on her father’s work to help construct the story timeline.

“His secret dope sheets (caption sheets) was a huge help in tracking his movements,” she said.

“I had never read much military history, it was quite difficult understanding all of the jargon – battalions, weapons, platoons...”

Ms Lewis said she felt great pressure to correctly reconstruct her father’s time in the army and spent many hours obsessively fact checking.

“If anyone was going to be picky it would be military historians,” she said.

“You become quite obsessed when you are doing your research, writing is a very solitary pursuit, it requires a lot of single minded conversations and determination.

“I owe a thank you to the support around me through that time, support from my partner and the friends close to me that listened to my endless ramblings and endless conversation.”

Ms Lewis felt as though she had done her father a service of putting his story down on paper and sharing it with others.

“It is a great relief that it is complete, I was very driven to write the story both personally and for my father who suffered pain, witnessing and seeing what he saw would have been a great burden,” she said.

“I feel like I have done him a service, putting it down for him and sharing it with others.”

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