Five Years Behind
Hitler's Barbed Wire

barbed wire
edited by Jacqueline Collins
                                 Behind the Book, A Journey of Discovery

About the Editor: Jacqueline Collins

Jacqueline Collins welcoming American troops in 1944
Jacqueline 1944, giving flowers to the entering
American GIs after the battle around the village where
she was, August 1944.

Jacqueline Collins experienced World War II as a young child living in Paris with her mother, while her father, an officer in the reserve, was called to the front in 1939 and was taken prisoner even though it was days after the signing of the armistice in June 1940. Jacqueline and her mother left Paris as the Germans advanced toward Paris, taking refuge near the Loire Valley. She left again at the time of the landing in Normandy in 1944, going to a village south of Paris, joining the family of another prisoner.

Jacqueline emigrated to the U.S. during her college years, interrupting her studies to raise her four daughters. As they started going to school, she finished her degree in Languages and Literature at UC Santa Cruz and taught in high school.

Jacqueline participated in all aspects of the Girl Scouts organization, from leading troops to chairing the neighborhood association. In the larger community she was involved in justice issues. By the time her youngest daughter was in high school she became Executive Director of the Camp Fire (Girls) local chapter. Her favorite pastime was to backpack in the Sierras with her daughters.

Jacqueline went back to school to obtain an M.Div. at the Starr King School for the Ministry, part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA to begin her ministry in the Unitarian Universalist Association and started writing. After a few years in Wisconsin, she came to the Unitarian Church in Charleston SC. In 2005 she retired after a sixteen-year ministry in Charleston.

Her father was a publisher in civilian life. After his return, he never talked about his captivity, but committed to letting families know what life was like in captivity, he published a number of books about the POW camps. Jacqueline did not pay much attention to these books at the time. When she left France, however, her father must have insisted that she take them with her, confident that someday she would read them and know how he and his comrades reacted to their captivity with the will to reclaim their honor and dignity. Amazingly, these books remained in her possession despite all her multiple moves across the country. When she retired, they were still on her bookshelves.

Looking for a retirement project, she picked up the diary to assess the possibility of translating it, a return to her initial studies.

A personal note about translating.
Translating the diary became a very intimate, rewarding, and fun endeavor. I immersed myself in the French text to feel and understand what the diarists wanted to express in a way that I could then transfer the feeling and understanding in English. It became a very revealing experience. With the French text I was reminded of France at the time of my growing up, a France I had left behind sixty years ago and of which I feel now I have very little knowledge, since my adulthood has been entirely in the U.S. I came to the conclusion that, while I feel strongly being an American as an adult, I was French growing up. I thoroughly enjoyed bridging the two cultures in order to express in the English translation the meaning of the original French text as accurately as possible. That was the beginning of a surprising and exciting journey.