Lull Before the Storm poems by Miriam Brooks Butterworth

picture of Miriam Butterworth

Consisting of the author’s journal entries and later commentary, Lull Before the Storm by Miriam Brooks Butterworth is a harrowing report on people and conditions in 1938 Germany just prior to World War II, when the author spent a summer studying at the University of Heidelberg and traveling widely on bicycle and foot. About the book, Detlef Leenan, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus of the Free University of Berlin, says: “Miriam (‘Mims’) Butterworth first told me about her 1938 summer in Germany in 1959. I was spending a year with her family as a German exchange high schooler under the sponsorship of the American Field Service. I was extremely eager to learn about the Germany that Mims had witnessed and now brings spellbindingly to life in her annotated diary. I am thrilled that this historically invaluable and truly moving document is finally seeing the light of day. On her second day in Heidelberg, Mims writes, ‘This whole trip is exactly like a movie,’ referring to the beauty of the old villages and castles that she comes across on her bike tours along the Neckar and Rhine rivers. Nevertheless, the realities of the summer of 1938 quickly catch up with her, and more sinister scenes appear: signs warn against buying at Jewish shops; a fearful companion tells her, ‘Don’t look there,’ when passing a concentration camp; a policeman questions why she replies ‘Guten Tag’ to his ‘Heil Hitler.’ Germany was staring into an abyss. Mims clings to precisely observed individual scenes in which the various and sundry people that she runs into repress the truth before them, succumb to propaganda, distance themselves from politics, or simply try to enjoy life. She manages to capture that ‘lull before the storm’ in its whole colorful essence, without preaching, and thus masterfully succeeds in fully opening the eyes of her readers. This book will irresistibly enlighten, inspire, and fascinate all who look inside.”
  lull before the storm cover image

Now 98, Miriam (“Mims”) Butterworth is clear about her priorities and responsibilities: civil liberties cannot be taken for granted, and we who are privileged to live in this country must protect them for future generations. A faculty member of the Loomis Chaffee School, Mims was a vocal peace activist during the Vietnam War. She marched on Washington, witnessed the violence perpetrated by police at the 1968 Chicago Convention, where she was a delegate, and as a member of the People’s Delegation, attended the 1971 Paris Peace Talks. Later, she helped organize Connecticut’s support for the Freeze Movement aimed at halting the nuclear arms race. Appointed by Governor Ella Grasso in 1975, Mims served as Commissioner of the Public Utilities Control Authority, and went on to become acting President of Hartford College for Women. She served on the West Hartford Town Council and in 1984 traveled to Nicaragua as an official observer of the first elections under the new Sandanista government. Between 1988 and 1998, she made four more trips to Central America with the American Friends Service Committee and the Center for Global Education, reporting on conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-24-7

Copyright © 2017 by Miriam Brooks Butterworth

6" x 9" paperback, 99 pages



Copyright © 2017 by Miriam Brooks Butterworth


June 12 [en route on the steamship St Louis] . . . . We jumped rope last night and will again today – and shuffleboard. What a lazy life. Nothing but eat, sleep, and be friendly. I have played a sailor’s accordion for an hour. It was evidently a relic of many trips and I felt like an old salt. I met a man who took me dancing this afternoon. . . .


July 2 . . . My trip from Z. to Heidelberg took me through more glorious woods. In one little town, I heard much shooting and saw some terrific war tanks whizzing around the corner at me. Over in a field were many soldiers drilling. Some airplanes buzzed around after each other overhead. It was all so realistic, and yet I think the soldiers and the youth in general think of it all as a huge game. It keeps them busy, gives them comradeship and isn’t too dangerous. The people here are unbelievably simple and childlike. I honestly believe they (the people) think only in terms of peace.

Looking back, I see that it is I who was simple and childlike. Of course the Germans knew they were preparing for war, as did I before the summer was over. They were assured they were superior to the rest of the world and would take over the world and cover themselves and Germany with glory. Peace was not in their vocabulary.


July 17 . . . Afternoon explored the Heiligenberg across the river. Thingstätte and ruined monastery – more woods. Evening – Goebbels chivalrous SA man (that Ella had been flirting with) helped me shake G’s hand. [Ella asked the man to escort me to the open car in which Goebbels was riding. He extended his hand so that I had to shake it.] G really had a very human look when he smiled – otherwise cold. Before he came, a disagreeable Polizei tried to chase us away, saying that a crowd shouldnt gather except for Der Führer.

Goebbels was in Heidelberg to open the summer drama festival, held in the courtyard of the ruined castle. Herr Weiss, a member of the Nazi party, had told Ella when and where G would be coming and she told me. That is how we happened to be standing by the side of the road not far from the train tracks when G’ s car had to stop for a passing train. I didn’t write home about this episode, not knowing how worried my folks might be at such a close encounter with a big brass of the Nazi Party.


August 18 . . . One more episode I didn’t write about but remember quite vividly. One of these Bavarian days, traveling from J.H. to J.H. on my way to Murnau, I happened to be sitting alone beside the road, eating my lunch, when a policeman passed me on his motorbike. He greeted me with a Heil Hitler and I replied with Guten Tag.  I watched him go a little further and then wheel around to come back to talk to me. I’m proud to say I stayed cool, answered him pleasantly as if I thought he was just being socially interested about a lone girl eating lunch on the side of the road – not a dangerous dissenter. It didn’t take long for him to realize that I was not a natural-born speaker of German. I fortunately wasn’t that good yet. I told him why I was there that summer. He smiled as if he approved and went on his way. Still, that confirmed my belief that I should be careful what I wrote in my diary.