Book Review: "The Minefield of Memories: A memoir" |

Book Review: "The Minefield of Memories: A memoir"

Deb Nelson
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

“The Minefield of Memories” is a book about Alf Tieze, a colorful, local character. Tieze is the son-in-law of legendary local skiing pioneers, Max and Edna Dercum, and the book is written by their granddaughter, Karina. Among other things, Tieze was an entrepreneur and a past instructor for the Colorado Mountain College. His daughter, Karina, is a professional photographer who now resides with her husband in Columbus, Ohio.

The book began as a collaborative effort to unbury and preserve Alf’s painful memories of his formative years in WWII Europe for the benefit of his grandchildren. In the process, the father-daughter team created a story to share with the general public. Through “The Minefield of Memories,” the reader vicariously experiences the horrors of WWII through the eyes of a child in Nazi-occupied Austria.

Alf grew up in the village of Jagendorf, a town in the eastern part of pre-WWII Austria, now part of the Czech Republic. Alf was essentially raised by his paternal grandparents and this family background provides an intriguing and important subplot to the story.

Alf was 6 years old when he was first exposed to Hitler at a mandatory town meeting. There, under armed threat, citizens were forced to salute their new leader. The book provides an interesting perspective into the hardships and sacrifices of daily life during Nazi occupation, but the story really takes off as the Russian front invades from the east and overtakes Alf’s village. Forced into a mass exodus, Alf and his best friend, Gerle, become separated from the rest of the family and they begin a long, frightening journey west.

Continually plagued with starvation and exhaustion, Alf struggles for survival. He describes in personal detail the atrocities committed by the Russian army and provides a fascinating glimpse into the “Iron Curtain” in its infancy.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Throughout the book, one is intrigued by Alf’s tremendous resilience, resourcefulness and ability to rebound from continuous setbacks. After a harrowing escape from behind the Russian line, Alf eventually lands a coveted spot at the American Boys Town in Munich. This orphanage helped lay the foundation for Alf’s eventual immigration to the United States.

Not only does this book provide personal insight into Alf’s experiences, but it indirectly provides perspective into the ongoing repercussions from this war, including the eventual fall of the Iron Curtain, the Serbia/Croatia war in the 1990s and even some of the problems in the Middle East. Particularly refreshing, the book reminds us of the pivotal role played by the United States in the allied forces and our unparalleled aid in post-war reconstruction.

Our role in WWII is arguably one of our nation’s finest hours. During our present time of political dissonance and turmoil, it’s nice to be reminded of our long-standing legacy of aid and compassion. Finally, this book is a timely reminder that, friend or foe, the indescribable suffering of those innocently found in war’s path is universal, no matter whose side you’re unwittingly on.

This book is a truly enjoyable, educational and inspirational read. For those of you looking for a glimpse into history, “The Minefield of Memories” should be at the top of your reading list.

This book is available at

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