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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Schissler Jr.'s Long Path to America

Book Review

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Every family has a history worth chronicling, and John Schissler Jr., a self-published author and retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, has spent decades researching his clan's narrative during and after World War II, culminating in the autobiography Passage: The Making of an American Family. Passage is not merely a story of surviving the horrors of war but is also a memorial to the forgotten and unsung heroes of every war and blends together one family's unforgettable journey with a staunch anti-war message.

Schissler spent his early years as a WWII refugee after his family was forced to flee their native Yugoslavia following the outbreak of war in Europe. Among their many trials, the family survived nine months in a Russian labor camp and homesteading in West Germany before eventually making their way to Wisconsin. Even though they abandoned their homeland before John was three years old, he still remembers when the train they were escaping on came under attack by British aircraft and how his newborn sister nearly died in crowded, unsanitary concentration camp facilities, accounts he shares in detail in the book. In addition to following this German family's odyssey from war-torn Europe to Ellis Island, Passage also traces the family's struggles to assimilate into American society after relocating here in the 1950s.

John Schissler Jr. graduated from UW-Milwaukee and taught for five decades at John Marshall High School.  Schissler will be at Germanfest on Friday, July 29, from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday, July 30, from 2 to 7 p.m. in the Cultural Center at the south end of the fairgrounds. Passage: The Making of an American Family will be available for sale at the Germanfest bookstore.

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