Warren native pens World War II novel An enemy viewpoint
By Rebecca Sloan
Numerous American authors have penned novels set during World War II, but few have chosen to tell their tale from a German viewpoint.
Perspective is one factor that makes Warren native Mark Ozeroff’s novel “Days of Smoke” a standout.
Told from the point of view of Nazi German fighter pilot Hans Udet, “Days of Smoke” has been praised for its historical accuracy and has earned a Gold Medal for historical fiction from the Military Writers Society of America and a Golden Quill from the American Authors Association.
A pilot himself with a lifelong passion for aeronautical history, Ozeroff said a chance conversation with a former German ace fighter pilot named Gunther Rall helped inspire him.
“I wanted to write a different sort of World War II novel that would catch the eye of a publisher,” Ozeroff said during a phone interview from his home in Daytona Beach, Fla. “I originally intended to make the main character, Hans Udet, a much meaner guy, but he sort of took on a life of his own.”
Protagonist Hans Udet has an early involvement with Hitler’s air force, and as he progresses from naive young fighter pilot to ace of increasing rank, tension grows between his love for Germany and his natural compassion for humanity.
“After he rescues a young Jewish woman from a brutal assault, his growing feelings for her sensitize him to the so-called ‘Jewish problem,’ and he is torn between disdain for the Nazis and his sense of duty to Germany,” Ozeroff explained. “Hans undergoes a great transformation in his views of Hitler and undergoes a sort of crisis of conscience.”
What makes Ozeroff’s creative approach even more interesting is the fact he himself is Jewish.
“Ironically, Gunther Rall, the former ace fighter pilot I spoke with, helped bomb the Ukrainian village my grandfather emigrated from,” Ozeroff said. “Talking to him and hearing such detailed stories and learning the mind-set of a German Ace was fascinating but also very chilling. I was speaking with a man who had helped in the bombing of a village that killed members of my own family.”
In addition to his conversation with Rall, Ozeroff has spent years researching World War II and aeronautical history with what he deems “a near-religious fervor.”
“My love for aeronautical history started at a very young age,” he said. “My parents were friends with men who were soldiers during World War II, and these American veterans told such colorful and often tragic stories. I did my best to weave their stories into my book.”
“Days of Smoke” begins in 1936 and ends in 1941. The book was released about a year ago from Asylept Press, and Ozeroff spent about eight years writing it.
“I didn’t start writing until late in life, around age 42,” said Ozeroff, who is now 53. “If anyone would have told me one day I’d write a book, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Ozeroff has worked as a commercial pilot, has a master’s degree and lives at a seaside airport on Daytona Beach in an apartment above a hangar. He is surrounded by eclectic aircraft, and he loves it.
“I took my first flight when I was 9 years old, and I was hooked,” Ozeroff said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
Although Ozeroff has never flown in the military, he has received plenty of positive feedback on the accuracy of his novel from people who have.
He said one of his greatest compliments came from a WWII Polish fighter pilot.
“He read the book, and he praised me up and down on its accuracy. That was a great honor to me because I worked hard at making the book as accurate as I possibly could,” Ozeroff said.
Ozeroff was born in Youngstown and raised in Warren. He is working on a second novel about a Vietnam fighter pilot.
“Days of Smoke” is available through Amazon.com and other major book sellers.