‘God is All’: Margot Tanner returns to Cullman to promote book, share stories

Margot Tanner signs a book for a fan at Cullman First United Methodist Church Saturday afternoon. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Margot Tanner, longtime advocate of all things German in Cullman, returned to the city Saturday to promote and sign copies of “God is All: Stories from the Life of a WWII German Survivor,” an account of her life in Germany and the United States.

All 40 copies of “God is All” available at the signing were sold by the halfway point of the two-hour event.

Putting a lifetime on paper

Tanner’s editor and daughter-in-law, Ruth Wiebe-Tanner, who accompanied her to the book signing at Cullman First United Methodist Church, talked about creating the book.

“Margot would send me her stories. She wanted her stories recorded in a book, and she’d been asked to do that,” said Wiebe-Tanner. “She’s been in the community for some years, telling her story to schools and churches, and frequently people have said, ‘You should write a book.’ 

“She asked me to write the book, and that was some years ago. And I said, ‘Well, OK, but you send me the stories and I’ll type them up, and we’ll see what happens. And so, that’s what she did.”

She continued, “There came a point when it looked like there was really enough to make a book, and then we started working at it a little bit more seriously, filling in holes. I suggested she record some stories about her childhood with her brothers and sisters, and her family. She wanted to talk about her grandmother, and I said, ‘What about your other grandparents?’ So, we put that in.

“I was aiming for somewhere between autobiography and memoir with her. She wrote about that and she wrote about her years in Germany and in the war, and after the war in the aftermath, about meeting her husband, about coming to the United States and getting her citizenship, eventually moving to Alabama where she has quite a long chapter about her friends here and her various activities over the years. We put that together, worked with Kindle Direct Publishing with Amazon, and we have a book.”

Margot Tanner in her own words

The German native was shielded from some of the more gruesome realities of life under Adolf Hitler by her government employee father until late in the war, but she suffered horrible abuses under Soviet occupation afterward. Coming to the United States with her American husband, she faced discrimination as a German “war bride.”

Tanner told The Tribune what she hopes is accomplished by the telling of her story.

“What I really would like, or had in my mind: for people to pay attention, to love each other, to take care of each other, to look out for each other. Put away with this hate of black and white and yellow and green, and Jews and Christians and Muslims and so forth. Don’t let that live in this world; we’ve had enough of it,” she said.

“There should be love and care, because we don’t know what God has in store for us, and He may teach us through all that’s going on to stay together and care for each other. That is my intention for the book, because I was a non-Christian under Hitler. It was out of place, because my father worked for the government, and government employees- it was a no-no to be a Christian. 

“When I came to Cullman, which was my husband’s hometown- I never wanted to go here after Fort Worth, Texas- but then when I came here and met these people and came to this church, and like today: I’ve been away two years, going on three years. Look how they welcome me and love me, and hug me and go all out of the way for me; that’s what I’m trying to teach and show everybody. We all should be like this.”

She continued, “I met Jesus in this church. And when I met Jesus and felt His wounds and how I was wounded by certain remarks that people made, and I would bury that all inside, praise God I didn’t lash out, because I found out later that Jesus tells us not to do that. I wasn’t a Christian, but that was something that was instilled to me by God. Then, when I met all these people, and the way they accepted me and put up with me, it was such a divine- I don’t know how to say it; I don’t have the words for it. It was like a light came down and shined on me and healed all these wounds.”

Tanner recounted her family’s loss of everything with the fall of Germany and the coming of Soviet occupation, and how she learned to live with little and appreciate whatever she had. 

Said Tanner, “What is God trying to teach us? Love each other. Don’t think about the money, what it can buy, and grab it. We couldn’t eat the money, and we didn’t have any food, and it wouldn’t buy anything.”

She shared one instance in which she was trying to help a group of school children understand real priorities in life.

“I asked the children, ‘What if you’re hungry and you have the money but you have nothing else; could you eat the money?’ ‘No.’ But one little girl said, ‘I guess I’d just go around the corner to Wendy’s and buy a hamburger.’ I looked at her; I said, ‘There were not any Wendy’s or any hamburger place, so you may as well try to find excuses.’

“That’s what everybody’s doing: finding excuses instead of looking into people’s faces and saying, ‘I love you and I care.’ That’s it. That’s how I feel.”

“God is All” is available at www.amazon.com/God-All-Stories-German-survivor/dp/1087067340.

For more on Tanner’s life, see www.cullmantribune.com/2017/08/22/one-last-conversation-with-a-living-legend-margot-tanner/

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Margot Tanner displays the medal presented to her by the Daughters of the American Revolution for her efforts to teach emigrants about the United States and what it means to be an American. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

W.C. Mann