CONCORD -- Constance Krail-Self said she's haunted by the facts she cites in the dedication of her first novel.
"It's been estimated that approximately 5 million Catholics and other Christian Poles were murdered in the first four years of World War II," Krail-Self wrote. "This story is in honor of those forgotten millions."
The author of recently published "Life in Hitler's Crosshairs," the Christian Polish story of the Holocaust in Poland during World War II will be discussing her book at 6 p.m. July 26, at the Walnut Creek Library.
"The facts are little known and have been carefully researched as well as blending my family's personal story within that of my main character, a young Polish Catholic girl named Marta Koblinski," she said.
The novel's main character joins the Polish underground and becomes assigned to a labor camp where she witnesses atrocities she's determined to reveal to the world, Krail-Self said.
The author's mother's family emigrated from Poland and her father's from Germany, and Krail-Self lived in Bavaria for several years.
"Mom didn't speak Polish but I took German in high school and spoke fluently when I lived in Germany," said Krail-Self, a Concord resident. "I still dream in German occasionally."
She said that in her first novel she aims to reveal the unknown facts about Hitler and the persecution of Polish Christians and examines what the Holocaust meant for Catholics and Christians living
During her six months of researching for her book, Krail-Self watched several World War II documentaries as well as dug into the facts presented on the Internet. She still keeps a box full of color-coded files marking important historical dates, wars and facts.
Rather than present her research in a textbook-like fashion, the author decided to write a novel so that readers get to witness how the Polish struggled to survive through the eyes of a young Polish woman. She also added stories of other people's sufferings as well.
"That's the way war was," Krail-Self said. "Even though you liked this character, you don't know if they'll live or die. Marta, my main character, couldn't be everywhere at all times but there were a lot of facts and stories that needed to be told."
The author recently visited the Polish Museum of America in Chicago where, she said, she was given a warm welcome during her book signing. She will be speaking at the Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles and the Clayton Library later this year.
"So far, the reviews in WWII magazines, radio interviews and online book reviews have been very encouraging," Krail-Self said.
Bob Nozik, a family friend, said he thinks high school students should read Krail-Self's book to learn a different story of what happened in Europe during World War II.
"I'm Jewish and know about my relatives' experiences so I was interested to see what Connie's family's experience was like," said Nozik. "She researched the book very extensively. You get both the history and an engaging story. I was happily surprised to find what an engaging writer she is."
Krail-Self said reaching high school students and relaying little-known facts about World War II is one of her missions. She said she hopes that not only will high school students read her book but that she will also get to speak to them about the untold stories that shouldn't be forgotten.
One of her future projects includes a sequel to "Life in Hitler's Crosshairs."
"I tried to make the story as real life as possible," Krail-Self said. "Not everyone lived. The story had to be true. People died horrible, horrible deaths. I just want people to know the heart-wrenching facts."
WHO: Concord author Constance Krail-Self
WHAT: Book talk and signing of "Life in Hitler's Crosshairs"
WHEN: 6 p.m. July 26
WHERE: Walnut Creek Library, Broadway and Civic Drive