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Who Am I? My Stories and Philosophies: The Autobiography of a Somebody or Nobody or Anybody?
by Rolf Harms
Trafford Publishing

“Whether sad events or happy memories, the experiences of my life have made an exciting journey for me.”

Born in Germany in the latter years of World War II, author Harms has early memories of Allied aircraft attacks, bombings, and the loss of his father. His mother, though deeply traumatized, managed to keep working as a farm laborer and seamstress to support him, despite many obstacles. As a boy, Harms had visions of adventure in faraway lands, and at age fifteen, he acted on those visions, joining the German Merchant Marines. His very first sea voyage was to New York City, “providing many firsts.” The first American he met was also the first black man he had ever seen; the man’s good humor in communicating with Harms though they had no shared language impressed the lad deeply.

Gradually, Harms learned English, and when he chose to refuse a certain shipping assignment, inadvertently became an illegal immigrant in America. Through determination, he ultimately gained a green card and then US citizenship. He entered the complex world of commerce, rising very quickly to management in the American Express credit card conglomerate where his skill with language and understanding of other cultures served him well. After one sadly failed marriage, he found the woman of his dreams. With her, he established a private real estate business. Although it meant a step down financially, it allowed their relationship to flourish. Harms now reminisces about the serendipities and vicissitudes of his fascinating life history, and this vibrant autobiography is the result.

Though Harms is modest regarding his education and grasp of English, his story is presented in vivid, readable detail. His grasp of irony and other subtle humor is evident. For example, while still a teenager in a new land, he recalls that he “was unaware that it is illegal to take a pee on the beach in Newport News.” He leaves it to the reader to imagine “how I finally came to understand my infraction” when confronted by a kindly policeman. He describes the ins and outs of the credit card business, with an interesting sidebar regarding the ways in which certain people have plotted to hack and defraud companies like AMEX. He has gathered a fair amount of supportive information for this memoir, including his accumulated wisdom regarding such business scams and his role in combatting them, along with the creative CV he constructed when he found himself legally in the US, unemployed, and with only a high school education and some work background as a sailor. On the personal side, he shares some sober truths divulged to him in his middle years—truths that might have caused a stronger or less open-hearted person to turn to despair, instead of, as he declares, to a new beginning.

In the latter chapters, Harms examines some wider issues, thoughtfully addressing the question posed in the book’s title. He gleans truth from Christian scripture inspired by his Puerto Rican family members as well as offering brief quotations from noted philosophers from Plato. Aristotle, Locke, Kierkegaard, Jung, Freud, Sartre, and others. He concludes that he, like all of us, is “the sum of our total experiences.” Those experiences, he contends, will dictate the choices we make in life. His recollections and the viewpoint he has derived from them will be of interest to a wide readership. His book has been recognized with a Trafford Gold Seal of Literary Excellence and is a Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing.


Who Am I? My Story and Philosophies: The Autobiography of a Somebody or Nobody or Anybody?
by Rolf Harms
Trafford Publishing

“…other people are important, perhaps above and beyond our own sometimes inflated egos.”

Every adult over thirty probably has some pearls of wisdom readers could all benefit from, but this author, growing up in Germany during World War II and joining the merchant marines at age 15, has a plethora of them. Take heed.

“Work is good for you.” “If you don’t quit, you will eventually be okay.” “All of life is a series of decisions we’ve made.” These are examples of the insights into life the author offers. But beyond wisdom, Harms waxes poetic and nostalgic. Describing unobstructed views of the stars, he writes, “I don’t think I have ever slept better or experienced an environment more conducive to a freewheeling imagination.” Or, when describing the light and reflection from the moon on the water, he writes, “The view of the white foam on the crest of the waves…”

Harms also shares experiences most readers will never witness first-hand. For example, he was in Mexico City during a major earthquake and describes it as “a scary experience to see the front of whole buildings sliding to the ground with glass splinters flying everywhere.” The memoir eventually even tackles existentialism with questions such as “Who am I and how did I get here?” Harms explains his philosophies directly and concisely. “It is my belief that we are…the sum of our total experiences in life, added to that which God endowed us with…”

This autobiography flows easily, and reading it is like sitting beside grandpa, hearing his stories. But possibly the best reason to read the book is that those of recent European descent will finish it with a better understanding of their own immigrant relatives—which couldn’t come at a better time, given the current political climate regarding immigration.

Amazon Reviews

DNegron — I have enjoyed this book immensely

5.0 out of 5 stars

March 19, 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I have enjoyed this book immensely! From the bucolic scenes described in Mr. Harm’s childhood Germany, to revealing his personal life’s sad and good moments, his shortcomings and blessings, as well as his successful career in AMEX. The book is filled with interesting anecdotes which bring such familiarity and warmth to the reader, and highlights what a life well-lived looks like. I highly recommend this book.

jdelga1 — A Must Read

5.0 out of 5 stars

November 30, 2018

Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase

This book chronicles true stories, time periods, and experiences that shaped/developed the author’s philosophies, and personal evolution. In addition to being a very interesting read, the book entices the reader to inventory (and understand) their own experiences and personal evolution. I highly recommend this book.

Edith — A tale of courage and tenacity .

5.0 out of 5 stars

March 25, 2019

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

Inspirational. It proves that no matter where you start, you have the opportunity of achieving the American dream.


5.0 out of 5 stars

August 1, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

Rolf Harms’s life story portrays so clearly how a person can make lemonade out of sour lemons. His background and the hardships that he endured during the second world war in Germany developed qualities in him that prepared him to deal with life and all of it’s challenges. As a teenager serving as a seaman on a merchant ship, he realized that his future was in America and the necessity for learning the English language. He jumped the ship in New York and life began for him in a tough but incredible way. This is a must read book.

Press Release

Rolf Harms releases ‘Who Am I? My Story and Philosophies’

Memoir offers insight into the struggles and achievements experienced by a farm boy in post-war Germany

ORLANDO, Fla. – Driven by the desire to share his remarkable life story to others, Rolf Harms offers his memoir titled “Who Am I? My Story and Philosophies: The Autobiography of a Somebody or Nobody or Anybody?” (published by Trafford Publishing). The book charts Harms’ life from early childhood in post-war Germany covering his life at sea and his arrival to America as an illegal immigrant through his career at American Express and onwards.

The autobiography is a collection of some of the many experiences and events that have made his life so interesting. Along the way, the difficulties and opportunities he has encountered have served to enrich and stimulate his activities, and his thinking on just about every challenge he has met. It also highlights the philosophical views he has developed during his journey.

“Along the path of life, I have developed a philosophical view of who we are – if I can encourage others to examine that question, I may succeed in encouraging others to improve their own lives,” Harms expresses.

“Who Am I? My Story and Philosophies: The Autobiography of a Somebody or Nobody or Anybody?”

By Rolf Harms

Hardcover | 6×9 in | 294 pages | ISBN 9781490786407

Softcover | 6×9 in | 294 pages | ISBN 9781490786384

E-Book | 294 pages | ISBN 9781490786391

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Rolf Harms was born in Germany during World War II, he dreamed about exploring the world, and at 15, he became a seafaring youngster traveling the oceans of the world in pursuit of that dream. At 19, he jumped ship in the United States and became an illegal alien. This was an exciting time, yet he realized that his future as an illegal alien would not be secure. His career at the American Express company became a major part of his life and future. He was recognized for his abilities and advanced, over time, to a VP level. His expertise in risk management and fraud prevention allowed him to give seminars to foreign government agencies, including the renowned KGB, former Russian secret police and intelligence agency in the Soviet Union and others. After 27 years at AMEX and his return from overseas assignments, he opened his own real estate company. His lifelong quest for achievement once again took on a new direction.

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