Tag Archives: Lithuania

The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal Book Review

We all grow up with tales of the family members who have come before us. The question is, what is fact and what is fiction?

Journalist Silvia Foti grew up with the story that her maternal grandfather, Jonas Noreika, gave his life for his native Lithuania, fighting against the Communists. As her mother breathed her last, Silvia promised that she would write the long-awaited book about Jonas. Her initial research matched her expectations: a martyred war hero whose name and reputation earned him a place of honor. What Silvia did not expect was that he was a member of the Nazi party and ordered the deaths of thousands of his Jewish neighbors.

Her journey is chronicled in The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, which was published last March.

This is a memoir to savor. Foti brings in both her journalist experience and the want of a granddaughter to find out the truth about the man who partially contributed to her DNA. With the ever-present shadow of antisemitism and the sadly still too present Holocaust denial, this book is the light in the darkness. I wish there were more people like Silvia Foti. By both bringing Jonas’s actions into the spotlight, she is opening the door to making sure that the victims are remembered and there will never be any chance of claiming that the Holocaust never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, Judaism

Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life Book Review

The following is often quoted about women and those brave enough to fight for what they believe in.

“Well-behaved women¬†seldom make history.”¬†

Emma Goldman was not a well-behaved woman, by any stretch of the imagination. She was a revolutionary, an anarchist and a feminist in a time when women were starting to fight for their rights. Vivian Gornick‘s 2013 biography of Goldman is entitled Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life.

Emma Goldman was born in 1869 in Lithuania to a Jewish family. From an early age, she was stubborn, independent and refused to settle into the traditional life of marriage and motherhood. When she emigrated to the United States in 1885, she continued to live in the same manner that she lived in Europe. Depending on whom one spoke to, she was either a hero standing up to injustice or a troublemaker. She died in 1940, after years of exile and still fighting against governments that would keep the little person down.

In my experience, there are two types of biographies. The first type attracts a general reader who is looking to expand their mind. The second type attracts a reader who is interested in that topic/subject or is using the book to reach an academic goal. This book falls into the second category.

It was not the worst biography that I’ve read. However, I felt like this book is the type of book that would be assigned reading in an academic setting as a posed to a book to read just for readings sake.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Ashes in the Snow DVD Review

War has a way of forever changing one’s life.

The 2018 movie, Ashes in the Snow (based on the book Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys) takes place during World War II. Lina (Bel Powley) is an average teenage girl living in Lithuania with her family. She is also a gifted young artist with a dream and the potential to see that dream become a reality.

Then Lina, her family and thousands of others are deported to Siberia. It is her art and her growing relationship with Andrius (Jonah Hauer-King) that provides a sense of normalcy in a situation that is as far from normal as one can get. Will Lina survive or will she perish with thousands of others?

I read this book previously, so I had an idea of what was coming. The movie is just as good as the book. It is a story that within the genre of World War II stories, is not told as often as it should be. Granted, like many book to movie adaptations, the film does not match the book scene for scene. However, that does not detract from the power of this story and the strength of this young girl who finds the will to survive when many did not.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies

Ashes in the Snow Book Review

When we think of the atrocities and the mass murder that was unfortunately part and parcel of World War II, we think of the Nazis and the Holocaust. We don’t think of the Soviet Union.

Ruta Sepetys‘s 2018 novel, Ashes in the Snow (originally titled Between Shades of Gray) begins in Lithuania in 1941. Lina is your average fifteen year old girl with a passion and a gift for art that shows promise. Then her world is turned upside down by the occupation of the Baltic states.

Soviet officers force themselves into her home in the middle of the night. Separated from her father, Lina, along with her mother, young brother and many others are forced into crowded trains. Their destination is Siberia and a work camp that is dehumanizing in every sense of the word.

Lina uses her artistic skills to keep herself alive mentally and to draw what she is experiencing while hoping that her drawings will reach her father. In spite of the conditions she is living in, Lina fights to survive with her family, but is that enough to keep them alive until they are free?

This book is amazing and a must read, in my opinion. It is obviously not an easy book to read, but a necessary book to read. Experiencing this world through Lina’s eyes, we see this young girl grow into a young woman under circumstances that I would wish on no one. If one thing stood out to me, was that Lina has this incredible source of inner strength that keeps her going when she could easily give up and let death take her.

I absolutely recommend it.

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