Tag Archives: Nazi Germany

Daughter of the Reich: A Novel Book Review

Our teenage years are the most confusing and exciting times of our lives. We are torn between the expectations of our families and the excitement of the newness of everything that occurs during that period.

Daughter of the Reich: A Novel, by Louise Fein, was published last year. In World War II era Germany, Hetty Heinrich, whose father is moving up in the ranks of the Nazi party, is everything a daughter was supposed to be. She is respectful of her parents and goes along with the new society that the regime has created. That all changes when she reunites with an old friend, Walter Keller. Walter is Jewish. Despite the risks to both of their lives (and their families by extension), they start to fall for one another. When it becomes clear that the danger is ramping up tenfold, Walter and Hetty have to make a decision about their future.

OMG. This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It was such a visceral experience to see this world and this time in history through Hetty’s eyes. If nothing else, it was a reminder of how equally powerful love and hate can be. As I got further into the novel, it was not hard to see the parallels between the 1930’s and today.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Where Hands Touch Movie Review

When we think of the Holocaust, we think of the six millions Jews that were murdered. While that fact is undeniable, other groups were also targeted for persecution and murder. Among those were Rhineland Bastards. One parent was White and German, the other was of African descent.

In the 2018 film, Where Hands Touch, fifteen year old Lena (Amandla Stenberg) is one of these children. Her White mother, Kerstin (Abbie Cornish), is a single mother. Lena’s father is no longer in the picture. Kerstin is doing her best to protect both of her children from the racial laws imposed on the country. While her son is considered to be a “good German”, her daughter has a target on her back. When Lena meets and falls for Lutz (George McKay), the son of a Nazi official and a member of Hitler Youth, things get even more complicated.

I enjoyed this movie. It was a story that I was aware of in the general sense, but I was fuzzy on the details. The one thing that stuck out to me was the character arcs. If nothing else, it shows how dangerous this mentality is, specifically when a nation sets on a path of destruction of their own citizens that is based on identity.

Do I recommend it? Yes

Where Hands Touch is available for streaming on The Roku Channel.

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World on Fire Character Review: Nancy Campbell

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

The job of a journalist is to report the facts and let the public decide how to react. The problem is that in some countries and under some governments, the facts are dangerous.

On World on Fire, Nancy Campbell is an American journalist whose job is her life. In 1939, Nancy is in Warsaw when the Germans invade Poland. Returning to Berlin, she does her job as she has always done. But she also knows enough to know that war is coming. She tries to convince her closeted nephew, Webster O’ Connor (Brian J. Smith) to leave Europe while the borders are still open. But Webster decides to stay.

In Berlin, she is friendly with her neighbors and the army officers who she must interact with as part of her job. The journalist in her wants to report what she is seeing. But she is held back by her German supervisors who are towing the party line and need to make sure that only their version of the truth is released.

Nancy knows the risks she takes when she is determined reveal everything that she is seeing and experiencing. But in her eyes, it must be done, in spite of the personal costs she may have to pay.

To sum it up: Sometime doing the right thing requires going against everyone and everything around you. It is easy to be silent and pretend that everything is fine. It is harder to follow your own instincts. When Nancy makes the difficult and dangerous decision to speak the truth, she is standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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China and the Uighurs: The New Nazi Germany

If there is one thing that has lasted throughout the history of humanity, it is the appalling way in which we treat our fellow humans.

After the Holocaust, the phrase “never again” echoed from the lips of the survivors.

Unfortunately, “never again” has become an empty statement over the decades.

In China, the Uighurs are a Muslim minority. According to reports, the Chinese government have been forced to leave their homes for “re-education camps”. A segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver released on Youtube on Monday revealed the harsh treatment that these people are experiencing.

Watching the segment immediately took me back to everything I know about the Holocaust. The details change, but the basic facts are the same: a minority or minorities are dehumanized and forced into a specific location/murdered/tortured because of who they are.

I had hoped that 75 years after the end of the Holocaust, we might have finally learned from the mistakes of past generations. But humans are still humans. We still hate and kill one another strictly based on a face value identity.

Maybe one day, we will finally treat each other with respect and dignity.

Happy Wednesday.

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Re-Open Protests in Illinois & Arbeit Macht Frei: What is Wrong With This Picture?

Upon entering Auschwitz, the following message greets all who walks through the gates: “Arbeit macht frei“. Translated in English to “work sets you free”, this was the lie that greeting the millions of victims who suffered and died within the camp’s borders.

I would hope (hope being the optimal word here), that an intelligent human being would hesitate to use these words, understanding their historical context. But human beings are not always known for being intelligent.

For as many Americans who are listening to the experts and staying home during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are some Americans who are protesting the stay at home orders. As an American, they have every right to protest, that is irrefutable. However, given the current circumstances, these protests come off as foolhardy and life-threatning.

In Illinois, protesters decided to personally attack Governor J.B. Pritzger for his decision to close down the state. Governor Pritzger is Jewish, his father’s side of the family immigrated from Kiev to the United States in the late 19th century. Fully aware of the Governor’s faith and family history, the language and imagery used by some of those at the protest hearkens back to Nazi Germany.

If it was just a protest of the stay at home orders, it would be one thing. It would be un-American to deny their right to tell the Governor that they disagreed with his decision. That being said, as an American citizen and a Jew, I find their choice of images and phrasing to be disturbing and disgusting.

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Fahrenheit 11/9 Movie Review

The ideal of the American democracy has been alive and well for 242 years. The question is, does the reality match the ideal?

Filmmaker Michael Moore asks this question in the new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9. The film starts off recounting the 2016 Presidential election and takes a hard-hitting look at the current state of American politics. Referencing Nazi Germany, the water crisis in Flint and the school shooting at Parkland earlier this year, Mr. Moore shows how broken the system truly is.

Above all, Mr. Moore points out two important facts that hover throughout the narrative of the film. The first is that despite the spotlight being on you know who, he does solely place the blame on the Republicans. Democrats also have used the political system for their own needs as opposed to the needs of the voting public.

The second (and more important point) that Mr. Moore makes is to vote. Far too many Americans did not vote for either candidate during the 2016 Presidential Election, feeling put off, angry or frustrated. We can only ask in hindsight what the results of the election might have been if every American had voted in November of 2016.

The overall message that I got from the film is clear: we can fix this broken system. We can live up to the Democratic ideals put forth by our Founding Fathers. But that requires stepping up the political plate and there are far too many in this country who are not doing that.

I absolutely recommend it.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is presently in theaters. 

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Those Who Save Us Book Review

For some of us, the past is the past. Who we were and the choices that we made at that point in our lives is no longer of consequence. That is, until the past rears is head back into our lives.

In Jenna Blum’s 2004 novel, Those Who Save us, Anna Schlemmer emigrated to America from Germany just after World War II with her American soldier husband and young daughter. Fifty years later, her husband is dead and Anna is determined to let the past remain in the past. But her now grown daughter, Trudy, is a professor of German history and curious about her mother’s past. Finding an old photograph of herself and her mother with a German officer, Trudy is determined to find out the secrets that her mother has been hiding for half a century.

This book is remarkable. While normally I would say that a slow narrative does not bode well for finishing a novel,  the slow burn towards the end of the story is well worth the emotional payoff that ends the novel. Adding to the suspense is the sometimes tenuous relationship between middle-aged Trudy and senior Anna.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance Book Review

It has been said that the heart wants what the heart wants. Even if that goes against the political and cultural norms of the day.

In Enemies in Love: A German POW, a Black Nurse, and an Unlikely Romance, by Alexis Clark, Elinor Powell and Frederick Albert met in a way that only comes from war.

Elinor Powell was an African-American nurse who was raised in the Northeast and had her first bitter taste of Jim Crow when she was stationed in Arizona during World War II. Frederick Albert was a German POW who was captured by the Allies in Italy and sent to the POW camp in Arizona where Elinor was stationed. While Frederick outwardly acted as any youth of that time period would act, he internally did not subscribe to the beliefs of Nazi Germany.

It was love at first night for Frederick. Elinor took a little longer, but she too was soon in love. In another time and place, no one would have thought twice about their relationship. But the fact was that she was African-American and he was a German soldier who was a wartime captive. It wasn’t the ideal start to a relationship, but somehow, their relationship and their marriage lasted.

I loved this book. It was not just the story of love against all odds, but it was the story of a real marriage with all of the ups and downs that marriage brings.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

 

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Thoughts On Last Night’s Syria Strike

Last night it was announced that US, UK and France successfully hit its targets in Syria. The airstrike was in response to the chemical attack on the citizens of Douma last weekend.

While the airstrike does it’s job in sending a message to the Syrian regime, there is a component missing that is ignored at least by the current administration: the Syrian refugees who are being prevented from entering the United States. So far this year, only 11 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the country.

Since you know who took office last year, the parallels to Nazi Germany have been spoken of frequently.

In May of 1930, the St. Louis sailed from Hamburg to Havana. Most of the passengers were Jews, looking for sanctuary from the destruction and prejudice they were experiencing in Europe.

To make a long story short, the ship was stuck in limbo. Only a handful of the passengers were allowed to disembark in Cuba. America refused to open her doors to those who were still on board. As a result, the ship has to return to Europe. While some of the allied countries took a few passengers, the rest were sent back to Germany. 254 of the passengers were killed in the Holocaust.

While I cannot disagree that we need to protect our borders, we need to open our country up to those who are suffering the most. Military strikes send a message, but so does opening the door and welcoming a people who have lost nearly everything.

But then again, this administration, like the one that turned away the St. Louis seems not to care.

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Thoughts On Poland’s New Holocaust Law

Of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, 3 million of them were Polish.

Recently, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda announced that he would sign the new law that makes it illegal to blame the country from the loss of life and destruction caused by Nazi Germany during World War II. It goes without saying that the law acquits the Polish nation of any guilt that they are part of the reasons that 3 million Polish Jews and 1.9 Poles who were not Jewish were murdered.

I am a Jewish woman of Eastern European descent. Poland is in my blood and my bones. My mother’s maternal grandparent’s emigrated from Poland during the early part of the 20th century. They left family behind who were murdered simply because they were Jewish.

It’s an irrefutable fact that Poland suffered under the Nazi invasion. It is also an irrefutable fact that many non-Jewish Poles tried to help their Jewish neighbors, knowing full well that they were putting their lives and the lives of their families on the line. However, there were also many Poles who either silently supported the Nazis by saying nothing or stepped up and did the Nazis dirty work for them.

As an American, I cannot dictate how another country’s leadership chooses to govern. However, this particular law does not feel right and feels like it spits on the graves of millions of innocents who were killed merely for being who they are.

 

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