War has a way of forever changing the world as we know it to be.
Natasha Solomons 2011 book, The House at Tyneford starts just as World War II is engulfing Europe. in 1938, Elise Landau is 19 and up to this point has known a comfortable life. But life for Jews in Vienna, as it is in all parts of Europe, is becoming uncomfortable and unsafe very quickly. For her safety, she is sent to a rural English estate entitled Tyneford, where she has to work for her living as a member of the household staff. Then she meets Kit, the son and only heir to the estate. Their relationship is not only unorthodox and looked down upon, but it will change the fates of both the estate and Elise forever.
I loved this book. I loved it not because of my knowledge of that world and the period, but because I understood Elise and her journey. When one is thrown from the lap of luxury and have to earn their daily bread, they have two options. They can either shrink, complain and become a burden on others. Or, they can rise to the occasion, grow and learn something about themselves in the process.
I absolutely recommend it.
Anne Frank is many things to many people, depending on whom one talks to. She was an ordinary teenage girl who went through the changes that we all went through at that age. She was a budding writer whose literary skills showed promise. She is an icon not just for the 1.5 million Jewish children who were slaughtered in The Holocaust, but for children around the world who are living and dying in war zones today. She is reminder of what hate and prejudice can do when we are blind to the humanity of our fellow mortals.
Her life and her brief time in hiding is immortalized in her published diaries The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank.
But the question is, who owns Anne’s likeness and more importantly, who owns how she is represented to the world? This question is answered in the new book, The Phenomenon of Anne Frank. Written by David Barnouw and edited by Jeanette K. Ringold, the book traces the history of Anne’s story from an ordinary teenage girl who was murdered because she was Jewish to an international icon who represents so much to so many.
The premise of this book sounded promising. However, it was a bit too scholarly and dry for my taste.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Attacks like the massacre in the Tree Of Life Synagogue nearly two weeks ago do not happen in a vacuum. They start with words, lies and stereotypes that lead to destruction and murder.
80 years ago tonight, Jewish businesses, home and Synagogues in Germany were ransacked and destroyed during what would later be known as Kristallnacht. 30,000 Jewish men were forced into concentration camps and 91 men were killed.
The excuse for Kristallnacht and the shooting in Pittsburgh two weeks ago is the same. It is hatred of the other, of someone who is different, that leads to events like The Holocaust. It feels like nothing has changed. We have learned nothing in 80 years. We allow hate and prejudice to fester until it becomes mass murder. We allow our politicians to twist the facts until they become lies.
A wise person once said the following:
‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”
I guess history will continue to repeat itself until we learn from it.
The few that survived Auschwitz relied on wit, skill or just plain chance.
Lale Sokolov is one of the few who did survive Auschwitz. He did so by becoming the Tätowierer (responsible for carving the numbers into the arms of his fellow prisoners). His story is recounted in the novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Written by Heather Morris, the book follows Lale from his first days at the notorious death camp until the end of the war when he and the rest of the survivors are freed from captivity. Instead of outright murdering him, the Germans use his multi-lingual ability for their own uses.
While this is happening, Lale is trying to save as many of his fellow prisoners while he is falling in love with another prisoner, Gita. It is their relationship and mutual love that helps him to stay alive when he knows that death is all around him.
This book is amazing. If nothing else, it is a reminder that hope and love can still exist when it seems impossible that neither should exist.
I absolutely recommend it.
The Holocaust is one of the most well-known massacre in modern human history. Ten million innocent people were murdered, six million of them were Jewish.
Adolph Eichmann is known as the architect of The Holocaust. After World War II, he escaped to Argentina, where he lived under a new identity. That is, until 1960, when Mossad agents located him, captured him and brought him back to Israel to stand trial for his crimes.
The location and capture of Eichmann is told in the new movie, Operation Finale. Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) has been living in Buenos Aires under the name of Ricardo Clemente. When the Israeli authorities are given this information, a task force of top Mossad agents are given the job of catching Eichmann and transporting him to Israel for trial. The team includes Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and Hanna Elian (Melanie Laurent).
Once the team is able to capture Eichmann, they have to hold him until they can fly out of Argentina. Capturing him was the easy part, getting to the airport and flying out without being held up or discovered is the hard part.
This movie is amazing and should be seen by as many people as possible. It should be seen not just because it is relevant in 2018, but because it is a historical thriller done right. The psychological tension, especially between Peter and Eichmann is so tight that it forces the audience to really think about how thin the line between good and evil truly is.
Not only do I recommend it, but I have a feeling that this movie will do very well come award season.
Operation Finale is presently in theaters.
To have said that you survived The Holocaust took more that luck. Fate and perhaps split second decisions had a hand in deciding if one would become a martyr or a survivor.
Georgia Hunter’s 2017 memoir, We Were The Lucy Ones, tells the story of her mother’s family survived The Holocaust. She starts the story in 1939 as the Kurc family from Radom, Poland is celebrating the holiday of Passover. They are all together with the exception one of the sons who is living and working in Paris. Then the war starts and the family is torn apart. At each turn, it looks like they will join their slain brethren. But somehow, the family survives forges a new life far away from the hatred and terror that nearly took their lives.
This book is nothing short of wondrous. I could not put it down. There were points in the novel where I held my breath, praying that each individual family member would find a way to survive not just that moment or that day, but the war. It is a breathtaking story of survival, love and perseverance against all odds.
I absolutely recommend it.
Our past is our past. Whether we like it or not, it will always be with us.
Jenna Blum’s new novel, The Lost Family: A Novel, starts in 1960’s New York City. Peter Rashkin is chef/owner of Masha’s, one of the most respected restaurants in the city. He is also one of the most sought after bachelors in the city. A survivor of Auschwitz who lost his wife and young daughters in the war, Peter is not interested in dating anyone. Then he meets June Bouquet, an up and coming model who is two decades his junior. Despite the age and religion difference, Peter and June fall in love. When June finds herself pregnant, they marry. The rest of the book covers the next two decades as Peter, June and their daughter Elsbeth face not only the challenges of change, but Peter’s past.
This book is an absolute must read. What makes this book a must read is that is just so good. What I loved about the book was the human imperfection of the characters and how that played into the narrative.
I absolutely recommend it.
Imagine the following scenario: From the time you were very young, you thought you knew who you were. As far back as you can remember, you were given a certain identity. Then a secret is revealed and that identity is questioned.
That is the premise of the 2007 book, Suddenly Jewish: Jews Raised as Gentiles Discover Their Jewish Roots. Written by Barbara Kessel, the book contains interviews with 160 individuals. While their lives and individual stories vary, they all have one thing in common: they discover they either they are Jewish or they have Jewish ancestry. The interviewees are broken down into four distinct categories: Crypto-Jews (descendants of Jews who were forced to convert to another religion, but still practiced Judaism in secret), child survivors of the Holocaust who survived by hiding and assuming Christian identities, the children of Holocaust survivors and children who were adopted.
This book is absolutely fascinating. What made it fascinating was not just the history behind the stories of the interviewees, but the reactions of those interviewed. Some were not only accepting of their true identity, but they also actively became members of the Jewish faith. Others dismissed the idea and distanced themselves from their Jewish ancestry. Either way, it was a compelling view of the roads where history and identity meet.
I recommend it.
After The Holocaust, the world said never again. Never again would we let our brothers and sisters be slaughtered because they are different from us.
Unfortunately, never again has become again and again.
During the Rwanadan genocide in the spring and summer of 1994, approximately 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan citizens were murdered. The lucky survivors (if you want to call them lucky) were forced to become refugees.
Clemantine Wamariya is one of those survivors. She recounts the harrowing experience of being a refugee from mass slaughter in her new memoir, The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After. Co-written with Elizabeth Weil, Ms. Wamariya was a young girl when the killing began. She escaped Rwanda with her elder sister, leaving the rest of her family behind. The narrative jumps between two timelines: her life in America living with an Anglo-American family after receiving a visa to enter the United States and her life as a refugee, living as best she could.
While this book is a little difficult to read, both because of the subject matter and the timeline jump in the narrative, it is an important read. It’s important because we are still killing each other over minute labels instead of finding a way to coexist and respect our differences.