Tag Archives: The Holocaust

The Path to Genocide Starts With the Label of Inhumanity

The Holocaust did not start with gas chambers, death camps and mass killings. It started with words. It started with calling Jews inhuman, comparing them with rats.

It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that the American immigration policy is in need for an urgent re-write. You know who does not help when he compares deported immigrants to animals:

“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals and we’re taking them out of country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before, and because of the weak laws they come in fast… it’s crazy.”

99.9% of those who are seeking asylum are not criminals. They are escaping a life that is defined by poverty, hunger and violence. They should not be defined by a minority who are motivated by violence.

America, as we all as know, is the land of immigrants. Most Americans can say with some level of certainty that someone in their family was born someplace else and then made their way to America at some point in their lives. We should not be criminalizing these people who are escaping from countries where the basics are hard to come by.

From my perspective, this is just another reason as to why you know who should not be President.

P.S. Is anyone else disturbed that you know who lied about his father’s birthplace? I have to question that if he is lying about where his father was born, what else is he not telling the truth about?

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Margot: A Novel Book Review

No one goes through life without asking the “what if” question at least once during their lifetime. This question becomes multiplied when it come to war and the loss of life that comes with war.

In the 2013 author Jillian Cantor asked this question in the book, Margot: A Novel.

It’s 1959 in Philadelphia. Margot Frank survived the war and has started a new life as Margie Franklin, living as a Gentile and working in a law firm as  a secretary.

Her sister’s diary has become the darling of the publishing world. The movie, based on the book, has just been released into theaters. Margot/Margie’s carefully constructed outer shell begins to crack. While juggling PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Margot/Margie’s past come back to her via a case and an unusually strong emotional bond with her boss.

This book is amazing. When it comes to the story of Anne Frank, her elder sister is often pushed out of the spotlight. In giving Margot the spotlight, Ms. Cantor tells the story of Holocaust survivors who for any number of reasons, choose to keep their pasts to themselves. It is also the story of America in the late 50’s when antisemitism was not as obvious, but still existed beneath the thin veneer of respectability.

I recommend it.

 

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In Another Time: A Novel Book Review

In an ideal world, love would be love would be love. The person who we love would be judged by who they are instead of being judged by factors such as race, sex, religion, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. When we are growing up, many of us are told by our elders that we should fall in love and marry someone because he or she is the same race, religion or comes from the same part of the world as we do.

In the new novel, In Another Time: A Novel, by Jillian Cantor, Max Beissinger and Hanna Ginsberg are young and in love. But the world they live in is doing everything it can to keep them apart. Max, a bookstore owner is Christian. Hanna, a concert violinist, with talent and drive to burn, is Jewish. In their world of early 1930’s Germany, their relationship is forbidden. But Max has a secret that makes him disappear for long stretches of time-a secret which could save Hanna’s life.

In 1946, Hanna wakes up in a field outside of Berlin. With no memory of the last ten years and no information about Max, she moves to London to live with her sister’s family. Her only solace is her music. But even with her music and working toward her dream of becoming a professional musician, Max is never from her thoughts.

I’ve many Holocaust books, but this book is different for a couple of reasons. It’s different because many Holocaust books focus solely on the experience of the Jews. In this book, the Christian characters are given a spotlight, which is nice change of pace. There is also a science fiction element to the narrative, making it rise above the standard Holocaust novel.

I have to commend the author, from one writer to another writer. Many writers attempt to create parallel narratives in different time periods in which different characters carry the narrative, but few are able to do so in a way that does not confuse or lose the reader along the way. Ms. Cantor is able to jump between time periods and first person character point of views while keeping the reader engaged.

I recommend it.

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Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust Book Review

In the years leading up to World War II, approximately nine million Jews called Europe home. By the end of World War II, six million of them were dead.

Dave Hersch is one of the lucky ones. He survived The Holocaust and eventually immigrated to America, where he and his wife raised their children. His older son, Jack, thought that he knew his father’s story. It was only after his father’s death that he learned the complete story.

Jack J. Hersch tells his father’s story in the new book, Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust. The narrative follows Jack as he both listens to his father’s tale harrowing of survival and follows him as he visits Europe to trace his father’s footsteps during the The Holocaust.

I’ve read many Holocaust books over the years. This one strikes close to home for me because it is a reminder that there will come a day when the survivors will no longer be around to directly tell their stories. It is up to their families and the rest of us to keep telling these stories to ensure that what happened to the Jews of Europe during World War II does not happen again.

 

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The Only Woman in the Room Book Review

There is a stereotype about women: their looks dictate their intellect. A pretty woman lacks in the intelligence department while an unattractive woman soars in the intelligence department.

Back in the day, Hedy Lamarr (b0rn as Hedwig Eva Maria Kieslerwas considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She was also incredibly smart, but given the era, her intellectual abilities were not exactly respected or appreciated.

The new book, The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict is Ms. Lamarr’s story from her perspective. The book starts when she is 19. It’s the early 1930’s in Vienna. She is a budding actress who catches the eye of a wealthy and powerful arms dealer. To protect herself and her family, she marries this man. While she plays the role of dutiful wife, she absorbs everything that she hears and sees.

When the marriage turns abusive and it becomes clear that her Jewish ancestry will put her in harm’s way, she escapes to Hollywood. In her new life and career, she is Hedy Lamarr, silver screen goddess. But she has a secret that only a few select people are privy to: she is a scientist. Her invention could possibly end the war and save lives, if those in power would give her work a chance.

I was shocked how much I loved this book. Before reading it, I was aware of Hedy Lamarr as a movie star and had heard that she was an inventor. But other than the basic facts, I was unaware of her complete story. I loved this book because it is the story of a woman who is clearly intelligent and capable, but is underappreciated for those qualities due to the era she lived in.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom Book Review

When you learn from a master, the lessons learned often transcend the academic world. The lessons we learn from this person stay with us long after we have left the classroom.

The late Elie Wiesel was one of the most remarkable men of our time. He was more than a Holocaust survivor, successful author and a teacher. He spoke to our common humanity in a way that few people are able to do. Ariel Burger was one of the fortunate few who knew Professor Wiesel on a personal level; first has his student, then his teaching assistant.

Last year, Dr. Burger published a memoir about his time with Professor Wiesel entitled Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom.  They met when Dr. Burger was a teenager. Years later, he was offered a position of Professor Wiesel’s teaching assistant. For Dr. Burger, this relationship was more than the typical student/teacher or teaching assistant/Professor relationship. Professor Wiesel was a mentor and guided his teaching assistant as he dealt with life’s challenges.

I loved this book. I loved it because I felt like I was sitting in Professor Wiesel’s classroom, learning with his students. I also loved it because it speaks to the legacy of love and learning that only someone like Elie Wiesel could leave to the world.

I recommend it.

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The Holocaust and the Attack on Jussie Smollett Happened For The Same Reason

This past Sunday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Earlier this week, actor Jussie Smollett was verbally and physically attacked on the streets of Chicago for being a member of the African-American and LGBTQ communities.

Though both events may appear to be different, they are related by one very disturbing fact: someone decided that because another human being is different, they have the right to verbally abuse and physically attack them. In an ideal world, we would judge our fellow human being by who they are as an individual, not by how the identify themselves. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where we someone walking down the street and we judge them based on factors such as skin color, religion, etc.

Last night, actor Ellen Page was on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and accused Vice President Mike Pence of contributing to the attack on Mr. Smollett.

I agree with her. Whether we realize it or not, those in power can influence the average man or woman on the street. If we see our political leaders working towards diversity and respect, we try to emulate them. On the flip side, if we see our political leaders endorsing hate/prejudice and using their position to legislate either, we see it as a go ahead to attack another human being because they are not like us.

It’s 2019. We have a choice at this point. We can choose love, diversity and respect for our fellow beings. Or, we can continue on this path of hate and prejudice. I hope that we (when I say we, I mean a collective cultural “we”), choose love, diversity and respect. But these days, hope often springs eternal.

 

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The Hidden Life of Otto Frank Book Review

For many, Otto Frank is mainly known as the father of Anne Frank. Her diary has been read the world over by multiple generations of readers and has been adapted for the stage and screen numerous times.

In 2003, writer Carol Ann Lee published a biography of Otto Frank entitled The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. The book tells Otto’s story, from his childhood in Germany to  the horrors of the Holocaust and finally, the post war years, as his youngest daughter’s diary became a worldwide cultural sensation.

I really enjoyed this biography. I enjoyed because Otto is given the spotlight that he deserves. The book is quite a hefty read in terms of content and length, but it also engaging. Ms. Lee was extremely thorough in her research, telling the story of a man who has become a symbol of an era when hate and prejudice ruled. She also asked the question that many of us have asked over the years: who betrayed Anne, Otto and the rest of the residents of the annex to the Nazis?

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Thoughts On Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Today. Today is the day that remember the millions of innocent souls who were murdered because they did not fit in with the Nazi ideal.

This day is particularly personal for me. I am an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jew. Though my family has been in America for more than a century, they lived for many generations in Eastern Europe before immigrating to America in the early 20th century.

My mother’s grandparents came from Dobromil, a shtetl that in their time was in Poland. Today it is in the Ukraine.

 

My mother’s maternal grandmother, Ida Miller (née Lowenthal), came to this country with her then entire immediate family when she was a child. My mother’s maternal grandfather, Saul Miller, came to this country as a young man by himself. His widowed father, his siblings, their spouses and their children are among the martyred six million.

While we mourn the loss of millions of innocent lives, we are reminded every day that the Holocaust is not just another historical event. The sentiments and forces that led to the Holocaust have not disappeared into the ashes of history and under the cries of “Never Again”. Antisemitism is once again on the rise. A poll of 2000 people in the UK has revealed that one out of every five respondents believe that the Holocaust never happened and one in twelve respondents believe that the number of victims in inaccurate.

We need to keep telling the stories of the survivors and the victims. We need to keep saying never again so that one day, never again will truly mean never again.

 

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Annelies: A Novel Book Review

Among the 1.5 million children that were killed in the Holocaust, Anne Frank is one of the most famous. Her diary, published after the war has been read by millions of readers over the years. But what if Anne survived?

This is the premise of the new book, Annelies: A Novel, by David R. Gillham. The book starts off just after the end of the war. Anne has survived and made her way back to her father, Otto Frank. Out of the eight people who hid for two years in the annex, they are the only survivors. Though she looks like the same Anne, the horrors she experienced have profoundly affected her psyche and outlook on the world. This creates conflict with her father, who is doing everything he can to return to normal life.

Will Anne be able to find the emotional freedom and security that she once took for granted and more importantly, will her relationship with her father heal?

The reviews on goodreads are mixed. As someone who is familiar with the diary and the person that Anne Frank was, I had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction. This not a non-fiction book. It’s essentially a what-if narrative, using what is known about Anne and those around her to tell a new story. In my opinion, Mr. Gillham should be given some slack and be allowed to use creative license while drawing on documented facts about his subject.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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