Tag Archives: World War II

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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Filed under History, National News, Politics

Mrs. Wilson Review

When we marry, the expectation is that the person we are marrying is who they say they are.

In the miniseries, Mrs. Wilson, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson, playing her grandmother), receives a rude awakening after the death of her much older husband, Alexander (Iain Glen). Her husband was good at keeping secrets. His most potent secret was that she was not his only living wife. Coleman (Fiona Shaw), her husband’s handler from World War II is not too forthcoming with information. There is also the question of Dorothy Wick (Keeley Hawes), who keeps popping up as Alison tries to find out the truth of her husband’s life. As the series flips between the beginnings of Alison and Alexander’s (who was known as Alec) early relationship during the war to the 1960’s, where the widowed Alison is desperate for answers.

I have to admit that I am impressed with this series. I am impressed because this is a very personal story for Wilson. It takes a lot to share a personal story that is part of her family lore with the public. As a viewer, I can understand why Alison was not the last woman to fall for Alec. He was charming, intelligent and appeared to radiate qualities that would qualify him as a good man.

Both Wilson and Glen are familiar faces to Masterpiece viewers. Wilson made her Masterpiece debut in the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 2011, Glen had a brief role as Sir Richard Carlisle, Lady Mary’s fiance on Downton Abbey. As Alison and Alec, I was rooting for them as a couple. On the same note, my heart was aching for Alison as she grieved not only for her husband, but for the husband she knew.

I recommend it.

The first two episodes of Mrs. Wilson are online. The final episode airs this Sunday at 9PM on PBS. 

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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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The Aftermath Movie Review

War has a way of changing relationships.

In the new movie, The Aftermath (based on the book of the same name by Rhidian Brook), Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) is a member of the British army who has been charged with rebuilding Hamburg just after the end of World War II. His wife, Rachel (Keira Knightley) is joining him after a prolonged separation. Though their marriage appears to be solid, there are cracks beneath the surface.

Their new home is a villa just outside of Hamburg. It belongs to Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård),  a widower with  a young daughter. While Lewis is preoccupied with work, Rachel and Stephen’s relationship changes from antagonistic to romantic. In this political and emotionally charged relationship, old wounds will be opened, personal histories will be revealed and questions about the future will have to be answered.

I am sorry to say that I was disappointed with this film. While it was well done and well acted, it was just missing something. I can’t put my finger on what was missing, but it did have the emotional impact I hoped it would make.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

The Aftermath is presently in theaters. 

 

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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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Thoughts On International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

Instead of writing about women that we all know about, I want to talk about the women who I have come from.

My mother, coming of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As an adult, she balanced work, marriage and motherhood. Granted, it was a not easy at times, but to watch my mother do it all was and still is awe-inspiring.

My grandmothers, first generation Americans and members of the Greatest Generation. Born during WWI, growing up during the Great Depression and coming of age during World War II, they understand perseverance in the face of hardship.

My great-grandmothers, born in the shtetls and towns of Eastern Europe. They faced poverty and discrimination at every turn. They came to America, looking for the freedom and opportunities that did not exist in the lands of their birth. They worked in sweatshops and lived in crowded tenement buildings. They fought for their rights as women and workers. It was not paradise, but their fortitude and courage paved the way for future generations.

I am proud to have these women in my family tree.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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The Wartime Sisters: A Novel Book Review

Sometimes, the relationship we have with our sibling is a complicated one. Just because we came out of the same womb and have the same parents does mean that we are close to our siblings.

In the new book, The Wartime Sisters: A Novel, by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ruth and Millie are sisters from Brooklyn in New York City. But they don’t always see eye to eye or get along. Ruth is quiet and bookish. Millie is outgoing and popular. Labelled by their parents and the community around them, both internally resent each other for the treatment they receive. As adults, their relationship is fragile, seething with unspoken emotions.

While World War II rages on, Ruth lives with her officer husband and children in Massachusetts.  When tragedy strikes and Millie has nowhere else to go, she travels to Massachusetts with her young son to live with Ruth’s family. With the sisters living in close quarters, old tensions rise to the surface as new faces challenge both Ruth and Millie.

This book is amazing. The sisters are clearly drawn, allowing the reader to empathize with both Ruth and Millie. The world around them is equally drawn in a way that pulls the reader in and does not let go until the final page.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, History, New York City

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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