Tag Archives: World War II

Ask Dr. Ruth Movie Review

Though sex and sexuality is part and parcel of human nature, it is often viewed as something dangerous and wrong.

For decades, Dr. Ruth Westheimer (aka Dr. Ruth), has been America’s sex therapist. The 2019 Hulu documentary movie, Ask Dr. Ruth, tells her story. Born in 1928 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Germany, everything was normal for the first ten years of her life. When it became clear that being a Jew in Germany was dangerous, Ruth (then known by her first name, Karola) was sent to Switzerland on the Kindertransport.

At the age of 17, she emigrated to what was then British controlled Palestine (pre-Independence Israel) and joined the Haganah. Years later, she again emigrated to the United States. Living in New York City, she married, raised her two children and became the woman we know her to be today.

The thing I love about her is that at nearly 100 years old, she has the energy of a woman half her age. She represents hope, life, change, and that a woman can never be limited to what she can do because she is “female”. Her presence first on the radio and then on television, helped to open the door to long overdue conversations about sex and sexuality.

I absolutely recommend it.

Ask Dr. Ruth is available for streaming on Hulu.

Leave a comment

Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Movie Review, Movies, New York City

World on Fire Character Review: Lois Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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

Love and loss often compels us to act in ways that we would otherwise act. On World on Fire, Lois Bennett (Julia Brown) is initially introduced to the audience as an idealistic young woman living in England at the start of World War II. Though she has a day job, her true passion is singing. At night, she performs at night clubs with her friend, Connie Wright (Yrsa Daley-Ward). She is also happily in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), in spite of his upper class mother Robina’s (Lesley Manville) misgivings.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. Lois lives with her hot-headed brother Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and their widowed father Douglas (Sean Bean). Douglas is a veteran of World War I. Still dealing with PTSD decades after returning home, he is against Britain getting involved in another war.

After she and Harry break up, Lois joins the ENSA and the war effort. When she finds out that he has returned to England with a young boy who is his brother-in-law, she is furious. When they meet, one thing leads to another and they sleep together.

Upon finding out that she is pregnant, Lois decides to keep the baby. But, she does not tell Harry and rejects financial help from Robina. At a local army base, Lois meets Vernon Hunter (Arthur Darvill). She initially rejects him but eventually agrees to marry him.

Starts at 3:43

To sum it up: There are two ways to deal with loss, especially loss that is associated with romantic love. We can wallow in self-pity. Or, we can find a way to move on from that loss, even if it is difficult. What I like about Lois is that she does not let the breakup with Harry stop her from living. That strength I find to be inspiring and powerful.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

Leave a comment

Filed under Character Review, Feminism, History, Television

World on Fire Character Review: Harry Chase

*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.

War has a way of making those who live through it grow up quickly. Youth and inexperience, simply due one’s experience, gives way to maturity brought on extraordinary circumstances. On World on Fire, Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King) is a young man at the beginning of World War II. He is idealistic, romantic, and eager to see the world. He is also dating Lois Bennett (Julia Brown). Their relationship ends when he is offered a job in Poland.

A talented translator, he takes a job in Warsaw and gets involved with Kasia Tomaszeski (Zofia Wichlacz). All seems well until the Germans invade. Harry knows that the only way to save Kasia’s life is to marry her and get her to England. The question is, how will he explain all of this not just to Lois, but to his mother, Robina (Lesley Manville)?

At the train station, Kasia does not get on the train with Harry. Instead, she shoves her baby brother into the train car and watches as the train leaves the station. Back home, Harry has to faces a brokenhearted Lois and his mother, who is shocked by the presence of the boy he is traveling with. After a one night stand with Lois, she gets pregnant. But she does not tell him that they are to become parents.

Returning Europe, he joins the battle at Dunkirk and then goes back to Poland to find his wife. Their joy at being united is all too brief when they are surrounded by German soldiers.

Starts at 3:04

To sum it up: Harry’s character arc is an interesting one. He is not completely naïve, but his perspective comes from the relatively comfortable left he has led up to this point. The war changes all of that. He still retains some of that idealism. However, he learns to fight for what he believes in and who he loves, and what it takes to lead.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

Leave a comment

Filed under Character Review, History, Television

80 Years After the Holocaust, European Jews Still Have a Target on Their Backs

Among the major cities in the world, Vienna ranks among the most beautiful. The city is elegant and timeless, attracting visitors from around the world.

But there is another side to this city that came to the forefront during World War II. Only 130,000 Jewish residents were able to leave Europe before the borders closed. Of the 650,000 people that remained, approximately 2,000 were alive at the end of the war.

80 years later, European Jews (and Viennese Jews to be more specific) still have a target on their backs. At 8PM local time, six gunmen spread across the city. Their first target was the Seitenstettengasse synagogue. As of the most recent news reports, fifteen people were injured and one person is deceased.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am getting tired of seeing headlines like these. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. We all deserve the same respect, opportunities, and rights, regardless of who we are as individuals.

Humanity is better than this. We know that. We have seen what happens when we start to love one another. Unfortunately, there are still far too many who believe that their faith/culture is better than all others. I don’t know what it will take, but its time to stop this foolishness.

1 Comment

Filed under History, International News, World News

The Light in Hidden Places Book Review

Hate can be powerful. But, so is love.

The Light in Hidden Places, by Sharon Cameron was published earlier this year. The novel tells the story of Stefania Podgórska, a Polish-Catholic teenager who saved the lives of thirteen Jews during World War II.

In 1943, Stefania is working for the Diamants, a Jewish family who owns a grocery store in Przemyśl, a small town in Poland. Over the previous four years, she has become like family to her employers. That relationship includes a secret engagement to one of their sons.

Then the Germans invade and everything changes. The Diamants are forced into the ghetto with thousands of other Jewish residents from the area. Now Stefania is on her own with the responsibility of taking care of her younger sister. A knock on the door reveals that Max, one of the Diamant’s sons is alive. He is the first of thirteen Jews that the the sisters will hide.

As the war progresses, the danger increases. Anyone found hiding Jews will be executed. The danger grows exponentially when Stefania is forced to house German soldiers. Up to this point, she has been forced to make decisions that are painful and difficult. The final decision will be the most painful and difficult to make.

I loved this book. It was well written, gripping, and a wonderful reminder that love can still exist when hate takes over. On a personal note, I was touched by the book because it hit close to home. Przemyśl is close to Dobromil, the shtetl that my mother’s maternal line called home for generations.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

The World That We Knew: A Novel Book Review

It has been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. During war, to say that desperate measures are taken is an understatement.

Alice Hoffman’s novel, The World That We Knew: A Novel, was published last fall. Set during World War II, Hanni Kohn makes a choice that no mother should ever have to make. Sensing that the danger has grown tenfold for Europe’s Jews, she asks Ettie, a Rabbi’s daughter for help. Ettie bring a golem to life, it’s job is to protect Hanni’s twelve year old daughter Lea.

As both Ettie and Lea try to survive in a world that wishes them dead, they have no idea that their lives will be forever entwined.

I wanted to like this book. I was so drawn in by Hanni’s last action as a mother that I thought it would carry me throughout the novel. It didn’t. I was not completely bored, but I was also not drawn in. When it comes to stories of this ilk, I want to be completely sucked in, waiting on baited breath to know the character’s fate.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

Outlander Review

The narrative of a stranger in a strange land is one of humanities oldest stories.

Outlander (based on the books of the same name by Diana Gabaldon) premiered on Starz back in 2014. In post World War II Scotland, former British military nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is enjoying a second honeymoon with husband Frank (Tobias Menzies). Then somehow, she is sent back two hundred years in the past. In order to survive, she marries Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).

Can she return to her own time and if she can’t, what changes must she make to adapt?

I am presently about 2/3rds of the way though the first season. Though I never read the books and cannot make any comparisons to the series, I am enjoying it. It has elements of the different genres that play well together to create a story that is engaging and very entertaining.

I absolutely recommend it.

Outlander is now streaming on Netflix.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, History, Netflix, Television, TV Review

Insulting the Military is Not The Way to Win a Presidential Election

An election, especially a Presidential Election is a unique time in the political history of the United States. It is a time in which we, the people, can hire and/or fire those who we choose to represent our interests.

The 2020 Presidential election is two months away. At this point in time, the pressure on both sides of the campaign is only beginning to ramp up. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are doing everything in their power to win the election. However, there is one way to lose voters. The way is to insult them.

Yesterday, you know who called American soldiers who were captured and/or killed in battle “losers” and “suckers”.

This, from the guy who got out of serving in Vietnam because of “bone spurs”. This man is a coward and a bully. He talks a big game, but is never able to follow up with action. While our military and their families serve and protect our country, he insults them.

When the late Senator John McCain was still alive, he was not shy in verbally attacking the Senator because he was a POW.

I come from military veterans. My grandfathers and uncles fought in World War II. One of my great-uncles on my mother’s paternal line was a veteran of World War I. Having their memories and their years of service spit upon by a man who did everything he could to avoid serving crosses a line that I take personally. It is just another reminder of who this person truly is and why he is unfit for office.

Obviously, his goal is to be President for another four years. Referring to those who gave their lives for the United States as “losers” and “suckers” is not the way to win a Presidential election.

#BidenHarris2020

Leave a comment

Filed under National News, Politics

I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir Book Review

To be the second or third generation family of Holocaust survivor(s) is to carry a sadly unique perspective on life. Your family may look “normal”, but the wartime experiences of those who lived forever changed their outlook on everything.

Esther Safran Foer is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Both of her parents are the only members of their families to have survived the war. Her father came from Trochenbrod and her mother came from Kolki. They met and married after the war, had their daughter, and moved to America.

Though Esther grew up in the comfort and safety of the United States, there as a part of her that was curious about her parent’s experiences during the war. Her memoir, I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir, was published earlier this year. The story starts when her mother (who has since passed), casually mentions that her husband had a family before the war. This out of nowhere disclosure leads Esther on a journey to answer the burning questions that up that point, had never been answered.

I have to admit that my feelings are mixed about this book. The subject itself is an emotionally difficult one, but that goes without saying. Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve read and reviewed many books on this particular topic. The mixed feelings do not come from the subject, but from the book itself.

The problem is that by the time the reader gets to the middle of the book, the narrative slows down. I was almost at the point of putting it down and walking away, but I somehow finished it.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

I Agree With Eliezer Sherbatov

For most of the world, Auschwitz is the most well known of the Nazi death camps. Millions of people were starved, tortured, and murdered simply because of who they were.

But the residents this unfortunately infamous town know it as Oswiecim.

Recently, Israeli Ice Hockey star Eliezer Sherbatov signed on to play for Unia Oswiecim. Unia Oswiecim is the local hockey team for Osweicim. The reaction to his decision was both positive and negative, depending upon who one spoke to.

Defending his choice, Sherbatov stated the following:

“I tell them, what happened 80 years ago will never be forgotten. That’s why, 80 years later, I want to show young people that they should be proud of their heritage and that now anything is possible.”

I agree with him. Though I fully understand the criticism, I feel like this is a sign of hope and the ability to triumph over tragedy. While the we must never forget what happened with the borders of the death camp, we must also live. The fact that the Jews and Judaism is alive and thriving nearly 100 years later is sweet revenge on it’s own.

While we cannot go back in time and change history, we can remember those who were taken from us. Eliezer Sherbatov joining Unia Oswiecim is in itself a memorial to those who were murdered and a reminder that love and humanity still exist.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, International News, World News