In the 1930’s, Leon Lewis appeared to be just another unassuming lawyer from Los Angeles. But in reality, he was the head of a spy ring whose goal was to stop the secret Nazi invasion of America and protect the lives of the city’s Jewish population.
His story unfolds in the non fiction book, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America, written by Steven J. Ross. Los Angeles was a target not only because it was home base of the entertainment industry, but also for the military sites that were close by. While the law enforcement chose to focus their attention elsewhere, Mr. Lewis and his ring of spies understood how important it was to uncover the truth before it was too late.
While the book is a little slow, it is worth reading until the end. Though the book is non fiction, Mr. Ross found a way to imbue the narrative with tension and danger. It reads like a fictional spy thriller, even with the documented historical facts.
I recommend it.
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.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, we remember the millions of victims were killed simply for who they were.
I count myself among the lucky ones. My family has been in this country for more than a century. My great grandparents left Europe in the early 20th century, looking for a better life for themselves and their families in America. My grandparents were born in this country, I am a third generation Jewish American. But that does not exempt me from The Holocaust. Most of the family that my great grandparents left behind were slaughtered.
In the late 1970’s, one of my mother’s uncles added his grandfather, my great-great grandfather to the list of Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem.
While I will go about my business today, my heart will be breaking a little.
May the memory of those killed be a blessing and a reminder of what happens when we forget that the person next to us is first and foremost just another human being.
There are two types of people we meet in our lives. One type is a blip on the radar, we don’t think twice when they are gone. The other type is the person who influence in our life is so so ingrained in our psyches that we never forget them.
On Tuesday, PBS aired their new show: We’ll Meet Again. Hosted by veteran journalist and anchor, Ann Curry, the focus of the show is to reunite the subjects with someone whom they have not seen in a very long time. The subjects of the pilot were two adults whose childhoods were overshadowed by World War II. In California, a young girl of Japanese-American descent is forced into the internment camps with her family simply because her parents immigrated from Japan a generation before. She wants to reunite with the school friend who only saw her friend and did not see color.
A young Jewish boy is living in Shanghai, with his parents. They are refugees from Nazi Germany. He becomes close with his father’s business partner and his business partner’s wife. They have a daughter and emigrate to Australia after the war. He wants to reunite with their daughter, who was a baby at the end of the war.
If nothing else, this show speaks to the our shared humanity. It is also a reminder that friendships and emotional connections can last a lifetime, even when our lives shift and we begin to move away from the people we were once close to.
I recommend it.
We’ll Meet Again airs Tuesday Nights at 8PM on PBS.
Books are more than words on a page bound together. They reflect our shared humanity.
Dita Kraus is one of the lucky Holocaust survivors to not only have survived in general, but also having survived the death camp Auschwitz. During the war, she was secretly known as the camp librarian, trying to keep learning alive when death was all the inmates knew.
Her story is chronicled in the book, The Librarian of Auschwitz,originally written in 2012 by Antonio Iturbe and translated last year into English by Lilit Thwaites. In 1944, Dita was a fourteen year old girl. She is among the lucky ones. Not only is she still alive, but she and her parents are together. One of the Jewish leaders of the camp asks Dita to take responsibility for a number of books that have been smuggled in. Despite the fact that if the books are discovered, she could be killed, Dita agrees to the task.
What I loved about this book is that the books represent a sliver of hope and humanity when there was none. Not only is the book well written, but it speaks to the idea that even in the darkest of times, hope never completely dies. We just need to hang onto it as best we can, in whatever shape we can.
I absolutely recommend it.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
It is often easier to go along with the crowd rather than make a stand against what you believe is wrong. The question is, when the time comes to make that stand, do you silently go along with the crowd or are you brave enough to make that stand?
In 1930’s Germany, Friedrich Kellner was an ordinary man. Married with one child, he was a mid level government official in a small town. He also vehemently disagreed with everything The Nazis were doing in Germany. While the war raged on and a majority of the German people were easily hypnotized by the Nazis, Mr. Kellner kept a secret diary full of personal insights and news clipping, revealing his disgust and anger for everything that was going 0n around him. His diary and his experience during the war will soon be told in a new memoir, My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner – A German against the Third Reich.
Based on the diary found by Robert Scott Kellner, Mr. Kellner’s American grandson, the book is a true testament about how humanity and compassion can still exist, even when dictators rule and citizens are easily swayed to mindlessly follow what government officials are saying and doing. The publishing of the book is also quite timely, especially considering who occupies the Oval Office.
I absolutely recommend it.
Life is complicated, that is a fact.
In the 1997 television movie, A Call To Remember, Paula and David Tobias (Blythe Danner and Joe Mantegna) are middle-aged Holocaust survivors just living their lives and going about their business. But while they are still trying to keep back with the demons of their past, they are also dealing with the reality that their eldest son Jake (David Lascher) may go off to fight in Vietnam.
After the war, many Holocaust survivors returned to normal lives. Marriage, kids, jobs, etc. But the trauma, both physical and emotional that they experienced never left them. What I really appreciate about this movie is not only the normal relationships between the main characters, but also how resilient they are in spite of everything that they experienced.
I recommend it.
2017 is nearly up. Surprisingly, it was a good year for the movies. Below, without further a due, is my top ten list of movies that premiered in 2017.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The next chapter in the ongoing saga of the rebellion against the empire was nothing short of perfection.
- The Post: The story of the revelation of The Pentagon Papers is as relevant today as it was in 1971.
- Beauty And The Beast/The Shape Of Water: Both the live action adaptation of the 1991 animated Beauty And The Beast and The Shape Of Water proves once more that love wins over hate and only through tolerance and respect of others, can we create the world we wish to have.
- Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman is sure to win multiple awards playing Winston Churchill, who must decide to negotiate with Germany or go to war.
- Lady Macbeth: In 19th century England, a young lady is forced into marriage and has an affair with one of the estate workers.
- Lady Bird: A gripping and realistic coming of age story set in Sacramento in the early 2000’s.
- Thor: Ragnarok: When Thor’s previously unknown sister Hela returns to Asgard, he must save his land and his people from his sister.
- Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman finally receives a proper film adaptation. Starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, this film, well is, a wonder.
- The Lovers: Tracey Letts and Debra Winger play a married couple who are openly seeing other people, but somehow find the spark has returned to their marriage.
- Battle Of The Sexes: The true story of the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King is as much a story about tennis as it is about feminism.
- The Big Sick: This unconventional romantic comedy hit both the comedy gut and the heart.
- The Women’s Balcony: When a new Rabbi takes over an Orthodox temple in Jerusalem, the women stage a coup to get their husbands and their temple back.
History has an interesting way of intersecting with our personal lives.
In the 1992 television miniseries Jewels, (based on the novel of the same name by Danielle Steele), Sarah Thompson (Annette O’Toole) is an American woman who marries William Whitfield (Anthony Andrews), a British Duke at the beginning of World War II. They settle in France, not knowing that war is coming. The war throws a chink (as it did for everyone in that period) into their lives. After the war is over, the family opens a Jewelry store that is a success, but conflict arises, as it often does. Will the family and the store survive or will both cave into the pressure that is building within and without?
Danielle Steele, as a writer, is known for a certain type of narrative. I rarely if ever read her novels, so this review is strictly based on the television adaptation and not the novel. What I like about the story and the character that exist within this story is that it is a very human story. I also appreciate that real historical events have a hand in shaping the lives of the characters.
Do I recommend it? Probably.
*On an unrelated note, this will be my last Throwback Thursday/Flashback Friday post for 2017. Look for my new reviews coming in 2018.
In the darkness of The Holocaust, there are few lights that still stand out against that darkness. One of the brightest is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The 2001 television movie, Uprising, is the story of the fight by the ghetto’s inhabitants against their oppressors. Starring David Schwimmer, Hank Azaria and Leelee Sobieski, the narrative tells the story of how Jews, crammed into the old slum of Warsaw, fought back against the Nazis for a month in 1943.
I think that this movie is important to watch. It’s important because not only does it dispel the myth that Europe’s Jews were mere lambs to the Nazi slaughter, it also is the story of how a small band of people can fight against tyranny, prejudice and murder.
I absolutely recommend it.