Even before WW II came to a close the United States was already preparing to admit Nazis into the country. The horror, of course, is that even though the practice lasted for years beyond the war’s conclusion, Jews who had survived the devastation were still isolated in concentration camps and camps for displaced persons. Palestine, the U.K., and the U.S. forbid their entry. Unfortunately, Lichtblau is so blinded by his outrage that he fails to paint a larger picture. He never explains why American leaders were so obsessed by their anti-Communism that they felt it essential to employ every possible weapon at their disposal to stave off the Russians. Those weapons included nuclear warheads, proxy wars around the globe, spies of every type, dirty tricks, and the drafting of former Nazis (before the Russians could draft the same ones) to develop even more aggressive tactics. Rather than feeling unabated anger over American cohabitation with arch enemies, I was left wanting to know more about the anti-Communist mania that overtook the country. It does not help that Lichtblau considers every Nazi party member to have been a mass killer. No doubt, some were integral parts of the Nazi killing machine, but not every party member is a full supporter of every policy any more than every American who voted for Bush or paid her taxes or worked in his government, say a lifelong Republican worked in the Department of Commerce for 18 years, thought that America’s demolition of Iraq was a wise plan.
Sarah Waldman’s grandfather escaped the Nazi Aunchshloss in Austria by the skin of his teeth. He settled in America, opened a successful medical practice, and lived a life of joy and optimism. In his closet, discovered only after his death, are the letters of his true love, Valy, left behind in Vienna and Berlin. As the jaws of the Nazi vice slowly draw closer together around Valy’s diminishing life her letters to America become increasingly desperate, personal, and ultimately heartbreaking. By searching for Valy’s story, the history of one woman whose trail leads into the maw of the Shoah, Waldman answers one of the most difficult questions asked of Jews. Why did Jews let the Nazis do this to them? Here we see how it happened to Valy who stayed behind to be with her mother when even in 1938 things seemed like they could not get so bad that abandoning a country, a livelihood and the only family you still had was the only means of saving any member of your family. Because we read this book knowing the outcome and that those Jews still in Europe could never know what was yet to come we are even more chilled as Nazi restrictions build one upon another. And then the really unanswerable question comes to the fore. How could Nazis week after week conceive of new methods of torture: forbidding Jews to shop, ride a bus, congregate, appear in public, live in their own homes, work, live?
Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger, abandoned, nine-year-old daughter of a communist, who escapes death’s grasp during WWII in the German city of Molching. She survives in a foster home with German parents who also hide a Jewish boxing champ in the basement. The book made me sympathize with Germans who were not Nazis, a distinction I don’t usually make when considering German responsibility for the Holocaust. Zusak’s book is original and creative. It won the Book Sense of the Year Children’s Literature Award, but it is a lot more than a children’s book. May 2007.
A slow, intelligent, patient novel I listened to on tape about how three generations of Germans relate to Nazis. The central theme is the sinking of an ocean liner in which nearly 10,000 people lost their lives making it one of the greatest ocean catastrophes of all times. There’s a Stalinist grandmother who lived in East Germany, her liberal, apologist, knee-jerk anti-Nazi son, and his neo-Nazi son. I skipped one of the five tapes by accident and that may have helped prevent the story from becoming too tedious.
Published originally in 1947 in postwar Germany and only translated into English in 2009 this is a fictional recounting of a true story: a Berlin factory worker decides to take on the Fuhrer. The book reads more like a long newspaper article – characters are flat, the plot is dispensed with in the first few pages, and the author focuses on the facts rather than the conventions of a novel – but the story is oddly compelling. A German citizen actively opposed to the Nazis! described by an author who was once the toast of German literary society. After having one of his pre-war books turned into a movie by a Jew, however, he spent years in Nazi jails. December 2009.
A too carefully crafted book of remembering and forgetting. A 30-something daughter of an Italian immigrant father with Alzheimer’s returns to Urbina, Italy to discover herself, a cousin, a sexy, 30-something Italian lawyer, and her father’s secret encounters with the Nazis. In contrast to great literature Inheritance feels like an over-extended short story, or the formula for writing a novel. All the appropriate components are present, but the book lacks vitality. February 2008.
One of my absolute favorite books about the Warsaw ghetto uprising. A real page turner with wonderful characterizations.
Ostensibly a yound adult book, but like all of Konigsburg’s works, her protagonists may be young adults, but her themes are fully matured. Man, can she write, too. In this short mystery a 12-year-old Jewish boy uncovers a drawing by Modigliani that is almost certainly a piece of art looted by the Nazis. It appears under questionable circumstances in the home of a retired opera star. The question is how did the diva come by the drawing and why did the Nazis persecute Jews, gays, and gypsies to acquire it. November 2008.
It was surprisingly bad. I learned a fair amount about the Nuremberg trials after WWII, but was shocked by how trivial the plot was and how uninspiring the writing was. I expected more.
Enigmatic. I went back and forth between thinking the three short stories were too simple, too typical, not completely unique recountings of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and Pogroms and Russian Revolution and being totally captivated.