Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Light of Days A Book Review

 


The Light of Days

By:

  Judy Batalion

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton

The Light of Days is a harrowing and tortuous journey through Poland under the body and soul crushing acts of vicious Nazi aggression experienced by courageous Jewish women who creatively energized Jewish resistance with presence, weapons, and nourishment. Some were destroyed. Some survived.

My interest in World War II stems from the stories my parents told of surviving the Nazi blitz of London. Since then, I have read various accounts of the bloody global war. And my wife and I have visited World War II and Holocaust Museums around the world as we learned about the Holocaust. The Light of Days stands out from the rest because it is about the role of women in the Jewish resistance-- a subject about which I had little knowledge.

I found the book difficult to read for more than one reason. Despite previous reading about the horror of the Nazi doctors and the brutality of the Nazi invaders, I was still stunned by the incredible pain and humiliation inflicted upon the Jews in these stories. Of lesser importance yet still a factor, is the difficulty in keeping track of people with unfamiliar names operating in unfamiliar territory. For readers unfamiliar with Polish, I suggest keeping a bookmark near the front of the work where the characters are briefly described and you can track the Polish cities on a small map.

After working through some of the early background stories and appreciating the work of different resistance groups, the story moves toward the powerful Warsaw uprising followed by other victories, imprisonments with brutal tortures, and bold escapes. We are invited to mourn the loss of those brave women who did not survive and glimpse the struggles of those who endured the war  but struggled to survive survival.

I recommend this work to anyone interested in the Holocaust, World War II, and the role of women in resisting the Nazis.

 

Reference

Batalion,J. (2020). The light of days: The untold story of women resistance fighters in Hitler’s ghettos. New York: HarperCollins. 


Available on   AMAZON.

 

Related Book Reviews

 

The Choice: Embrace the Possible  (Holocaust Survivor)

Inheritance A Legacy of Hatred and the Journey to Change It

The Sunflower On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness


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Links to my World War II posts – places and museums

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

American St Nick- Film Review


The American St Nick




   The Men Who Restored Christmas


A great Christmas story combines warmth, kindness, generosity, traditions, and a memorable event—especially one that brings hope against the backdrop of an evil empire. A true story describing how a few soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division restored Christmas for the children of Wiltz, Luxembourg ranks with the best.

In late 1944, the allies had the German soldiers on the run. By December, some men were sent to Wiltz, Luxembourg for a much needed break. The townsfolk were grateful for the liberation from five years of Nazi rule including the ban on their Christmas tradition. This year they planned to restore the celebration of Saint Nicolas (Klees’chen) on 6 December but they were at a loss for gifts and treats.

Jewish Corporal Harry Stutz meets with the local priest, Father Wolffe, and other town leaders to see what could be done. He then plans a party with help from fellow soldiers who cook doughnuts and gather donations of sweets and items sent to soldiers from family and friends. Finally, he turns to friend Corporal Richard Brookins to play the role of Saint Nicholas. A bit reluctant at first, Brookins agrees then dons the priest’s garb, a worn rope beard, and a broken staff. After a sleigh ride via Army Jeep through town, the children and their families join the soldiers at Wiltz Castle.

Alas the war was not over. The Germans initiated a final resistance effort (Battle of the Bulge). Allied bombers responded and many in Wiltz lost their lives along with much of their town.

But after the war, the joy and hope of that special day was remembered. The celebration of 1944 was recounted far and wide. After some effort, connections were made with Corporal Brookins and some others. They returned to a warm welcome by the children who never forgot. 

Last year (2014) 94-year-old Richard Brookins joined in a re-enactment—riding again in a jeep as he had 70 years ago.

I saw the story on PBS presented as The American St. Nick. There is also a book by Peter Lion, which I haven’t read. Here’s a link to more on the story at the WW II Foundation.

Resources at WW II Foundation

The Book on AMAZON


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Unbroken-Survival Resilience and Redemption- A Book Review

 UNBROKEN

A World War II Story

of Survival, Resilience,  

and Redemption

By

   Laura Hillenbrand

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

Unbroken is the true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived the crash of his plane in the Pacific Ocean and endured severe abuse at the club wielding hands of his captors.

Hillenbrand provides key elements of Louis biography. He was in trouble with the law as a youth but became a track star in High School. Eventually, he was chosen to be on the 1936 US Olympic Team, which competed in Berlin. A few years later, Louie enlisted in the military.

Zamperini became an airman. On a mission in 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific. He and two other men floated on a raft for 47 days punctuated by severe thirst and starvation, sharks aboard the raft, Japanese machine-gun fire, and even a typhoon. 

They were captured by Japanese and sent to a POW camp where they were severely tormented until he was near death by the time the war ended. His particular ordeal was the extreme pain and anguish inflicted by a man called "The Bird."

Sadly, Louis Zamperini was only physically liberated. He would now have to endure psychological torture now known as PTSD. Hellish dreams destroyed his nights. He was filled with rage, hatred, and thoughts of revenge. And he drank too much. 

Louis Zamperini's life was transformed in a classic conversion story. He found peace, let go of his anger, and lost motivation to seek revenge. Instead, he returned to the nation that tortured him in 1950. Naturally, he thought about the one man most responsible for the extreme brutality and haunting post-war suffering. The arch tormentor, The Bird, was not there. It was at this time that Louis felt a sense of compassion and realised he had forgiven his enemy.

I recommend this book for several reasons. Hillenbrand is an excellent writer who documents her research in copious end-of-book notes. My parents survived World War II in London so I am used to learning about death and destruction as well as miraculous survivors, but Louis' story overwhelms me with respect for this man's life-- his courage, bravery, and resilience are extreme. And the story of forgiveness and redemption inspire even now as I write this review.

As a psychologist, I am well acquainted with soldiers and civilians who have struggled with PTSD. I have studied forgiveness and religious conversions. The story of Louis Zamperini offers a case study that rings true and offers hope that others may also experience post-traumatic growth and a transformed life.

Unbroken on AMAZON

To read more about Forgiveness, see FORGIVENESS and RECONCILIATION

Key Words: World War II, POW, Survival, Resilience, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Growth, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Spiritual Conversion

Reference

Hillenbrand, L. (2010). Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House.

Unbroken has been made into a movie (2014) directed by Angelina Jolie. Here is a link to the YouTube trailer.



Here is a link to Zamperini's story of conversion.


At age 81, Louis Zamperini carried the Olympic Torch.






Monday, April 6, 2020

A Woman of No Importance Review by Sutton


A Woman of No    

Importance

By

    Sonia Purnell

Reviewed by

    Geoffrey W. Sutton

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

A woman of no importance is more than just another spy story. Virginia Hall was a true hero who battled men’s prejudice against female warriors as she simultaneously took on the Nazi occupiers of France by organizing resistance fighters and sending vital intelligence to British and American intelligence planners in London during World a War II. Her contributions were recognized much later than were her male peers as cultures in the UK and USA gradually changed to appreciate women. 

Fortunately the book not only gives Virginia a voice but it educates us about the horrors of war and the importance of small hidden  acts of courage that support the more visible efforts of armed forces. 

Virginia Hall's contribution to America does not end with World War II. She joined the newly formed CIA and was assigned to a variety of tasks--many below her level of expertise.

The book is well written and the author clearly appreciates her hero. She shares some of the leaders weak points but even these are often viewed from a generous perspective. 

Like the hero herself, the author does not draw much attention to Virginia’s prosthetic leg. We learn enough to realize this was one extra challenge to overcome especially since the progress in prostheses over the last 75 years. 

Adding to the burden of prejudice and war are the heavy gear and limited functionality of low tech communication equipment of the 1940s. It’s truly a story of courage, determination, accomplishment, and dedication that would make anyone proud to have been part of her winning team.

Virginia Hall born 6 April 1906 in Baltimore Maryland, died 8 July 1982, Rockville, Maryland USA. You may also like the CIA story.

Reference

Purnell, S. (2019). A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. New York: Viking.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp


Ravensbrück: Life and Death
 in Hitler’s Concentration Camp     

by Sarah Helm

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton, Ph.D.



Ravensbrück offers an organized collection of women’s voices documenting the diverse ways individuals and tribal groups of European women responded to Nazi enslavement, violence, and murder.

The collection of stories is organized chronologically. But themes emerge because policies and war events change.  Changes in policy sometimes mean changes in leaders. But changes in policy also reflect changes in the war, which in turn, result in changes in the size and character of the camp’s victims.

We have heard stories of the brutality of Nazi leaders in the death camps focused on the extermination of Jews. But at Ravensbrück we learn that Nazis, governed by superiority myths and emboldened by conquest, systematically destroyed the lives of European women after extracting every ounce of strength as they labored for the Reich on the trail toward oblivion.

Survival was not a result of imbuing constant pain with meaning but rather that curious mix of physicality with willpower, connectedness, and copious amounts of chance events mediated by the capricious death merchants that simply didn’t get to a group before the predatory liberators added rape to the memories of those who lived beyond the Nazi surrender.

We get considerable detail about life in the camp for women assigned to different tasks mostly in support of the war. We also get an insiders’ look at their ever-deteriorating starvation rations, limited sleeping space, tortuous inspections, and constant intimidation.

When there are different perspectives, we get more than one quote to help discover the way horror deferentially impacted these women.

We learn of prisoners as guards promoted to carry out crimes against their fellow prisoners. We learn lessons of plunder, methods of violence, and bizarre biological procedures. We see how creative humans can be when they think of ways to make others suffer before removing the last breath from their bodies.

Here and there we learn of small acts of kindness. We see that some bravely find ways to communicate their horror to the outside world, hoping that someone somewhere will hear their cry. We feel disgusted by the impotence of the Red Cross and cheer when the Swedes find ways to bring about a dramatic rescue in the face of orders to hide all evidence, including people who are barely alive.

Then we cheer when the Russian liberators arrive. We see the caring response of hardened soldiers faced with the emaciated remnants of Nazi terror. But then a wave of disgust arises as these liberators become sexual predators attacking vulnerable prey like wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Ravensbrück is not for the faint of heart, but it is an important read to understand the lack of boundaries when it comes to violence against women.

NotesRavensbrück was liberated 30 April 1945. The number of deaths is unknown. Reports range from 30,000 to 90,000 died or killed.

Related Posts




Reference

Helm, S. (2016). Ravensbrück: Life and death in Hitler’s concentration camp. New York: Penguin Random House.


Connections

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Publications (many free downloads)
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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Inheritance A Legacy of Hatred and the Journey to Change It Book Review


Inheritance
A Legacy of Hatred and the
Journey to Change It

By James Moll, Director

This 2006 documentary tells the story of two women with very different “inheritances” from Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow Concentration Camp in Poland. Goeth was known for his brutal murders of thousands of Jews.

Monika Hertwig is the daughter of Amon Goeth and Ruth Kalder. She gradually learned bits and pieces about her father’s horrific treatment of the Jews. It would be a mistake to overlook the role of her mother who had an affair with Goeth and a troubled relationship with Monika. The Spielberg film, Schindler’s List (1993), appears at a pivotal moment in Monika’s efforts to come to grips with her family history and her own identity.

Monika learns of a Jew, Helen Jonas-Rosenweig, who was a kitchen slave in her father’s manor house. Helen survived the holocaust with assistance from Oskar Schindler, whom she describes as a different kind of Nazi. Helen is in the United States and responds to Monika’s request to meet. A powerful emotional meeting makes the documentary a memorable experience unlike other holocaust stories.

The focus of the film is on Monika. However, we also learn the now familiar story of so many lost lives during the holocaust. In addition to the death of family members, Goeth shot Helen’s boyfriend. She eventually married a survivor but tragically lost him to suicide.

I recommend this film for its portrayal of real people trying to live in the present and achieve some sort of reconciliation with their past. The impact of one man’s evil on just these two people after some 60 years is incredible without considering the thousands of other lives he destroyed.

I watched the film streamed from Amazon prime.

The film is 75 minutes and was released on DVD 6 January 2009



Connections

My Page    www.suttong.com

My Books  
 AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE

FACEBOOK  
 Geoff W. Sutton

TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

LinkedIN Geoffrey Sutton  PhD

Publications (many free downloads)
     
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)
     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)



Saturday, March 26, 2016

PTSD and recovery come alive in Railway Man




The Railway Man

By Eric Lomax

Reviewed by
Geoffrey W. Sutton




The Railway Man is an emotionally powerful film based on the true story of Eric Lomax. Eric (Colin Firth) meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) on a train. We’re on a quick romantic journey to marriage but soon discover Eric’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is linked to brutal torture as a POW. The severe PTSD symptoms threaten to destroy his relationship along with his life.

We’re in a time shuffle from the relationship and early marriage in the 1980s to WWII.

Lomax was a British officer sent to railway work as a slave of the Japanese when Singapore fell in 1942. After his marriage, Eric discovers one of his Japanese torturers, Nagase, is alive. Now the gut-wrenching inner struggle takes place on a larger stage. The war is not over for either man. Rather than reveal the dramatic and unpredictable conclusion, I’ll stop with the story-telling.




Clinicians like me have seen many people with PTSD. The portrayal of Eric’s struggle is incredibly moving. Denial followed by torment, anger, and anxiety is palpable as is Eric’s drive to survive rather than succumb.

What can be learned
 The ability of humans to inflict long-lasting pain worse than death on others
  • The torment of PTSD experienced by soldiers and their loved ones
  • Glimpses of how some survive torture, albeit at a high price
  • What revenge, remorse, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness might look like


Notes

The Railway Man is based on Eric Lomax’ memoir. I have not read the book but understand from summaries that the film is close to the story except for some aspects of the ending.

I'd rate the film 4 of 5 stars. The only negative for me was the awkward shuffling between the present and the past. I also wanted to know more about Eric's wife but that may have been too much for a standard screen time.

Cite this blog post

Sutton, G. W. (2016, March 30). The railway man. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
http://suttonreviews.suttong.com/2016/03/ptsd-and-recovery-come-alive-in-railway.html 



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