This book is perfect for those readers who want an intelligent thought-provoking book filled with action, form the first page to the last. It is fille...moreThis book is perfect for those readers who want an intelligent thought-provoking book filled with action, form the first page to the last. It is filled with twists and turns and dead ends. What you think you understand, well you probably don't. You will by the end. If you love the ride of such an adventure I highly recommend this book.
The central theme, other than simply figuring out what was going on, is: what role would YOU have played if you were a German during WW2? Would YOU have the guts to work in the Resistance? That is not an easy question. Who do you sacrifice? Don't think valor is loaded all on one side. Whom do you hurt?
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Suzanne Bertish. Her reading was forceful and given the tempo and style of the book this is perfect. I was a bit annoyed as she insisted on pronouncing the words Patent Office ad "pay-tent office".
So why only three stars? I found annoying incongruities that made no sense to me: a man's belt is not large enough tie up a suitcase with. I know this is petty, but why write that? Secondly, the main characters are all aberrant each in their own way. The author has collected quite a group. I cannot name one "ordinary person" among any of the central characters. There is a pronounced fixation on strange sexual behavior. Supposedly all the men are gone from Berlin but one woman still has three lovers. Where does she get all her energy? Food is rationed. The cinema antics aren't all that believable, but titillating for sure. What occurs in the cinema could happen but what are the chances everything would play out in this manner? To put it simply, the characters are a bit hard to believe in, maybe not one at a time, but as a group.
Another major complaint I have is that there is little to explain why the Germans who were silent, who obediently did as they were told, acted as they did. True, if you don't, you lose your job. That IS in the book, but there is no history, no discussion of the fact that after WW1, inflation was rampant in Germany, there were no jobs and that the common man just wanted some food and law and order and JOBS. So although I too despised those who did as they were told and "followed the rules", as all good Germans should do, I would have liked more depth, something that illustrated why these people behaved as they did. That none of this is pointed out makes them look worse than they really were, and I don't like that.
This book is an exciting mystery story. One thing follows another, so you have to hold on tight. Characters surprise you. There is sex, but heck any adult can read this. And you can stop and think what would YOU have done!
May I recommend too other books about German life during the war?
Having recently completed Ali and Nino: A Love Story and having given it 5 stars, I wanted to know more about the author. The author Lev Nussimbaum, b...moreHaving recently completed Ali and Nino: A Love Story and having given it 5 stars, I wanted to know more about the author. The author Lev Nussimbaum, born a Jew, used the pen name Kurban Said. Actually both this book and The Girl from the Golden Horn were registered under the author Elfriede Ehrenfels in the German Nazi document Deutscher Gesamkatalog for the years 1935-1939! Who was this guy?! Why all the different names? He left Judaism and converted to the Islamic faith. This was not motivated by the persecution of Jews under Hitler. He converted earlier. What motivated him? What life experiences formed him? You get all of this in this biography which is carefully researched by Tom Reiss. Basically Lev Nussimbaum continually reinvented himself, even when he was dieing at 36 years of age from Raynaud's disease.
However, this book is more centered on political science than this one man's life. Definitely more than half of this book is about political movements and history. I found the parts about Lev's youth in Baku, Azerbaijan, after the early exploitation of oil, the most colorful and wonderful. I had a harder time following the political topics. The more you know the easier it is to follow such topics. I have alot to learn. This book definitely taught me tons. You learn about how the Russian Revolution played out in the Caucasus, about the growth of fascism and communism and the effects this had on the people living not only in Europe but also Asia and the Near East. I knew little about Jewish Orientalists. Although I have studied the philosopher Buber, he and others like him were hoping that that Zionism would promote the oriental Jewish cause rather than just European Judaic problems. These issues affected who Lev Nussimbaum was as a person. He wrote 14 non-fiction books on political issues, one being a biography about Mussolini. He livesd 1905-1942. Born in Baku to a wealthy oil baron he escaped during the Russian Revolution via boat and camels to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey and Italy. He lived in Germany and Austria. He had to escape again from the claws of Hitler. How? Well most often, by reinventing himself - over and over again! He lived in the thick of the Russian and European turmoil. For this reason history was a real part os what shaped him. To understand him you have to understand the history of his time. A fascinating life! The book never dragged, but at times it was very difficult to follow all the political twists and turns.
I have two complaints. There is no map in the book and SOMETIMES I think Tom Reiss goes too far in trying to pinpoint WHY Lev did what he did. Sometimes a thorough analysis of a painting just goes too far. Let it be. Let the readers draw their own conclusions. (less)
I highly recommend this book. What it does in an exemplary fashion is show the reader who George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were. You learn not only of the...moreI highly recommend this book. What it does in an exemplary fashion is show the reader who George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were. You learn not only of their actions, but also of there varying temperaments. This is a biography, not a dry history book. It is well researched, and will be fascinating to those of you who want to look at the personalities of these three cousins. At the same time you will come to understand why WW1 occurred; why in fact it was practically inevitable. Political disputes and family disputes are intertwined. I loved learning about Queen Victoria, the three cousins' grandmother. This book whets the readers' interest in numerous other historical figures too, such as Queen Victoria, Bismarck and Vicky, Wilhelm's mother. If you have not read about the Archduke Franz Ferdinand you will need to read other books that focus on him! (I liked The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World. You simply cannot find just one book about all of the people and events leading to WW1!)
The book is well researched. It is filled with many, many quotes that reveal the idiosyncrasies of each character. They are not cardboard figures. The beginning of the book starts with three chapters, each respectively about the childhood of the three cousins. As adults their interactions and others' roles are detailed. The political climate is carefully depicted. What was happening in not only the Balkans but also Africa, Japan and China. Of course, Great Britain under Queen Victoria and her offspring, Russia under Alexander II and III and Germany - all of this is covered. The historical facts are interwoven with family celebrations, marriages, birthdays, shared summers together and deaths. As in any family there are disputes and happy memories. Jealousies, competition and family quirks.This is a book about political and familial tensions. The book covers the time-period from the middle of the 1800s through the war and after the war until each of the cousins' deaths. What happened to Kaiser Wilhelm after the war? It is all here. Of course the Russian Revolution too, Nicholas' abdication and his family's death, Rasputin and Alexi's hemophilia.
I didn't love the book as much in the end as I did in the beginning. Why? I am not quite sure. Maybe it is because I listened to it rather than read it? Let me explain. The narrator, Rosalyn Landor, used one theatrical voice, a gruff "British" male voice, for all the different men. For me, I associated this voice with Wilhelm, but in fact she used exactly the same intonation for all of the quotes voiced by men. I became confused and unsure who was speaking. Is this George or Wilhelm or Nicholas, or in fact somebody else? WHO is talking now? I would have to rewind. (And why did I always assume that it was Wilhelm speaking; he is German!) Usually, I try and rate the written book, but here the narration caused me confusion and affected my appreciation of that written. For this reason it has influenced my rating. The confusion doesn't happen in the beginning of the book; the reader knows exactly who the author is speaking of. I wish Landor had just read the book without adding a theatrical presentation. If she wanted to dramatize the voices she should have used different intonations for the three cousins.
I have only read two chapters, but am impressed and totally captivated. The first was on Wilhelm's youth, the second on George's and now comes Nicholas'. You really feel like you get to know the families of these three cousins. I love learning about Queen Victoria, their grandmother. The author makes their lives interesting and fills the book with interesting facts. There is a lot to learn here. I am even tempted to start over again to hammer into my head more of the details. I do believe that one's personality is largely influenced by childhood experiences. How did these three leaders, (King, Czar and Kaiser) come to be shaped? This author presents the facts in such a manner that the reader wants to know more and more and more and is interested in what is presented; in other words the text is not dry even though it is chock-full with facts.
NO SPOILERS!!! The little I tell you is not enough to spoil the book! I am just giving you enough to taste it.
I have finished the book. It will get fo...moreNO SPOILERS!!! The little I tell you is not enough to spoil the book! I am just giving you enough to taste it.
I have finished the book. It will get four stars. It concludes with an intimate analysis of how many Germans felt before, during and after WW2.You have come to know the members of the family. It is thourgh these people whom you know that you come to understand how and why Germans responded differerntly to the end of the war. Some with guilt and shame. Some with anger. Some with pure relief. Some in fact with hope! I like that the opposing points of views are portrayed through the family members. By the end of the book you know who they are, you know what each has experienced and so you do understand how they can emerge from their common experiences differently. If you want to understand WW2 from the German perspective, read this book. Get this edition which has marvellous pictures. They really do enrich the reading experience.
I was going to give you more excerpts to demonstrate how well the historical events are tied into personal events, but I am too lazy.
Please read my thoughts below if you are curious about the author's style of writing and the themes focused upon in the beginning of the book.
Through 93 pages: Why is everyone reading Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin when you could choose this instead? This is a memoir about the author's childhood in Berchtesgaden, Germany. This is a small village next door to Obersalzberg where Hitler had his retreat. The area is in southern Germany, Bavaria to be exact. One easily walked between their home and Hitlers retreat. Hitler's presence was a given. They in fact fel.t safe, guarded by Hitler's SS. She sat on Hitler's lap when she was three. Look at the cover of the book. That is the author with the white blonde hair happily prouncing the "Heil Hitler" greeting. Look at the sparkle in her eyes. It does make you shiver the contrast between her youthful happiness and what the greeting represents. This book is about the author's youth, about her parents and her grandparents. It is about why the Germans brought into power Hitler. It is important to understand so such does not happen again. So why read Larson's when you have this true story abut a German family which shows why they voted for Hitler and why they made the choices they made. No, the theme is not about Dodd, but it is about what lead up to Hitler's reign and what follwed for the German people after the war. You see all of this from a German point of view. I always get a bit annoyed when one book gets all the acclaim and others, with authors perhaps less well-known, are not brought to attention.
However a book must be properly composed if it is to get acclaim, and this is. The book should have maps andpictures if it is based on fact. This book has maps that in fact show all the towns and places mentioned in the text. The map is actulally readable. Bad maps are more annoying sometimes than no maps. The maps are excellent here. They show regions that no longer exist, for example Pomerania. And this book has lots of pictures. Pictures of cities and people and marriage registration booklets, of wedding portraits. Pictures of Hitler and his retreat. I really enjoy seeing the pictures. You see Irmgard with her sister Ingrid playing in a sandbox, actually a grocer's crate filled with sand from a mountain stream. A sandbox that IS a box of sand. And the kids are so cute. Just through the pictures you get a peephole into thier lives.
Then of course the text must be good, for a book to be good. the story must be clear, engaging and interesting, not filled with dry facts of no interest. A book must be properly edited. I like the choice of facts included in the text. I want to know why the Gerlmans thought Hitler was their answer to progress. The author's grandparents and parents lived through WW1, the German defeat, the inflation of the 1920s, and then to top it all of the Depression hit them too. "By November 15, 1923, the high point of the infaltion, one US dollar equaled 4;200,000,000,000 reichsmarks." (page 22) When Irmgard parents worked they had to rush out at lunch and buy some food or else their money would not be enough by the end of the day for a loaf of bread and drink. The Germans sought someone to make them proud again of being German. A leader who would create jobs and salaries that brought food home to the tables. All of this is described through Irmgard's parents and granparent life events. You see why her parents adored Hitler and saw him as a leader toward a better future.
the book also shows you through the author's life how she felt growing up during the first years of Hitler's chancellorship. Irmgard's parents were married in 1933. Irmgard was born May 28, 1934. Her older sister was born three years later in 1937. And of course she was named Ingrid. Ingrid was one of the popular German names designated by Hitler. Here follows a quote about Irmgard's first year and the firt time she was confronted with growing anti-Semitism, although she was too young to recognize it for what it was:
Among the little boys and girls who came to play with me was Ruth Ungerer/ She had been born a week before me in a house up the road, even though I had been expected first. The two young mothers competed fiercely over the babies development, comparing the first smile, first word, first steps, and progress of potty training. Ruthchen (little Ruthy) had a headful of hair from the day she was born, whereas I, mch to Mutti's concern, had none until I was a year old. Rutchen was a constant presence in my very early life, so I was amazed when Mutti told me one day that Ruthchen was no longer Ruth but Ingrid - one of the most favored German names. "Ruth is a Jewish name," Mutti explained without obvious malice in her voice "and with her father joining the border police (he had been a barber) it is better for her not to have a Jewish name." I had no idea what Jewish was, but it could not be good if you had to give up your name because of it. The Ungerer family was moved to Austria quickly, making it impossible for me to remember my playmate by any other name than Ruthchen until we met again. (page 55)
What you learn is how it was to be a German child in Germany at this time. She was baptized as a Lutheran. She saw how her parents idolized Hitler. She also saw how her mother's parents, particularly her maternal grandfather, abhored Hitler. This was fought out within the family. It did happen that a hole was ounched through a wall when disagreements became overheated. You see her questioning the adults around her. Not all Germans agreed that Hitler was their saviour. You also learn how Hitler changed the holidays, names, festivals, religions... You name it. He made changes in everything, even down to what Christmas cookies should be baked and how Santa Claus dressed and when he came with presents. A good book must make the story interesting. This one does.
ETA: I would like to discuss this book with others who have read it. Please see message four below.
I cannot say I liked the ending...moreETA: I would like to discuss this book with others who have read it. Please see message four below.
I cannot say I liked the ending, but hey this is not fiction! I would recommend this book to those interested in WW2 memoirs and those who do not get upset when they read about infidelity! I would avoid the audiobook narrated by the author. The melodramatic tone piled on top of emotional, melodramatic lines is sometimes hard to swallow. If this sounds like I did not like this book, then you have misunderstood me! The war experiences of Jews living on the border between France and Germany is very well depicted. The émigrés’ life in Cuba and what happened after the war was interesting too. I very much liked the description of the different places where the family lived and travelled. While I found the history of this family interesting, I am not at all sure the author has correctly interpreted the ins and outs of the love story. In relation to the ending, the decisions made brought sorrow to others, and this is simply disregarded…..
In chapter 24:
I am fascinated with this strange family. All families are strange except those you know nothing about….. My prime question remains how the mother’s previous love affair can be so exalted. For me it was always imagined, better than it ever really was. Then the author’s father enters the scene. The first ten years of the marriage was fine, but then…..he makes no attempt to curb his infidelity. She counters with the stories of her previous love affair. I am mentioning this because if you cannot stomach a book that has as one of its central themes adultery, I would advise you to look elsewhere. I find it interesting. What has happened in this family to lead these individuals to behave as they do? Are people born with a particular character? Is it that the mother and father together created this problem? The father seemed to never be able to live up to the magnificence of his wife’s earlier star-crossed love affair! Who could? And yet he was a flirter from the moment they met! We all know people who have had extramarital love affairs. An understanding of why and how this happens is another theme of this book. My opinion? After the war, people wanted to enjoy life; they set their goals and went after them a little bit regardless of the consequences their actions would have on others. Competitiveness was the name of the game. I recognize all this from my youth, growing up in NY in the fifties. The book is interesting.
I have stated that the author both narrates and composes her lines melodramatically. Here is an excerpt so you can judge if you react as I do. She has gone back to the birthplace of her mother, Freiburg, Germany. She is returning for two reasons: to better understand her familial past and to write about the reconciliation of the Jews in Germany after the war.
At night, inside the brooding, lonely confines of my dark hotel room in the town’s historic center, my narrow bed became an oar-less raft on which I lay awake, unmoored, tossed through space and time. I fought against the undertow of two terrifying waves….. (chapter 24)
Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Love Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed is till engaging me. There are two primary topics: a Jewish holocaust story and a love relationship. The author narrates the book herself and this is to detriment of the story. Her German is fine, at least to my ears, but the French leaves something to be desired. Her voice along with the melodrama of some of the lines is really soap-operatic. And she slurs words occasionally so they become indecipherable.
I don't buy the daughter's, i.e. the author's, analysis of her mother's relationship with a previous suitor. The author draws this as a wonderful, glorious love story. For me, this love relationship is pitiful and an excuse for the author's mother's inability to become independent of her own parents. Absentee lovers are often idealized; the mother does this in spades. I keep screaming at her to open her eyes and look at Roland (the suitor) clearly. But she doesn't seem to hear me....... Her brother warned her and she wouldn't listen to him either. I am wondering if this love affair should have been kept private. Should such a family relationship be dredged up and turned into a WW2 holocaust memoir? Let me explain: the mother loves Roland, never marries him, but instead chooses another, an American, after she immigrates to the States. Then for the rest of her life she pines for Roland. When her American husband dies, the daughter/author brings the Roland and her mother together again. This is not a spoiler it is stated at the start of the book.
I did like the historical facts related to the family's WW2 experiences in Alsace, Unoccupied France and Germany. Cuba too! They are forced to spend years in Cuba before being allowed to enter the States. When I am reading these bits I actually love the book! Interesting facts and perceptive analyses of French and Cuban war decisions are related.
I have at least 1/3 left of the book. Now I fear I will be drowned in the melodramatic, selfish and self-pitying behavior of the love-stared mother. She is always blaming others or inconvenient circumstances for her own actions. OR is it in fact the daughter, the author of this book, who has misconstrued the past, her mother's behavior and motivations?
Writing this helped me let off a little steam. I bet this will end up with three stars. There are good things and bad things in this book. (less)
A good epic story with true to life characters. Also about the assimilation of Germans coming to the US after WW1, and how these families were affecte...moreA good epic story with true to life characters. Also about the assimilation of Germans coming to the US after WW1, and how these families were affected by WW2. (less)
I think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good aut...moreI think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good author’s hands can be worth reading. It is the ability of the author to make that subject comprehensible to readers that distinguishes a good author. We know now who the anonymous writer of these diaries was. Her name is Marta Hillers. The German writer Kurt Marek was responsible for the initial publication of the book in 1954, in the United States. The author was anonymous. Only later was it published in Germany. Only after her death in 2003 was it revealed who the writer was.
The book is based on the author’s diary accounts from the 20th of April to the 22nd of June 1945. It gives us a personal account of one woman’s experiences when the Red army occupied Berlin. Her story lets us understand what she and those around her experienced. What they lived through.
When I read this book I thought: I am being shown a world that I could never, ever imagine. It was beyond belief. The horror of it! Fear. Hunger. Being alone, completely alone. And it is hard to imagine that people can act as they do. It is important to read this book. We must acknowledge how people can behave. Yes, you and I can behave so deplorably too.
So then you will think, why should I read this? Why should I put myself through this? We must understand in our gut what has happened. A book like this makes us aware both in our head and in our stomach, both with clear thoughts and powerful emotions what another human being has experienced. And why is this important? It is important since it teaches us to not judge others. Before judging another you must put yourself in their shoes. This author has let us walk in her shoes. And the writing shows us how we human beings behave.
Yes, this book is about rape, but it is also about survival. It is about hunger too. The book begins with hunger and ends with hunger. How many of us reading this book has any real comprehension of being HUNGRY? Can we come to understand what we might do, what choices we might make if we were hungry as she was? You will understand her choices when you read this book. I will say it outright: in an effort to survive this woman realized that she needed to find a Russian that would provide her with food and safety. One’s chances of not being raped were minimal. If you are going to be raped anyway, why not make sure you get food in the bargain? By aligning yourself with a Russian of higher rank you could perhaps have him protect you from indiscriminate raping. But to understand the world she was living in you must read her words. When this book came out it was the women who were accused of bad behavior. The author was a survivor. I respect this woman. She was a journalist. She was well educated. She had traveled through Europe. She knew Russian. All of this is evident in her diary writing. She used her head and she survived. How can you look down on such a person? How can you criticize her if you have no idea what she has experienced?
You can only understand her choices by following her diary writings.
And the ending…. When her boyfriend comes back he doesn’t understand her actions. He too thinks she has degraded herself. We do not know if eventually they can bridge this incomprehension of what each has experienced in the war. I was so happy before her boyfriend came back. She had survived. I was so dam proud of her. I was crushed by his incomprehension. If he had read the book, he would maybe understand what she had gone through. If you read the book you will understand what she went through. If you read the book you will not judge others too quickly. I don’t think this book is terribly sad or depressing. I am so happy she survived. Dam, she is some strong woman, this author, Marta Hillers. She has let us see what happened to her. I admire her for surviving. I am so very glad she shared her experiences with us. I thoroughly understand her wish that the book have an anonymous author while she lived.
One does not read this book to find out if her boyfriend comes back. For this reason I do not think my telling you this is a “spoiler”. Only those of you wanting to understand another human being should bother to read this book. You have to want to get into their being. You have to want to become them in an effort to understand them and what they lived through.
There is a little boy at the end of the book who sees an old horse pulling a cart. He turns to his mother and says, “Mutti, can we eat the horse?” Earlier in the book another horse was still moving when he was cut into by hungry Berliners. Have you ever been that hungry? Do you have any idea how their world was? Do you want to understand their world? Read the book.
Be very careful before you judge another human being’s behavior.
I must add this. Although the subject matter is not light, the way the author expresses herself will make you smile. She calls herself the “automatic walking machine”, as she trudges to work….. This author can write. I wish I could copy parts of the book to show you, but I cannot use both Vocatex and Zoomtex at the same time. I need Vocatex to read the book and Zoomtex to write my review. When I am writing the review, I cannot read the book – so no quotes! This is so annoying to me. (less)