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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France
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ARCHIVED READS > 2012 - December - "A Train in Winter" by Caroline Moorehead

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message 1: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Dec 30, 2012 01:21PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments This book is open for a buddy read commencing 30th December 2012. Please join and discuss the book here:


A Train in Winter An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead by Caroline Moorehead
They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

"A Train in Winter" draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.



Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Since I'm new to this site and group let me know if there is something I'm doing incorrectly. I'm assuming we just start logging our thoughts?

I've completed chapters 1-4. The comment below will reflect my reactions of those chapters.

First, I think Moorehead does an excellent job in a couple of arenas. First, she does an incredible of setting the stage in the preface, giving the reader a good understanding of the breadth of this work. Secondly, the number of women included in this story is overwhelming. While there might be a danger in the reader losing track of the players, it is evident that Moorehead cares about the individual stories and takes her time to give their personal histories justice. I applaud that in Moorehead. I really appreciated the way in which she lays out her approach in writing this work. Thirdly, I don’t know if I ever thought about it, but I didn’t realize that the rhythm of the occupation. Moorehead shows how the first days of the occupation were calm and how this allowed time for the Resistance to organize and take root. This was a new insight for me. In my mind the organized Resistance was almost instantaneous. Funny, I had all the pieces to ascertain that myself, but it never crystalized until this read. Fourthly, I thought Moorehead does a good job of showing how the organized Resistance movement coalesces and becomes more aggressive over time. Finally, Moorehead adeptly relates the sacrifices these women had to make in order to participate. I have a hard time thinking about the decision they had to make with regards to their children.

The one critique I have at this juncture is the perspective is told almost solely, at least so far, from the Communist perspective. I whole-heartedly believe their story should be told because, with the onset of the Cold War, their role has often been diminished. What concerns me is that someone, with little back ground to rely on, reading this may come away thinking that the Resistance was mainly comprised of Communists. Moorehead does mention that there were others involved, but so far those stories have not been incorporated.

Favorite quotes:
“Somewhere, said de Gauelle, must shine and burn the flame of French Resistance” (pg 28)
“these early pamphlets and papers came from every class and every political ideology. Some extolled Catholicism and morality, others Marxism; others Tom Paine and the Rights of Man. All shared a conviction that to do nothing was wrong.” (pg 28)
“To be young and active in France in the 1930’s was to care passionately about politics” (pg 31)

A couple of final thoughts:
I read The Black Count earlier and was impressed with the progressive nature the early French Revolution took in granting equal rights to various classes of citizens. I couldn’t help but be struck at how sad it was to think of the Vichy government embracing the racist ideals of the Third Reich.
Reading always leaves with me a desire to study more about subjects brought forth in the work. I keep wanting to read more about Petain. I have only studied him within the context of other works. I’ve been reminded of that desire again. I’ve never seen the references to the use of Joan of Arc symbol. I have to admit I’ve never read much about Joan of Arc. I know her basic story. My interest has been piqued.
I was unaware of Petain’s accusation that the lack of French children was the cause of the 1940 defeat or the history of the legality of contraception after WWI.


message 3: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Jan 01, 2013 02:28PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Hi Regina, you can use this thread to discuss the book and your thoughts on the narrative in any way you feel like. If you are going to mention something that may give the story line away and you are ahead of other readers you can try and use the 'spoiler' function which is shown in the 'some html is ok' box to the right upper side of this comment box.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Hi Regina, you can use this thread to discuss the book and your thoughts on the narrative in any way you feel like. If you are going to mention something that may give the story line away and you a..."

Ok. Thank you!


message 5: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments I enjoyed your comments and thoughts so far on the book and I'm not even reading it :)


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I enjoyed your comments and thoughts so far on the book and I'm not even reading it :)"

That's funny. Thank you.


Christie | 336 comments Regina wrote: "Since I'm new to this site and group let me know if there is something I'm doing incorrectly. I'm assuming we just start logging our thoughts?

I've completed chapters 1-4. The comment below will..."



Regina,
I just completed chapter 4, so we are keeping a similar pace with the book. You have provided a great overview of these chapters and some great points were made. I will comment on your post and add my thoughts as I go, including passages that stood out to me.

I wanted to start by saying that I agree with your statement about the volume of women and men of the Resistance introduced in the first 4 chapters. At first I was quite overwhelmed with trying to keep them all straight and remember their individual story lines. What I found rewarding was that I just went back and reread the preface and I have gained and retained more about those men and women Moorehead introduced than I thought I had. That's a testament to her writing style and the dedication she has shown in telling their story in a way that has brought them to life.

The first four chapters do provide an excellent look into the mood and temperament of the Germans and how that changed from that of almost blending in during June of 1940 to more and more oppressive as time went by and the Resistance became more active and more combative. The description of the atmosphere in the beginning of chapter one was surprising to me, as I also thought that at the onset of occupation that the Germans were immediately oppressive. The Parisians were also surprised as relayed in the following passage:

"What surprised the Parisians, standing in little groups along the Champs-Elysees to watch the German soldiers take over their city in the early hours of 14 June 1940, was how youthful and healthy they looked. Tall, fair, clean shaven, the young men marching to the sounds of a military band to the Arc de Triomphe were observed to be wearing uniforms of good cloth and gleaming boots made of real leather. The coats of the horses pulling the cannons glowed. It seemed not an invasion but a spectacle. Paris itself was calm and almost totally silent. Other than the steady waves of tanks, motorised infantry and troops, nothing moved."
"And when they had stopped staring, the Parisians returned to their homes and waited to see what would happen. A spirit of holding on, doing nothing, watching, settled over the city."

This passage is a testament to the artistry and the spectacle of the German army in it's heyday. There is no denying that the soldiers were impeccably dressed and polished and were able to draw crowds just by the massive size and artistic spectacle of their marches and parades. Their rapid succession of victories gave them much to hold their heads high as they were feeling that they were invincible and the vision of a 1000 year Reich seemed entirely possible at this point in the war. In looking at those initial days of occupation now, after reading the first four chapters of the book, I realize that the manner in which they conducted themselves in the initial stages of occupation was actually quite smart. By coming in on their best behavior, respecting personal property and shortly lifting the curfew, this approach limited the mass hysteria and immediate revolt that was anticipated by Germans. I wasn't surprised though that there were those that committed suicide as soon as the Germans crossed into the city based on the horror stories from the invasion of Poland.

I haven't read much on the Vichy government that was formed, however I knew that Petain was quite a revolting leader. The more I'm reading about him the more I'm sickened as to the betrayal of his fellow countrymen and his alliance with the Nazis. I thought it was also interesting that the first signs of the resistance began to show when the ashes of Napoleon's son were returned from exile in Vienna and in the midst of all the fanfare there were posters up stating "Take back your little eagle, give us back our pigs."

It has been amazing to read about the lengths that especially the women went to in order to fight in the Resistance, even placing their children in foster homes. I can't imagine how difficult that decision must have been but it was a testament to how strongly they felt about not wanting their children to grow up under Nazi rule.

Another part of history discussed in the book that I was not familiar with was the number of people who helped the refugees from the Spanish Civil War. It has spawned a new interest to learn more about Franco and that war.

Great quote from Jean Texcier's Manual of Dignity:

"Husband your anger, for you may need it. Don't feel you have to give the Germans the right directions when they ask you the way; these are not your walking companions. And above all, 'have no illusions: these men are not tourists'."

How quickly things changed once June 22, 1941 brought the invasion of the Soviet Union. To your point, Regina, about the majority of the Resistance members being discussed as communists, I thought that it was unbelievable how those who were opponents of Hitler felt communists were considered pariahs. Then, overnight, those same people were no longer seen to be in league with the enemy now that the Nazi-Soviet pact was dissolved.

So far, the book has been very insightful, well written and in a style that keeps your attention and opens your mind to so many aspects of the war that are not as widely written about. Like you Regina, I see my reading subjects expanding to more and more new areas the more I read.


message 8: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments After you have finished this book you may both like to follow up on Petain with this book below. He was an interesting man and many of the offences and crimes he was charged with after the war were not all of his doing.


Pétain by Charles Williams by Charles Williams
Description:
Charles Williams' major biography of Philippe Petain (1856-1951) tells of a peasant who became a Marshal of France and the Head of the Vichy State. A slow climb up the army ranks was leading inexorably to retirement when war broke out. He defended Verdun in 1916 and settled the mutinies in 1917. In May 1940, he realised that France had been defeated and requested an armistice. As head of unoccupied France, he jockeyed between Nazis, Allies and Vichy politicians until, in 1945, he returned to France to be tried for treason. His death sentence was commuted by General de Gaulle to life imprisonment. In recounting Petain's long life, Lord Williams, one of our most notable political biographers, has successfully illustrated the character of an extraordinary man.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "Regina wrote: "Since I'm new to this site and group let me know if there is something I'm doing incorrectly. I'm assuming we just start logging our thoughts?

I've completed chapters 1-4. The com..."


I've been anxious for you to check in. I'm not feeling well. So, I'm going to make a couple of quick points and, hopefully, respond in more detail later.

First, you are on to a good strategy in returning to the preface. I hadn't thought about that, but Moorehouse so succinctly lays out the book that I can see how that helps.

Secondly, thanks for pointing out the irony in the scenario surrounding the return of Napoleon's son. I failed to zero in on that. But, that is filled with a lot of nuances that cannot be ignored.

Thirdly, you make some excellent point about the appearance of the Nazis as they march into France. I think the Nazis were on the forefront of something that is generally accepted today. Appearance means a lot. Without going to far into the weeds, I'm convinced our own political process, particularly since the 1960's, is nothing more than a popularity contest. The Nazis were cognizant of how important every detail was in exuding confidence.

Finally, I want to say that the Vichy government is, in my opinion, absolutely fascinating. Petain was considered a her of WWI. Then, he became such a puppet for Hitler. I have never been able to reconcile his reputation of WWI with his actions post-occupation. I need to get serious about connecting those dots.

Thanks for reading this with me. I am enjoying the read. It is always more fun to have someone to read with you.

BTW: Am I correct in understanding you are in the FT Worth area? I'm in Houston!


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "After you have finished this book you may both like to follow up on Petain with this book below. He was an interesting man and many of the offences and crimes he was charged with after the war were..."

Thank you! I'm going to add that to my TBR. This is one of those reads that I think to myself, "I really need to study this more." Then, I forget. I've been open minded enought to recognize that he may have been in a difficult spot. I just need to understand the leap from the Petain of WWI to the Petain of WWII.


Christie | 336 comments Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "Regina wrote: "Since I'm new to this site and group let me know if there is something I'm doing incorrectly. I'm assuming we just start logging our thoughts?

I've completed chapt..."


Regina, I hope you feel better soon. It is so much more of an experience to read a book and share thoughts and impressions along the way with someone. We will have to do this again this year for sure!

I have a book that has been in my library forever on Vichy France. I am not a huge fiction reader, but I read the historical fiction book, "Sarah's Key" and I was totally blown away by events of the Vel' d'Hiv roundup in July of '42. I went in search of a good book that discussed this topic and there weren't a lot of books out there at the time I was searching. I did buy one, Vichy France Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944 by Robert O. Paxton , and now I want to make it a point to read that soon. This may help connect some of those dots around Petain.

I'm thinking that I would like to learn more about Napoleon now as well.

I am actually in Raleigh, NC. And btw, I'm in total agreement with our political process being a popularity contest, but will leave it at that for fear of getting lost in those weeds. :) The level of detail that every military branch in Germany at the time was absolutely unbelievable and it did aide in exuding confidence.

Get well soon.


Christie | 336 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "After you have finished this book you may both like to follow up on Petain with this book below. He was an interesting man and many of the offences and crimes he was charged with after the war were..."

I knew you would come to the rescue AR!! Thanks so much and have added to wishlist. Have you read the one I mentioned above?


message 13: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments It is interesting to read how he could be the 'Hero' of France and save his country against the Boche during WW1 and then become everything that is despised about Vichy France during WW2. I think he had some elements in his makeup that pre-disposed him towards the actions he was charged with after WW2, but only some.

Overall I think he became the whipping boy for France and a scape goat so France could redeem some of its honour that was tarnished during the war. As much as France need De Gaulle to show the world that they fought with honour and bravery they need a Petain to lay the blame for all that was wrong with France during the occupation.

The politicians of the day (1940) let Petain take the fall for Frances surrender.


message 14: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Here are another two titles for suggested further reading if your interests take you that way after finishing your current book:

The Resistance The French Fight Against the Nazis by Matthew Cobb by Matthew Cobb

The Blood of Free Men The Liberation of Paris, 1944 by Michael Neiberg by Michael Neiberg


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "It is interesting to read how he could be the 'Hero' of France and save his country against the Boche during WW1 and then become everything that is despised about Vichy France during WW2. I think h..."

In my mind I have always felt he loved his country so much he was willing to sacrifice his reputation for the good of the people, and he thought that giving in to the Nazi occupation was best for the people. But, I don't want to completely ascribe to that until I have read more. I fully appreciate that it is easy to look back and say "would of, could have, should have". I know what I hope I would have done, but these stories we read of is the only evidence we have of people who actually did it. I try not to be too critical of the people of the past. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I would still like to understand him better.


message 16: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Jan 01, 2013 07:28PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments You are very close to the mark there Regina in regards to Petain's actions. Like you, everytime I read history I always try to keep in the back of my mind that the events must be read with the view taken from the people who lived in those times and not ours.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "Regina wrote: "Since I'm new to this site and group let me know if there is something I'm doing incorrectly. I'm assuming we just start logging our thoughts?

I've ..."


Thank you. I have some chronic illnesses and they raise their heads everyone once in a while, at the most incovenient times like holidays. I've read Sarah's Key. Ironically, because I'm usually harshest on this historical aspect of HF, this one gets the history right. I became frustrated with the marriage portion of the book. I know a lot of people adore it. And, I would still recommend it as a means to understanding the French during this time. It is just now a book I gush over.


message 18: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Hi Christie,

I haven't read or seen the book; Vichy France but I will try and check it out.


Vichy France Old Guard and New Order 1940-1944 by Robert O. Paxton by Robert O. Paxton

I will let you guys get back to chatting about your book, have fun :)


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments this is as much fun.....thanks


message 20: by Christie (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christie | 336 comments I agree with you on the modern day aspect of "Sarah's Key". I had little interest in those chapters as they took on the feeling of a romance novel which I despise. I was spellbound in the chapters that related the WWII aspects and was very pleased to see how historically accurate the author was. For that aspect of the book, I am very fond of it. But, I've said this before in another group, I'm the person who was bored to death during the first half of the movie "Titanic" but once the ship hit the iceberg and started to sink I was interested.


Christie | 336 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Here are another two titles for suggested further reading if your interests take you that way after finishing your current book:

[bookcover:The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis|65812..."


Thanks as always for the recommendations AR. They both look good.


Christie | 336 comments Just found another book on France when I looked up the 2 others that AR recommended. This has really good reviews. France the Dark Years 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson . Here is the description:

This is the first comprehensive study of the German occupation of France between 1940 and 1944. The author examines the nature and extent of collaboration and resistance, different experiences of Occupation, the persecution of the Jews, intellectual and cultural life under Occupation, and the purge trials that followed. He concludes by tracing the legacy and memory of the Occupation since 1945. Taking in ordinary peoples' experiences, this volume uncovers the conflicting memories of occupation which ensure that even today France continues to debate the legacy of the Vichy years.


message 23: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (last edited Jan 01, 2013 08:41PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Good find Christie! Julian Jackson is supposed to be a very good author, he wrote this book as well which has also picked up some good reviews:

The Fall of France The Nazi Invasion of 1940 by Julian Jackson by Julian Jackson


Christie | 336 comments Just found another interesting book based on the Prussian siege of Paris back in 1870 that would be interesting to read and compare to the occupation in WWII The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71.
Description:
In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.


Christie | 336 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Good find Christie! Julian Jackson is supposed to be a very good author, he wrote this book as well which has also picked up some good reviews:

[bookcover:The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of ..."


TY AR. Has been added to wishlist :)


message 26: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Alistair Horne is one of my favourite British author's and he writes some great books on French history. If you decide to read his The Fall of Paris I am sure you will enjoy it.


Christie | 336 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Alistair Horne is one of my favourite British author's and he writes some great books on French history. If you decide to read his The Fall of Paris I am sure you will enjoy it."

Oh, I just realized The Fall of Paris The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 by Alistair Horne is part of a trilogy that Alistair Horne wrote. The Price of Glory Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne and To Lose a Battle France 1940 by Alistair Horne being the other 2, both of which I believe you have given very high recommendations on AR.

I'm definitely going to read The Fall of Paris The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 by Alistair Horne to be able to compare/contrast to the occupation during WWII.


message 28: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments His book on Verdun is another great account :)


message 29: by Regina Lindsey (last edited Jan 03, 2013 08:18AM) (new) - added it

Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Chapters 5-9 discussed here. I can't figure out how to hide my spoilers, but there are some here.

There were a couple of things that realy struck me in this reading. First, I thought about the term terrorism and how fine a line it is between the actions by the Resistance, which most people (including me) view as heroic and the actions of those we consider terrorists. I had to stop and think about my definition of terrorism. Secondly, I had an epiphany. The first book to get my iterested in historical fiction was book: [His Enemy, His Friend|7072618] I was in high school and prior to that read I read only non-fiction. The plot is centered around tragic events when French hostages are shot in response to an unrelated bombing. This was the first time I realized that was a common practice in France during this time. Finally, Moorehouse does a good job of laying out the foundation for the friendship that develops and helps this group survive or at least deal with what lies ahead.

When I visited Berlin in April, we toured Sachsenhausen. Since then, it seems like all of my reads have a connection to this camp.

Ok...there were a couple of things that actually made me smile in this section. First, I had to chuckle at how the demarcation line was described, "At Clemenceau, it cut straight throughthe middle of the chateua: one half was occupied by German soldiers, the other by French nuns" I laugh because boundaries are drawn much the same way today - no rhyme or reason. I have a friend whose house is half in the city limits and half not. Depending on where on her property a problem occurs determines who she calls for assistance. Then, the two jurisdictions still argue about whose responsibility it is. The advice that was given to children was heart warming, "work hard, go to your music lesson and to the dentist". I couldn't help but smile a little over the fact that the Communist members "felt a sense of entitlement"

New items to study: I've read a lot on the SOE and the MI6, M19 is a new entity for me. I was unaware the guillotine was still being used at this time. This is my introduction to Pierre Napoleon Poinsot. I'd like to read more about him.

Truly heartbreaking aspect in this section for me were the number of young people participating and ultimately captured and the story Simone's father

Some of the characteristics I admire of those during this time is the ingenuity (using a funeral to help people escape) they had to employ to accomplish tasks and how deeply those in the Resistance felt for the cause. We've already mentioned the decision to leave children, here these women finally lose everything and the story of Charlotte insisting on returning from Buenos Aires when she would have been safe is utterly amazing. If the reader has any doubt that the beliefs are superficial the fact that they stepped up their efforts after the orders to kill hostages negates that notion.

Favorite quotes, "The country that had so fervently embraced the Rights of Man seemed curiously willing to sit by while one decree after another was enacted against Jews..." (pg 119)
"Of all the women on the train, the reason for her presence was perhaps the most absurd: she had written a letter to her brother in Holland, wistfully predicting Hitler's defeat." (pg 168)


Christie | 336 comments Wow, I just got to Chapter 10, the beginning of part two of the book and I didn't want to stop reading. Are you enjoying the book as much as I am Regina?

Spoiler Alert!

It is very interesting that you bring up the concept of terrorism and how it is applied, depending on the circumstances. I was thinking about the Nuremburg Trials being the first where atrocities against man committed during war were tried with sentences of death carried out. In the case of the outcome of WWII, it was Germany that was held accountable. However, there were plenty of crimes against humanity carried out by the Russians, French and other Allied soldiers, yet these countries were not held accountable. If taken to the extreme, the US and Britain could be seen as carrying out such atrocities when you consider the complete destruction of Hamburg and its innocent civilians as well as other cities throughout Europe that were attacked by carpet bombing. I'm not suggesting at all that I feel that this accountability should have happened, but it is an argument that I'm sure was made by the Germans. This then got me thinking about the political beliefs of the women imprisoned together. Those that were die hard communists were loyal to Russia and were anxious for the Russians to come to their rescue. What is unique to the times is the level of naivete that was able to exist when the truth was so much easier to hide and propaganda was so widespread. These women wanted to believe all that was good in the communist ideals that they held dear but lived in the dark as to the crimes perpetrated by and for Stalin. The same can be said for the Nazi sympathizers who believed in the concept of National Socialism but had very limited knowledge and understanding as to the crimes that were being committed in the name of Hitler and what he really stood for.

As did you, I got quite a chuckle at the description of the demarcation lines and how they even cut through a building. That is too funny that your friend lives under such a similar example as to have part of her house in the city and part in the county. I totally agree with you as to Moorehead's ability to weave such a moving narrative as to the bonds of friendship that developed among the women. It just broke my heart when I would read about more and more being captured and was so devastated when the final group of men were taken away to be executed and the notes that were left behind to their wives were read.

There definitely was ingenuity that was required to help deliver communication, weapons, people, etc. I couldn't believe the number of women who had been caught and sent to prison, released and still had the courage and determination to continue to fight for the Resistance. We were thinking the exact same thing on that topic for sure.

New topics to further explore: I was glad to read the mention of the Vel d'hiv roundup but disappointed it was only in passing. I am also really interested in learning more about Pierre Napoleon Poinsot. He really sounds like he was a ruthless character. I also would like to learn more about Pierre Laval the creep who "proposed adding women and children, not least because when the convoys children behind, the frantic scenes of desperate parents upset the police." - pg 201

Memorable quotes and passages

A quote that really cracked me up that I missed mentioning from the first 4 chapters was when the subject of jokes about the Nazis was discussed and the one about the test for a true Aryan, "A true Aryan must be blond like Hitler, slender like Goring, tall like Goebbels, young like Petain, and honest like Laval." pg 55

One passage that really made me ill was in regards to who decided the method of rail transport that would be used. "The Germans had not actually asked for the cattle trucks; this initiative came from the French railways, the SNCF. It was on French trains, driven by French engine drivers, that deportees were conveyed to the border." - pg 200

A passage that warmed my heart was on the same page when discussing the reaction and solidarity by other French people, "The compulsory wearing of the yellow star by Jews saw a flowering of other yellow symbols, worn by non-Jews, patches of material shaped like roses or rosettes and pinned on to clothes. In Paris, the zazous, the youthful, flamboyant admirers of jazz, in their quirky clothes and dark glasses, took to adding a yellow star to their outfits."

Last passage and one that made my heart sink was on page 280, "Now, perhaps more than ever before, the full meaning of occupation was impossible to ignore: 42,500 Jews already deported to the death camps, and not one of the trains bearing them there derailed by the Resistance."


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "Wow, I just got to Chapter 10, the beginning of part two of the book and I didn't want to stop reading. Are you enjoying the book as much as I am Regina?

Spoiler Alert!

It is very interesting th..."


I am!!!!

It is interesting that you bring up the examples of Nuremburg and who was held accountable and who was not. I read The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang last year, and one of the most eye-opening aspects of that read was how the Japanese were never tried for the atrocities they perpetrated in China, mostly because of the rise of Mao in China and the aftermath of relations from the Cold War. To this day, the Japanese government denies any responsibility for those action and goes after those who would try to openly debate the issue. Rather, they blame it on individual soldier even though the evidence strongly indicated that it was policy. Let me say, that I love the Japense and their culture, but this is one area they really need to address. BTW: I'm going to an event at the Houston Holocaust Museum next week dealing with the Nuremburg trial.

I have to admit I'm not much of an expert of the history of communism prior to WWII. I'm hoping to do more reading on the Bolshevik Revolution this year, but I get a sense that the atrocities commited within the Soviet Union were unknown, and, while I don't agree with it, I can understand how the philosophy in its pure form can be attractive to certain people. My viewpoint, today, is that it was only with the Cold War and the western countries openly confronting the Soviet Union that many of the downfalls of the countries under that system came to light. I'm sorry I keep referring back to my experience in Berlin, but it was so enlightening. When we visited the concentration camp I was expecting to have a similar reaction to the one I had when I visited Ann Frank's house in Amsterdam; very emotional. I walked out of her house crying so hard my head hurt, and I had to take a nap. Instead, I felt a great deal of visceral anger. It was towards the Naizs , of course, but even more so towards the Soviets, who immediately upon liberation, took over and re-opened the facility as a Gulag for political prisoners. I kept thinking, "how could another group of human beings, after seeing what they saw there, use it in exactly the same manner?" I doubt these actions went unnoticed by the other Allies, but news traveled much slower.....no FB or Twitter back then.

Thanks for pointing out your favorite quotes and the new items you want to research. There are gems there as well. I had a similar reaction to the cattle car quote myself.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Chapters 10-13

If you are student of the Holocaust, there’s not a lot of new information, per se, but, Moorehead provides a gut wrenching account of the daily life of these 230 women (the reason for the stench of the bowls one of the most vivid descriptions). You also get a sense of how the environment could weigh on those with the closest relationships and how the raw emotion could get to anyone, even mother and daughter. Gisele's reaction to her mother over being Jewish is a good example. I appreciated the inclusion of the medical experiments. I read Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz many years ago and this is one of the worst aspects of these camps.

Reactions I had:

I found it intriguing to read of the Nazi’s response in regards to the French in custody “no more French resister were to be allowed to die,” as opposed to the Jews, in which The Final Solution was expedited.

I got a kick out of the reference to the bunk where supplies could secretly be obtained as ‘Canada’ and wondered where that perception came from. Had someone traveled to Canada? I wish Moorehouse would have expanded on that some. I should say I absolutely adore Canada :-)

Can you imagine the shock these women felt when they looked in those mirrors the first time in train station?

I was reminded of a couple of items that aren’t typically included in readings. First, there's always a lot of focus on how little and poor the diets wihtin the camps are. What is not usually included is the science behind it. The Nazis had a very scientific means of calculating the weight of a person, how many calories they would expend through work, and provided a diet with just under the amount of calories needed to survive. This was how they worked people death – slowly starving them. We also read a lot about the use of dogs at the camps, but it is a shame that the training of dogs are not usually discussed. These mehtods were almost as cruel as the means used on the inmates.

There are two questions I always ponder when reading about WWII. One, is would I have the courage to participate in some of the Resistance efforts. The other is would I surive one of these camps. Moorehead gives some indication of what characteristics gave the women a shot a surviving. Some of those characteristics are:
Not too young – “Younger girls did not appear to possess the resilience of the older women. Even when physically strong and capable, they seemed to be mentally more fragile, and thus more vulnerable.” (pg 204)
-Not too old, as they died first
- a network of people to look after each other
- “To survive, they instinctively knew, they had to remain human, and to be human was to remember that there was another world, of decency, and culture and plenty, however painful the memories were” (pg 236)
-Not too young – “Younger girls did not appear to possess the resilience of the older women. Even when physically strong and capable, they seemed to be mentally more fragile, and thus more vulnerable.” (pg 204)
-Not too old, as they died first
- a network of people to look after each other
- “To survive, they instinctively knew, they had to remain human, and to be human was to remember that there was another world, of decency, and culture and plenty, however painful the memories were” (pg 236)
- Moorehead attempts to make the case that the communist ideals gave them an edge. That is an interesting theory, and read strictly within this context you may walk away with that impression. But, I don't think she has made the case. First, she seems incredibly sympathetic towards this philosophy and she doesn't compare it wiht any other groups. I think to make that assertion she should provide some statistics of other similar groups, from different backgrounds, that went into camp together and didnt fare as well.

Favorite quotes:

As a theatre lover, “Where human beings are suffering and dying there characters from the theatre cannot live. There was no place for theatre without a society, and in Auschwitz people were so diminished, so demeaned, so without their own selves, do not make a society” (pg 201). I will say that I have read in several books how important recreating theatre was to the those living in similar conditions.
Moonless Night: The World War Two Escape Epic is the most recent example

I have one further criticism. Sometimes Moorehead makes a statement without backing it up - “Few of Birkenau’s other women prisoners had the same closeness.” (Pg 199). I’ve read accounts of other groups that fomed bonds similar to this. She may be right. There may have been some unique nature to this group, but I’m way of an author that makes a generalized statement like this without expanding a bit more.

One last comment-of all the heroic women in this work, Adelaide is my hero – Her story resonated with me. she seemed very real as we saw the emotional conflict she battled, both with the shame of her eary actions to having to make decisions on who received treatment. I found a lot of irony in the situation she faced in light of the reason she was initially arrested. I also loved the escape story,


message 33: by Christie (last edited Jan 04, 2013 04:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christie | 336 comments Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "Wow, I just got to Chapter 10, the beginning of part two of the book and I didn't want to stop reading. Are you enjoying the book as much as I am Regina?

Spoiler Alert!

It is ve..."


You know, I have been wanting to read The Rape of Nanking for a long time now and need to move it up on my list. I know of the topic but have not done any extensive reading on it, but I think it's a great point as to a country not taking responsibility for their actions and owning up to the atrocities committed. In contrast with Japan, in many ways I feel the German people of today still feel like the actions and atrocities committed by the Nazis will forever tarnish their country but at least the government has imposed some very strict guidelines to thwart the resurgence of Neo-Nazis.

I'm so envious of your trip to the Nuremburg event at the Huston Holocaust Museum. I am trying to plan a trip in the near future to the WWII Museum in New Orleans and/or a trip to DC to visit the abundance of museums there.

I have been looking into books on pre-WWII Russian history. I also do not have that depth of knowledge of the history of communism and want to learn more about the country under Lenin and work my way back. I am especially interested in the final years of the Romanov era. I totally agree that at the time, pre 24 hour news cycle, facebook, twitter, etc, that many crimes and atrocities were much easier to hide from the general public. What I need to learn more about is what the tenor of the country was at the time that led to the rise in communism.

I visited a Holocaust museum in St. Peterburg, FL back when I lived in Tampa and I had a wide range of emotions. This was before I started studying and doing a lot of reading on WWII and the Holocaust and I was predominantly in a state of shock over what I witnessed. I think if I was to go back and visit again today, or visit any other Holocaust museum that my reaction would be more deep seated in anger at the Nazis and SS. I watched a documentary several years ago called "Forgiving Dr. Mengele". What an incredible and a thought-provoking documentary. It really begs the question of what forgiveness really means. A definite must see for anyone familiar with the Holocaust and the role Dr. Mengele played at Auschwitz concentration camp.
This documentary deals with some of the surviving twins that served as experimental guinea pigs for the infamous Dr. Mengele who meet once again nearly 50 years later to discuss what his atrocities did to their lives even after leaving Auschwitz. It is a heartbreaking story but one that needed to be told. The idea and the concept of forgiveness is different for everyone and as one of the survivors pointed out, she didn't feel one could find forgiveness while still in the midst of fighting for one's life. But for many of the survivors, even fifty years after the liberation of the camp, there is still no room for forgiveness in their heart.

One thing you point out that I wasn't aware of was that the Soviets opened a Gulag right after the liberation. I can't imagine how anyone in their right mind would even contemplate using those camps again for any reason. I'm in shock!


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "Wow, I just got to Chapter 10, the beginning of part two of the book and I didn't want to stop reading. Are you enjoying the book as much as I am Regina?

Spoiler A..."


I would strongly encourage you to take on

The Rape of Nanking if you have an interest in the subject. It is not a long book but I will warn you it is graphic and will turn your stomach. I'm sure the Germans feel like that. It would be hard not to. What I will say, from my observation, is that they have done a good job of remembering the victims. There are some beautiful memorials in Germany today and some great museums. It is my understanding that around the 1970's the country took seriously incorporating their country's actions into the school curriculum. Japan to this day does not allow it in its curriculum. I'm sure it is similar to how long it took the US to incorporate and admit its wrong doings during slavery. Every country has a period that is not its shining moment. But, it is interesting to see how different various cultures handle that. For instance, I'm sure that Japan's "saving face" notions make it very difficult for them to acknowledge wrong-doing. The West didn't help matters when it gave them a pass in cooperation during the Cold War.

If you get a chance to visit either the WWII musuem in New Orleans or the Holocaust Museum in DC. By all means, do it! Both are suberbly done. I recommend taking 1/2 day for the New Orleans experience and at least 1/2 day ( a full day if you can swing it) for DC.

I am going to have to keep an eye for the documentary you reference. I have not heard of it, but it sounds interesting. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Yeah, I was in shock too. I don't know if they did it with every camp in, but that is what happened in eastern Berlin at least. I was angry for days. My poor husband......


Christie | 336 comments Chapters 10-13

I agree with your overview of these chapters as those who have read extensively on the Holocaust will not really learn a lot of new information, but it's gut-wrenching to read about what these women lived through or the conditions in which they died. It was so sad to read how one by one, those who came in with a mother or sister each ended up alone. The description of the women standing outside for hours and hours waiting for roll call to begin with their legs swelling and their feet freezing was so horrible. I had quite a sickening reaction when reading that passage that spoke to the bowls and why the women were warned not to eat from them. The horror that must have struck those women when the lorry of bodies first drove by and they noticed that not everyone was dead. I too wondered about the shock that must have hit upon seeing a reflection in the mirror after surviving Auschwitz.

Didn't the picture of the guards of Auschwitz all standing together laughing make you ill? The was so much hypocrisy in the camps from the sign on the gates of "Arbeit Macht Frei" to the symphonies played upon the arrival of new prisoners to give the air that everything was fine and to keep the panic from spreading.

The heinous experiments that were performed on the 75 Polish girls by Professor Gebhardt was something I had not read about yet. I didn't realize he was called in to treat Heydrich. I will have to do some more research on him. Back to Dr. Mengele, I have the book you mentioned, Children of the Flames Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz by Lucette Lagnado and I'm going to move that up on my TBR list.

In regards to your comment about the science of calculating the daily calorie allotment. I just finished reading The 900 Days The Siege Of Leningrad by Harrison E. Salisbury back in December and the calculation of the daily calorie allotment for all of the citizens was constantly a huge concern. Quite a bit of detail was covered as to the difficult decision of how many calories needed to be cut as food started to run out and how many citizens and soldiers would die as a result. One of the things that isn't stressed as much as I feel it should be is the consequences of a lack of clean water to drink and how filthy water or lack of adequate water led to more and quicker deaths than the eventual starvation from lack of food.

On a related subject about the training of the dogs during WWII, I read an excellent book several months ago about the military dogs and their training and role in the US military during the war. If you are interested, the book is called Always Faithful A Memoir of the Marine Dogs of WWII by William W. Putney

Fantastic overview on the characteristics described of those women who survived internment. I too wonder if I would have the courage and strength to be a part of an underground movement or survive in a camp. While there are so many things in everyone's life that are stressful and there are many people who are homeless and hungry in the US, the modern conveniences that are a part of most all of our lives in this country and our dependence on them makes me feel like it would be an even harder transition to be interned. As a part of the GenX society, I don't feel that most really know what true sacrifice and physical and mental hardship means to the degree that was suffered during that time by those in the camps and citizens in areas being bombed and occupied. That blessing is due to those who fought and sacrificed during and since WWI and WWII to for those back home and for the future generations.

Lastly, I have a couple of criticisms as well, one of which you mentioned:

1. There are many broad generalizations about groups of people without additional commentary to back up the generalizations. Case in point would be the statements that indicate those who were communists had an edge over those who held other political beliefs.

2. I feel that while I was captivated in the first part of the book and there was a sort of cliffhanger effect at the end of chapter 8, I felt a little let down that the book shifted so drastically in Chapter 9 through 13. It may just be that I wasn't ready to leave the story of the Resistance behind.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "Chapters 10-13

I agree with your overview of these chapters as those who have read extensively on the Holocaust will not really learn a lot of new information, but it's gut-wrenching to read about..."


I did feel the same reaction regarding the hypocricy as you did! Thanks for bringing that into the conversation. I guess a part of me is just used to it, sadly. I had the same reaction regarding the pairs. I can't figure out if it was blessing or a curse to arrive with someone you love only to leave the camp alone. That's a hard one to decipher. On one hand the shock of the environment upon arrival would lend itself to desiring the companionship of someone you have those ties with. On the other hand, as hard as these women fought to save each other, to lose the person you those familial ties with must have been devastating.

Thanks for the book recommendations. I have not come across Always Faithful. I will have to look at that. I have seen The 900 Days. Interesting that the caloric intake was so important on both keeping soldiers and prisoners alive.

I agree with your last criticism. I think that for the more widely read folks out there, the first part of the book holds our interest because it is more about the personal story. Unfortunately, we are all so aware of what occurred within those camps that the second is more like a review. I try to keep myself in check and realize that it is still part of these women's stories, but I still agree with you.

You mentioned in your earlier post visiting the museum before you began doing a lot of reading. What piqued your interest?

I've been obsessed since I was about 9 years old. I'm always interested to know how people got interested in a subject. Hope you don't mind me asking.


Christie | 336 comments For "The 900 Days" it was the citizens trapped in Leningrad with food supply lines cut and the person in charge of rationing had to track how many days supply would be left and when he had to reduce the daily calorie count allowed. The book is absolutely great. It is the first I've read on the Leningrad siege and only the 2nd I've read on the Eastern front, the other being the 5 star, "Enemy at the Gates". I highly recommend both.

I think for me it would be harder to see someone I loved tortured and die in front of me with any chance of being able to help out of the question. I agree that it would be a double edged sword either way though.

I visited the museum because I had just started reading about WWII. My dad was a tailgunner in a bombardier group in WWII but he never really talked about the war. He passed away in 2002 and shortly after I really started watching war movies and documentaries as well as reading. Just thinking about it right now, I think I finally pieced together that I was subconsciously trying to get a part of my dad back. I was a daddy's girl in a big way and I wanted to learn more about what he went through. Anyway, I had lived in Tampa my whole life and was offered a job in WV. Before I moved I told my husband that I wanted to go to as many local places of interest that were always taken for granted but never visited. You know, you get complacent thinking that it will always be there and you'll go someday. So, along with a second trip to the Dali museum we went to the Holocaust museum. At this point the only exposure to this atrocity was by watching "Schindler's List". And no, I don't mind you asking at all. :)

I will be finishing the book tonight as there are only 2 chapters left and I'm almost done with 14.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "For "The 900 Days" it was the citizens trapped in Leningrad with food supply lines cut and the person in charge of rationing had to track how many days supply would be left and when he had to reduc..."

I misundertoos what The 900 Days was about. I will have to add to my list. What a lovely tribute to your dad! Thanks for sharing that. The last chapter is brutal to get through. You would think it would be the happiest. I'm having to walk away now and then. Truly heart breaking.


Christie | 336 comments Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "For "The 900 Days" it was the citizens trapped in Leningrad with food supply lines cut and the person in charge of rationing had to track how many days supply would be left and whe..."

Just finished and I agree, the last chapter was really rough. I read through all the stats on the survivors as well as all those who died and the circumstances. I probably shouldn't have read something so emotional before going to bed. Will give my final thoughts on the book and last 2 chapters tomorrow. It's after 1:30 am here so I'm calling it a night.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments There’s only way to describe the final two chapters – heartbreaking. The first subject that sent me off for a box of tissues was the fate of all those babies. Obviously, the way in which they were murdered was horrendous. But, I couldn’t help feeling bad for the mothers of the ones that were “adopted”. How awful to have your child forcibly removed from you and then fear that they would be indoctrinated with so much hate. And, forced abortions in the eighth month…..I had wondered if any babies survived and left the camp, and Moorehead answers that question. Then, you have the account of the three women dying in the Allied bombing just six weeks before liberation. But, on a good note…how about the women that escaped execution because of the lines being down! Finally, was the process by which the women tried to assimilate back into society. I just don’t think there is an easy way for them to do that. Some of those reunion scenes were heartbreaking.

I found it fascinating that Moorehead actually addresses in the last chapters some of the items you and I discussed earlier. Plus, I thought she adeptly ties everything together quite nicely. First, Moorehead does mention that Red Army raped women as they advanced, causing a bit of trepidation about the Soviets liberating the camps. Secondly, she addresses the question about who to punish. I can understand, to a certain degree, the desire to move on and celebrate the heroes. But, that’s an easy strategy for those who didn’t live through the camp. How do you determine is “most” guilty? And, I really believe the issue of who was obeying orders is a difficult one to work through. In a black and white world, it was wrong to participate, but things are rarely that easy. It always irks me that Megele was never brought to justice. It also makes you wonder a little about the motivation. I will say I was not aware of those lesser punishments. I’m glad to know that. I have to admit, I’m shocked it took France so long to incorporate a crimes against humanity statute. Thirdly, she addresses the “question of where the line should be drawn between legitimate and illegitimate violence in time of war.” (pg 282). Finally, in terms of tying up the loose-ends, you get a real sense of Moorehead’s sensitivity towards the women’s story as she takes time at the end to recount the fates, collectively and individually. I was glad to learn the fate of some of the collaborators and Nazis as well.


Other areas to study
-Mauthausen – this is my first read where this camp plays a role.
- Red Cross – I realized I have never read anything from the Red Cross point of view.


I have a question. I hope someone can weigh in on. There are a lot of examples of the women hiding their friends once it is known that they are identified for a roundup. How were they successful? It was always my understanding that the Nazis were maniacal about counting.

I wonder where Charlotte’s biographical notes are. Did she donate them?

Favorite quotes:

“Germaine, mourning her mother, would say that she had lost all ‘visceral desire to live’, her fury and her desire to see the Germans punished kept her going.” (pg 256)

Charlotte’s first response to her first cup of coffee, “remembered delights are not easily recaptured.” (pg 263)

“What she minded most, Marie-Claude wrote in her diary, was the fact that so many of the best men were dead, having died for their country, while so many of the worst, the collaborators, were alive and in positions of power.” (pg 268)

“They had witnessed both the worst and the best that life had to offer, cruelty, sadism, brutality, betrayal, thievery, but also generosity and selflessness.” (pg 271)

“They marveled at how innocent and trusting they had been. There was innocence left, in any of them; and they would not find it again.” (pg 271) We all lose that innocence, but it was forced from them.

“Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, as Marie-Claude had remarked, were so extreme, so incomprehensible, so unfamiliar an experience, that the women doubted they possessed the words to describe them, even if people wanted to hear, which, as it turned out, not many did.” (pg275)

“Look at me, because in my eyes you will see hundreds of thousands of eyes staring at you, and in my voice you will hear hundreds of thousands of voices accusing you.” (pg 282)

“Looking at me, one would think I’m alive…I’m not alive. I died in Auschwitz, but no one knows it.” (pg 298)

Adalaide is even more my hero!


message 41: by Colin (last edited Jan 05, 2013 06:47AM) (new)

Colin Heaton (colin1962) | 1891 comments For those interested in Holocaust studies, may I suggest trhe following books, that explain the rationale and actions of nGermans who partcipated.

Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning

My book, Occupation and Insurgency, has interviews with several SS officers, and this book explains many killings, with researched examples, but even more, it explains how, under the Geneva and Hague Connventions in force at that time, while perhaps morally debatable, many of the killings were not illegal.


message 42: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments Another good book that goes into the actions carried out by the SS and the Einsatzgruppen special task forces in the East is this book:

Masters of Death The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes by Richard Rhodes
Description:
In Masters of Death, Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the Einsatzgruppen’s role in the Holocaust. These “special task forces,” organized by Heinrich Himmler to follow the German army as it advanced into eastern Poland and Russia, were the agents of the first phase of the Final Solution. They murdered more than 1.5 million men, women, and children between 1941 and 1943, often by shooting them into killing pits, as at Babi Yar.

These massive crimes have been generally overlooked or underestimated by Holocaust historians, who have focused on the gas chambers. In this painstaking account, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes profiles the eastern campaign’s architects as well as its “ordinary” soldiers and policemen, and helps us understand how such men were conditioned to carry out mass murder. Marshaling a vast array of documents and the testimony of perpetrators and survivors, this book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust and World War II.


Be warned, it's not pleasant reading.


Christie | 336 comments So, I finished the book late Friday night/early Saturday morning and I had to step away before following up with my final thoughts and review of the book. I have read quite a few books on the Holocaust and I'm not sure what made me so angry after having finished the last 2 chapters of the book. It may be that I've never done a buddy read with someone on a Holocaust book and some of my pontifications really got the best of me.

Here's why I'm still angry and it has nothing to do with the author or the book. Regina, I believe you said you had a similar reaction where it goes beyond sadness for the victims and their families and becomes anger at the Nazis and those that were complicit and/or willing participants in crimes against humanity. The more that I thought about the conversation we were having about countries taking responsibility for their actions the more I started thinking about how quick I was to point the finger at France. I don't think it was De Gaulle's intention to come off as callous as he did, but it must have been quite a blow to those survivors who were told, in essence, that they just needed to move on and let the country heal. Repatriation must have been very traumatic for the survivors as well as those family members who never recaptured essence of the love one they once knew. Very few of survivors listed at the end of the book were able to find happiness in their lives after they returned home. The impact goes on for generations. I recently read a great memoir called Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Mother-Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past. The book really dealt with the relationship of a mother who survived the Holocaust and her daughter and their journey together to go back to Germany to try and her mother make peace with the past of 54 years ago.

The more that I read, the more I want to understand how the minds of so many can turn against other human beings. The book that Rick suggested, Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust may provide some additional insight as will the book that Colin suggested, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland both of which are already in my library.

So back to my anger. My anger is also directed at my own country and myself for conveniently, though not consciously, sweeping some of the ugly aspects of the history of the United States under the carpet in many instances. The state I'm living in right was one of the strongest supporters of the eugenics movement, forming a board back in 1933 which imposed forced sterilization on those ruled mentally "defective"! This eugenics board in NC wasn't repealed until 2003! Additionally, the internment of Japenese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was horrendous. Families lost everything based on racial profiling. The KKK is still a practicing cult society in this country hell-bent on racial purity and supremacy. I'm not saying that the US has outright denied any or all of these things, but I think especially in regards to the eugenics movement, that it is rarely brought up in the course of American history conversations. Thus, in order to fully understand the thinking at the time, I also need to do more reading and research on the country I am a native of in conjunction with continuing my research of other countries involved in WWII. No one in war is innocent of all crimes and in many ways it is the declared victors who are better able to move away from the past and direct attention to those who waged war to begin with and lost.

In the end, the author did what great authors do and that is impose thought and reflection on what you've read. There were a lot of questions that were raised for me that will give cause to research and learn more about the many topics discussed. I think about how many Holocaust memoirs and accounts I've read and I realize that even if it's now at 30 to 40, in relation to the 6 million Jewish lives and millions of others lost during the commission of these atrocities, I've read about less than 1% of the stories of those who perished or were victims who survived only to wish they hadn't.

"It was not long after Charlotte Delbo came home to Paris that she began to write about the German camps. Much of it was in verse. 'I've come back from another world,' she wrote,
to this world
I had not left
and I know not
which one is real...
As far as I'm concerned
I'm still there
dying there
a little more each day
dying over again
the death of those who died...
I have returned
from a world beyond knowledge
and now must learn
for otherwise I clearly see
I can no longer live"- page 476


message 44: by Colin (new)

Colin Heaton (colin1962) | 1891 comments Christie, read my book Occupation and Insurgency, as it deals with the Holocaust in the field, at the execution level. Those actions are also placed into proper context with the applicable laws of war, which were The Hague Convention of 1907 and Geneva Convention of 1929 (revu=ised in 1949 as a result of the Holocaust and Japanese atrocities). This book also contains my interviews with SS officers and a couple of SS generals, soldiers, guerrillas, partisans etc. Gives you a different view. FYI, DeGaulle (whom I called DeFraud in paris, giving a paper on him), sanctioned his own rape and murder squads in Italy. He was never called to task, Roosevelt and Churchill dropped him as a viable ally, but tried to bury the deeds.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Colin wrote: "Christie, read my book Occupation and Insurgency, as it deals with the Holocaust in the field, at the execution level. Those actions are also placed into proper context with the applicable laws of ..."

Thank you for bringing your book to our attention. I will take a look at it.


Regina Lindsey | 40 comments Christie wrote: "So, I finished the book late Friday night/early Saturday morning and I had to step away before following up with my final thoughts and review of the book. I have read quite a few books on the Holo..."

That's why I'm so grateful to those who share their stories, the authors who dedicate their lives to presenting information, and museums that try to educate the public and honor the victims of these eras. There was a cry, "never again" at the conlcusion of WWII. But, sadly that has not been the case, and often those events are not held has highly as the Holocaust. Rwanda is an excellent example. If you get a chance to read

Machete Season The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld do so. But, be prepared it will make you physically sick. That situation is so sad because, unlike, WWII there are no individual stories of heroism. This was neighbor killing neighbor. But, I digress.

I think I pointed out that all countries have periods that are not their shining moments. You have certainly pointed out some of them. You are right, that is a subject that is not often discussed. Our schools do a horrible job of teaching history. You know the old addage, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In Texas, at least, you can't get hired as a history teacher unless you are a coach. The focus is on the coach. Not all, but the vast majority of coaches teaching history could care less about the subject. I think you are right. I think our reactions gives credit to the incredible job Moorehead did on bringing these women's stories to life.


Christie | 336 comments Regina wrote: "Christie wrote: "So, I finished the book late Friday night/early Saturday morning and I had to step away before following up with my final thoughts and review of the book. I have read quite a few ..."

I will definitely add your suggestion to my wishlist. I haven't done any reading on that subject at all. Along the lines of what you said about neighbors killing neighbors, I read a book last year called, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland and it was quite an emotional read. The Jews were turned on by those in the town aligning themselves with the Germans, but when their city was taken over by the Russians, things change dramatically for those same people who had been Nazi supporters.

It is a sad state of affairs that history teachers are primarily filled by teachers who studied sports. The textbooks are another disgrace altogether. I don't have children, but based on what I've learned over the years, in many cases the writers of textbooks are not among the most gifted. Additionally, there are so many things that are watered down from the past. It's no wonder we make so many of the same mistakes over and over again.

One last note, I forgot to mention that in the last couple of chapters when they talked about the care packages that the Red Cross brought to the camps, I couldn't believe that peanut butter was a new experience for them. I thought it was so touching how excited the women were over peanut butter. I'm also interested to read more on the Red Cross and the role they played in WWII.

Adalaide is my hero too. I'm so glad she was publicly recognized for the role she played in helping so many women.


Christie | 336 comments Colin wrote: "Christie, read my book Occupation and Insurgency, as it deals with the Holocaust in the field, at the execution level. Those actions are also placed into proper context with the applicable laws of ..."

Colin, your book sounds exactly like what I am looking for to better understand things from the perspective of the occupiers. I will definitely get a copy for my library. Any suggestions for further reading on DeGualle that provides more insight into these decisions he made once he returned to Paris after liberation?


message 49: by Colin (new)

Colin Heaton (colin1962) | 1891 comments Christie:
There are a lot of book written about DeGaulle during that period, I would just to a e-net search on Amazon, and pick and choose. If I had my way, he would have been sitting next to Goring at Nuremberg. The Italian governt probably still pays ensions to the women who survived the rampage of rape and murder that French troops committed during their "liberation".

Colin


message 50: by 'Aussie Rick', Moderator (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 16742 comments One book that I have but am yet to read on De Gaulle is:


The Last Great Frenchman A Life Of General De Gaulle by Charles Williams by Charles Williams


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