New books

New books February 2020

The Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg

From publisher Harper Collins’s website:

The Art of Resistance is unlike any World War II memoir before it. Its author, Justus Rosenberg, has spent the past seventy years teaching the classics of literature to American college students. Hidden within him, however, was a remarkable true story of wartime courage and romance worthy of a great novel. Here is Professor Rosenberg’s elegant and gripping chronicle of his youth in Nazi-occupied Europe, when he risked everything to stand against evil.

In 1937, after witnessing a violent Nazi mob in his hometown of Danzig, a majority German city on the Baltic Sea, sixteen-year-old Justus Rosenberg was sent by his Jewish parents to Paris to finish his education in safety. Three years later, the Nazis came again, as France fell to the Germans. Alone and in danger, Justus fled Paris, heading south. A chance meeting led him to Varian Fry, an American journalist in Marseille who led a clandestine network helping thousands of men and women—including many legendary artists and intellectuals, among them Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, and Max Ernst—escape the Nazis. With his intimate understanding of French and German culture, and fluency in several languages, including English, Justus became an invaluable member of Fry’s operation as a spy and scout.

After the Vichy government expelled Fry from France, Justus worked in Grenoble, recruiting young men and women for the Underground Army. For the next four years, he would be an essential component of the Resistance, relying on his wits and skills to survive several close calls with death. Once, he found himself in a Nazi internment camp, with his next stop Auschwitz—and yet Justus found an ingenious way to escape. He two years during the war gathering intelligence, surveying German installations and troop movements on the Mediterranean. Then, after the allied invasion at Normandy in 1944, Justus became a guerrilla fighter, participating in and leading commando raids to disrupt the German retreat across France.

“At the end of the Second World War, Justus emigrated to America, and built a new life. For the past fifty years, he has taught literature at Bard College, shaping the inner lives of generations of students. Now he adds his own story to the library of great coming-of-age memoirs: The Art of Resistance is a powerful saga of bravery and defiance, a true-life spy thriller touched throughout by a professor’s wisdom.

Last Stop Auschwitz by Eddy de Wind

From the publisher’s website:

Eddy de Wind, a Dutch doctor and psychiatrist, was shipped to Auschwitz with his wife Friedel, whom he had met and married at the Westerbork labour camp in the Netherlands. At Auschwitz, they made it through the brutal selection process and were put to work. Each day, each hour became a battle for survival.

For Eddy, this meant negotiating with the volatile guards in the medical barracks. For Friedel, it meant avoiding the Nazis’ barbaric medical experiments. As the end of the war approached and the Russian Army drew closer, the last Nazis fled, taking many prisoners with them, including Friedel. Eddy hid under a pile of old clothes and stayed behind. Finding a notebook and pencil, he began to write with furious energy about his experiences.

Last Stop Auschwitz is an extraordinary account of life as a prisoner, a near real-time record of the daily struggle to survive but also of the flickering moments of joy Eddy and Friedel found in each other – passing notes through the fence, sometimes stealing a brief embrace. Documenting the best and the worst of humanity, it is a unique and timeless story that reminds us of what we as humans are capable of, but that there is hope, even in Hell. Thought to be the only complete book written within Auschwitz itselfit will linger with you long after the final page has been turned.

Necropolis by Boris Pahor

From the publisher’s website:

Boris Pahor spent the last fourteen months of World War II as a prisoner and medic in the Nazi camps at Bergen-Belsen, Harzungen, Dachau and Natzweiler-Struthof. Twenty years later, as he visited the preserved remains of a camp, his experiences came back to him: the emaciated prisoners; the ragged, zebra-striped uniforms; the infirmary reeking of dysentery and death.

Necropolis is Pahor’s stirring account of providing medical aid to prisoners in the face of the utter brutality of the camps – and coming to terms with the guilt of surviving when millions did not. It is a classic account of the Holocaust and a powerful act of remembrance.

Mengele: Unmasking the Angel of Death by David G Marwell

From the publisher’s website:

Perhaps the most notorious war criminal of all time, Josef Mengele was the embodiment of bloodless efficiency and passionate devotion to a grotesque worldview. Aided by the role he has assumed in works of popular culture, Mengele has come to symbolize the Holocaust itself as well as the failure of justice that allowed countless Nazi murderers and their accomplices to escape justice. Whether as the demonic doctor who directed mass killings or the elusive fugitive who escaped capture, Mengele has loomed so large that even with conclusive proof, many refused to believe that he had died.

As chief of investigative research at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s, David G. Marwell worked on the Mengele case, interviewing his victims, visiting the scenes of his crimes, and ultimately holding his bones in his hands. Drawing on his own experience as well as new scholarship and sources, Marwell examines in scrupulous detail Mengele’s life and career. He chronicles Mengele’s university studies, which led to two PhDs and a promising career as a scientist; his wartime service both in frontline combat and at Auschwitz, where his “selections” sent innumerable innocents to their deaths and his “scientific” pursuits—including his studies of twins and eye color—traumatized or killed countless more; and his postwar flight from Europe and refuge in South America.

Mengele describes the international search for the Nazi doctor in 1985 that ended in a cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil, and the dogged forensic investigation that produced overwhelming evidence that Mengele had died—but failed to convince those who, arguably, most wanted him dead. This is the riveting story of science without limits, escape without freedom, and resolution without justice.

British POWS and the Holocaust: Witnessing the Holocaust by Russell Wallis

From the publisher’s website:

In the network of Nazi camps across wartime Europe, prisoner of war institutions were often located next to the slave camps for Jews and Slavs; so that British PoWs across occupied Europe, over 200,000 men, were witnesses to the holocaust. The majority of those incarcerated were aware of the camps, but their testimony has never been fully published. Here, using eye-witness accounts held by the Imperial War Museum, Russell Wallis rewrites the history of British prisoners and the Holocaust during the Second World War. He uncovers the histories of men such as Cyril Rofe, an Anglo-Jewish PoW who escaped from a work camp in Upper Silesia and fled eastwards towards the Russian lines, recounting his shattering experiences of the so-called ‘bloodlands’ of eastern Poland. Wallis also shows how and why the knowledge of those in the armed forces was never fully publicised, and how some PoW accounts were later exaggerated or fictionalised. British PoWs and the Holocaust will be an essential new oral history of the holocaust and an extraordinary insight into what was known and when about the greatest crime of the 20th century.

I Only See the Person in Front of Me: The Life of German Officer Wilm Hosenfeld by Hermann Vinke

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From the book’s cover:

Nearly 70 years after his death, Wilm Hosenfeld stands today as a shining example of humanity and kindness. In the darkest moments of World War II, he strove to help suffering people, including the Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman.

A German army captain, Hosenfeld initially welcomed Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party. But while stationed in Poland during the war, he witnessed the savage treatment the Nazis imposed on Jews, Poles, Russians, and other people. Hosenfeld’s moral conscience led him to reject this brutality and become a rescuer, often at the risk of his own life.

Wilm Hosenfeld’s heroism was not known outside of Poland until Szpilman’s bestselling memoir The Pianist revealed an amazing man whose compassion saved more than 60 people from the Nazis’ clutches. (Hosenfeld, unnamed, appears in a short scene in the Academy Award-winning film of the same name.) In 2007, Hosenfeld was posthumously awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, one of Poland’s highest honors. One year later, Yad Vashem named him a “Righteous Among the Nations.” A story of courageous transformation, I Only See the Person in Front of Me is the first comprehensive biography of Wilm Hosenfeld available in English.

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