Reading List

Reading List #12: Dutch railways and German Shepherds

This is Reading List #12, a selection of recent Holocaust-related news stories and links from around the internet.


Holland’s National Rail company (Nederlandse Spoorwegen or NS) has donated 5 million Euros to museums and Holocaust commemorations in the country (Jewish Journal). During the period of Nazi occupation, Holland’s National Rail was involved in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Dutch Jews to Nazi concentration and extermination camps. In recent years, the company has pledged many millions to compensate the families of Holocaust victims, but the latest tranche of funding has been met with dismay from some, who had hoped for more direct help for the descendants of victims. The story of the complicity of Holland’s rail company also reveals the manner in which guilt for the operation of Nazi genocide spread out across occupied Europe, far beyond the leadership of the party itself, or the ranks of the SS.


The Guardian reviews newly-released family film Shepherd: The Hero Dog, which tells the story of the bond between a young Jewish boy and his dog in Nazi Germany. Critic Leslie Felperin comments positively on the way in which the filmmakers have balanced child-friendly storytelling and respect for the historical relaities: “There’s a palpable sense that the package is designed for multigenerational viewing, using the cute puppies to lure in the kids before delivering an honest but palatable history lesson about the Holocaust. As such, it succeeds in walking the tonal high beam without falling into soul-destroying bleakness on one side or a saccharinely fake happy ending on the other. That’s no mean feat.”


The Times of Israel reports on a new book by British historian Daniel Lee about the life of an SS officer, Robert Griesinger, whose story came to light after the discovery in an armchair cushion of Nazi documents relating to his life. Lee spent time in European and American archives finding further information about the low-level Nazi functionary, whose story shifts “the spotlight from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his inner circle to the masses of administrators without whom the Third Reich could not have functioned.”


The life and military service of Sidney Shachnow (1934-2018) are remembered at military news site Sofrep. Shachnow, who was born in Lithuania, survived WW2 as achild in the Kovno Ghetto, but escaped west as the Cold War began and made a career with the US Army. He served in Vietnam, and later as a member of a secret detachment of special forces in Berlin, whose role involved disrupting enemy operations from deep within hostile territory, in the event of World War III. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, he had made the rank of overall commander of all American forces in Berlin.


David Tollerton of Exeter University writes with great insight about the way in which British Holocaust memorialisation has, in recent decades, adopted a tone of sacrality (LSE). The last 20 years have seen a particular increase in interest in and participation with Holocaust commemorations and, as Tollerton explains, these have often been expressed in “sacred” terms. As he explains, this isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can serve to obscure the political context of such remembrance.


If you have seen a relevant article that could be included in next week’s reading list, why not get in touch via the contact page, or on Twitter, @holocaustreader?

Inclusion of articles on this list does not necessarily indicate endorsement of opinions expressed within them.

Images in this post are used under the principle of fair use for the purposes of review, education and study, and will be removed at the request of the copyright holder(s).

Header image: Image by Ben Scherjon from Pixabay.

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