(Review) War Torn by Richard Harper

image001
Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers. July 31, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 156.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link

January 27 was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of AUSCHWITZ.
Links for further information:
Auschwitz
National Archives 
Huffington Post

About the author:
Richard Harper was born in 1967 in the state of Victoria, Australia. During his 20s, he spent his five years in UK. His interests include history, travel, and sports. He now resides in Brisbane with his wife, Karest, and their four puppies.

Summary:
Many wondered, and not for the first time, at the end of WWII how ordinary people could carry out the most terrible acts of cruelty and brutality against their fellow men. This book tells the story of a German boy and a Jewish girl forbidden to be together by the Nazi regime and how they fight to survive. It tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators and gives the reader an insight into the mental turmoil suffered by young men asked to carry out terrible acts. Can young love possibly survive such times?

My Thoughts:
I wonder what the percentage is of Jewish women who married a German Nazi? I’d imagine it is a low percentage. The risk was too great. The ostracism of their people groups would have made the match difficult. Plus, for a Jew to marry a German Nazi during the Holocaust was unthinkable, unconscionable. Yet, this is a plot and conflict in War Torn.
The book is interesting, because it showed me a German Nazi soldier’s perspective. His name is Gunther Wrenger. He became a Waffen-SS. The story begins with his family and life before the war. The relationship he has with Magda is secret. Their youth and naivety is apparent. I wondered how it will endure?
Wrenger is ordered to take part in events or actions that are hard to read. It is difficult for me to have empathy for him. A fine line, very fine.
I wanted to read more from Magda-to hear her voice. The focus of the story is on Gunther.
The book continues to the end of the war. I saw the destruction of Berlin and the aftermath of the war.
In the summary, the book remarks about the German peoples and how they took part in actions against the Jews. I think this book addresses this question adequately.
The pacing, characters, writing style are all fine.
I believe it is the topic of the book that is hard for me to grasp and love.

(Review) A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel

Publisher and Publication Date: Atria Books. December 3, 2019.
Genre: Memoir. Autobiography. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 288.
Source: I received a complimentary ebook copy from NetGalley and Atria Books, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Author Info:
Françoise Frenkel was born in Poland in 1889. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, she opened the first French-language bookshop in Berlin with her husband. Frenkel’s bookshop miraculously survived Kristallnacht, when hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed. But in the summer of 1939, with war looming, Frenkel fled to Paris. She sought refuge across occupied France for the next several years until finally, on her third attempt, escaping across the border to Switzerland, where she wrote a memoir documenting her refugee experience. Her memoir, originally published in 1945 as Rien où poser sa tête (No Place to Lay One’s Head), was rediscovered in an attic in southern France in 2010 and republished in the original French as well as in a dozen other languages. This is its first publication in the United States. Frenkel died in Nice in 1975.

Summary:
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.

Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her.

My Thoughts:

A Bookshop in Berlin is an amazing story for several reasons.

  • The book was first published in the French language in 1945. The Swiss publishing company closed a long time ago. The book was found (by chance) and republished in 2015.
  • A Bookshop in Berlin shows Europe in the years before World War I, to the midway point of World War II. This gave me a panoramic history lesson: politically, geographically, anti-Semitism, rise of Nazism, and the elite book culture.
  • Through Frenkel’s eyes, I see the escalating tension and hostility against the Jews. The restrictions enacted. The looting and burning of buildings. The roundups of the Jews. The fear of who to trust and who not to trust.
  • Frenkel’s grit and determination to escape.
  • The ordinary people who were extraordinary in their courage to help strangers.
  • The great love Frankel carried all her life for books, and for the fond memories of the bookshop she once owned.
  • Frankel shared her thoughts and feelings behind her actions.

Francoise Frenkel was a wonderful writer. I became absorbed in her story from the start. It’s a shame this is the only known book she wrote.

In some of the book the word “we” is used. Who is the “we”? Is it her husband? This is an interesting and mysterious point. She was married, but nothing is mentioned in the book about him. So many unanswered questions just from this unmentioned point. It’s possible they had a falling out and separated. It’s possible that it’s too painful to mention him in her story. Both are plausible.

(Review) No Woman’s Land: A Holocaust Novel by Ellie Midwood

02_No Woman's Land
Publisher and Publication Date: Independent. May 15, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 314.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the author, but was not required to give a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust, and historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon
The Kindle Unlimited copy is free for members.

“It was very dangerous for him, and he knew it. But his love for me was stronger than fear.” – Ilse Stein

Summary:
This novel is based on the inspiring and moving love story of Ilse Stein, a German Jew, and Willy Schultz, a Luftwaffe Captain in the Minsk ghetto, who risked his life to save the one he loved the most.
When the last of the Jews’ rights are stripped in 1941, Ilse’s family is deported to a Minsk ghetto. Confined to a Sonderghetto and unable to speak the locals’ language, Ilse struggles to support the surviving members of her family. Befriended by a local underground member Rivka, Ilse partakes in small acts of resistance and sabotage to help her fellow Jews escape to the partisans.
A few months later, after losing almost his entire brigade of workers to one of the bloodiest massacres conducted by the SS, a local administrative officer Willy Schultz summons the survivors to form a new brigade. Ilse’s good looks immediately catch his eye, and he makes her a leader of the new unit and later, an office worker. Soon, an unlikely romance blossoms amid death and gore, moving a Nazi officer to go to great risks to protect not only Ilse but as many others as possible and allowing a Jewish girl to open her heart to the former enemy. Knowing that the ghetto would soon be liquidated, Willy Schultz swears to save Ilse, even if the cost would be his own life.
“We live together, or we die together,” – an ultimate oath of love in the most harrowing setting.
Dark, haunting, but full of hope, No Woman’s Land is a testament to the love that is stronger than fear and death itself.

My Thoughts:
I love this story!

Reasons why I gave No Woman’s Land an excellent review:
•Chapter One begins in 1940. World War II is going on, but for Ilse Stein and her family in Frankfurt they do not see the effects of war. The Stein family has experienced the restrictions of Jews in Germany, but Ilse is still able to work. She is still able to rebel a bit. In the first chapter, I’m given a glimpse at the strong and resilient personality of Ilse. She is a teenage girl, but has the heart of a lion. She is a great character. I see her strengths and also see what is going on around her. I feel an investment in her outcome. She is a character that keeps me reading.
•Descriptions are significant to setting the scene and atmosphere of a story. I felt, Midwood did an excellent job at creating the dark despair of the time period.
•An interesting element is shown in the Jewish Ghetto Ilse is sent to. It is how the Soviet and German Jews view one another. This is not something I’d thought of before and I’m glad Midwood brought this to the story.
No Woman’s Land is fiction, but the story is based on fact. The main characters and their stories are true. Many of the things about the story is true or based on fact. I wonder why Midwood chose to write a fiction book and not a biography? The story is wonderful, but I feel if it had been all factual information it would also be wonderful. Either way it is an unusual love story in harrowing surroundings.

About the Author:
Ellie Midwood is a best-selling, award-winning historical fiction writer. She’s a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama.
Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) – “The Girl from Berlin: Standartenfuhrer’s Wife
Readers’ Favorite – winner in the Historical Fiction category (2016) – “The Austrian” (honorable mention)
New Apple – 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing – “The Austrian” (official selection)
For more information on Ellie and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

03_Ellie Midwood

I do not host giveaways. This link will take you to the giveaway link: https://gleam.io/Tiz79/no-womans-land

03_No Woman's Land Poster

(Review) Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust by Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West

04_Claiming My Place_Blog Tour Banner_final02_Claiming My Place

Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar Straus Giroux. March 13, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Holocaust. Young adult.
Pages: 272.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: For adult and young adult readers who read Holocaust survivor stories.

Landing page for the tour at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Amazon link

About the author:
After graduating from Berkeley and earning a Master’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA, Planaria Price began her career teaching English to adult immigrants in Los Angeles. She has written several textbooks for University of Michigan Press and has lectured at over 75 conferences. In addition to her passion for teaching and writing, Planaria has worked with her husband to save and restore over 30 Victorian and Craftsman homes in her historic Los Angeles neighborhood. Claiming My Place is her first book for young adults.
Website for Planaria Price
03_Planaria Price

Praise:
“Price has boldly elected to tell the story in Basia’s own first-person, present-tense voice. The result is a dramatic, suspenseful account of survival in extremis, told in collaboration with Basia’s American daughter.” ―Booklist
“Price’s rendering of West’s mother’s early life reads like suspenseful historical fiction, telling a rarely heard side of the Jewish experience during WWII . . . Family, friendships, and romance give poignancy to this unique coming-of-age story, which is further enhanced by maps, a glossary, and an afterword.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A rich exploration of a Holocaust survivor’s sheltered childhood, the atrocity that failed to destroy her, and her later life as an immigrant.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“I was completely engrossed by this drama of survival. Barbara Reichmann’s story is quite extraordinary. It is sad, and terrible, and yet somehow captivating. The whole story of those who survived the Shoah by passing as Christians and working in Nazi Germany is an often forgotten part of the historical record.” ―Kai Bird, Executive Director, Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY Graduate Center, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
“As occurs with The Diary of Anne Frank, this book merges the dire circumstances of the Holocaust with the tenuousness of being a teenager. But Claiming My Place expands the view provided in the diary for one critical reason. Anne Frank’s story is told within an isolated cocoon. In Barbara’s story, however, the Holocaust is in full view as her experiences unfold.” ―David H. Lindquist, Ph.D., IPFW College of Education and Public Policy / Regional Museum Educator, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
“This frightening true story of a young Jewish girl’s flight from the deadly grip of the Nazis celebrates the surprising ingenuity and raw courage found only in the depths of the human spirit. Risking what few others dared, Barbara Reichmann, née Gucia Gomolinska, speaks with wisdom and uncommon self-awareness through her detailed, colorful, and evocative recollections from earliest childhood. In the final portion of this book, her daughter, Helen West, continues Barbara’s journey in an insightful and loving overview of Barbara’s life from the family’s arrival in New Orleans in 1951 until her death in 2007. This is a great read with the suspenseful, inspiring and uplifting appeal of a novel, about a character who will capture the reader’s heart.” ―Allan Holzman, Peabody and Emmy Award-winning director and editor (Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Holocaust, Old Man River, The Native Americans)
“Thanks to the detailed memories and the conversational tone, this book provides an engaging and informative reading experience with as much appeal as a fiction title. Recommended for most YA nonfiction collections.” ―Magdalena Teske, West Chicago Public Library District School Library Journal
“This book was truly a celebration of the human spirit. What a gift she has for putting you in the story. Her way with words, plus her weaving of the actual events recounted to her by the unbelievably courageous Basia and her daughter Helen, was nothing short of magical. The included photographs and epilogue served to fully round out this amazing tale. I never wanted this book to end!” ―Rabbi Lynn Brody Slome

Summary:
Claiming My Place is the true story of a young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by escaping to Nazi Germany and hiding in plain sight.
Meet Gucia Gomolinska: smart, determined, independent, and steadfast in the face of injustice. A Jew growing up in predominantly Catholic Poland during the 1920s and ’30s, Gucia studies hard, makes friends, falls in love, and dreams of a bright future. Her world is turned upside down when Nazis invade Poland and establish the first Jewish ghetto of World War II in her town of Piotrkow Trybunalski. As the war escalates, Gucia and her family, friends, and neighbors suffer starvation, disease, and worse. She knows her blond hair and fair skin give her an advantage, and eventually she faces a harrowing choice: risk either the uncertain horrors of deportation to a concentration camp, or certain death if she is caught resisting. She decides to hide her identity as a Jew and adopts the gentile name Danuta Barbara Tanska. Barbara, nicknamed Basia, leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known in order to claim a new life for herself.
Writing in the first person, author Planaria Price brings the immediacy of Barbara’s voice to this true account of a young woman whose unlikely survival hinges upon the same determination and defiant spirit already evident in the six-year-old girl we meet as this story begins. The final portion of this narrative, written by Barbara’s daughter, Helen Reichmann West, completes Barbara’s journey from her immigration to America until her natural, timely death.
The book includes three maps and 41 photographs in black and white.

My Thoughts:
Several reasons led me to award this book an excellent rating:
•A detailed account of Barbara Reichmann, from age 6 until post World War II. The book encompasses her home life, parents, siblings, neighborhood, hometown, schools, and university life. In addition, her plight of survival during the war. And, post World War II life: displacement.
•A strong teaching on the Jewish traditions, religion, holidays, and festivals. I enjoyed reading about the foods eaten during Passover, as well as the reasons behind the types of food eaten. During Passover, they sing songs and read from the Haggadah.
•Another point related to the previous. At the Seder meal, an empty chair is left for Elijah, even a cup of wine is left for him. I’d not heard of this custom before, and I loved hearing about the details of several other Jewish customs.
•Through Barbara’s voice, I became swept up in her story. I’ve read a long list of Holocaust stories. Barbara’s story is unique. The story of her survival is the expected reading, but I did not expect to learn about her life as a Jew. I feel this is an excellent teaching tool for students to learn about both the Holocaust and the Jewish religion.
•Barbara gave me a background on anti-Semitism in Europe. What the Jews had been accused of throughout the centuries. And, she gave an interesting perspective by stating it is what they’d come to expect. “Jews have learned to accept and endure the persecution off an on.”
•On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. This begins a thirteen day account of Barbara’s memories of this history. It gave me an overall picture of those first days.
•A horrifying life after Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The new laws, abuse, starvation, and murder. In one scene, Barbara and her family are eating dinner when they hear German voices outside their door shouting, “Schnell! Schnell!” The men come in their home going through the house and stealing, while the family still sits at their dinner table not wanting to take a breath.

Claiming My Place is described as a young adult book. Through most of the story, Barbara is in her twenties. The book is not descriptive about the death camps. I wanted to mention this last statement for a parent who may be thinking of this book for their child. I plan to pass this book along to my teenage granddaughter. However, she too has read extensively Holocaust stories.

(Review) The German Girl by Lucas Correa

The German Girl

Publisher and Publication Date: Washington Square Press. August 8, 2017.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Holocaust. World War II.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Recommend. Very good.

Amazon

Summary:
Two young girls. Two time periods. Two lives who have been shattered by tragedy. Both girls are related. Their lives will intersect.
Hannah lives in Berlin in 1939. She is the only child of a wealthy Jewish family.
Anna lives in New York City post 9/11. The year is 2014. She is the only child of a widow. Anna’s father died before she was born.

My Thoughts:
•A clincher of an opening line. The narrator, Hannah, is talking about killing her parents. It is obvious from the start of the story she is a person under deep stress and anguish. Berlin is a powder keg. The fuse has been lit by Nazi Germany. The Jews are the target of the fuse.
•The setting of both stories, and the emotion of the stories, is the biggest aspect of the book. Both girls are pushed from a young age to become adults. They are heavily burdened by their circumstances. They are at times alone in their minds. They scramble for an answer to their plight.  The German Girl is heart-wrenching at times, because I felt strongly about the outcome of the two young girls.
•Both of the mothers of the two girls are lost in their own “place.” Anna’s mother is lost in the past, and in her grief and depression. Hannah’s mother is lost in the refinement and wealth of her material possessions.
•Anna is a compassionate person. She often looks away from her own situation and is focused on others-their sadness is a heavy weight in her heart. It is so “different” to read about a person who is not selfish and self-entitled. I read about and see so many people focused on their selves that Anna stands in stark contrast.
The German Girl gave me a riveting view of living under the grim conditions as a Jew in Berlin in 1939.
•I’d heard about the ship carrying Jews headed to Cuba. This is the first (fictional) story I’ve read about this history.
•Several photographs are in the back of the book of passengers on the ship, St. Louis. In addition, eight pages of signatures from the passengers.