(Review) The Historians by Cecelia Ekbäck

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2021.
Genre: World War II. Historical fiction. Spy. Espionage. Women and literature.
Pages: 464.
Source: I received a complimentary uncorrected eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war/spy/espionage stories.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link
I don’t know the release date for the eBook.
The audiobook releases December 8, 2020.
The paperback releases January 12, 2021.

The year is 1943.
World War II.
The Scandinavian countries are Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Some lists omit Finland. Some lists add Iceland.
In 1940, Norway became occupied by Germany. Sweden is neutral, but Germany wants Sweden’s rich iron ore located in the north. Finland fought with both Germany and the Soviet Union. Denmark was neutral during the early part of the war.
When Laura Dahlgren found out her best friend Britta Hallberg had died, she began investigating the circumstances of her death despite her father telling her to stop.
At one time, Laura and Britta along with three young men had been college students and close friends. Laura tries to bring together the original group of friends to find out what happened to Britta.
During the investigation, Laura is led to Lapland (northern Finland) where the local people are disappearing.

My Thoughts:
I’ve gone back and forth on whether to give this book a good or very good rating. I’m not usually a half-star reviewer, but technically this book is 3 1/2 stars.
What I love most about the story is the location. I’ve since bought 3 Scandinavian historical fiction books. These books are Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset (3 books or volumes in this edition), and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker.
A 2nd reason I love this story is the time period-World War II.
A 3rd reason I love this story is it taught me about a period in history and a country I knew little about.
What tipped the review to 3 and 1/2 stars is I feel it took too long to make it where the book came together in a form I enjoyed reading.
A 2nd point is I don’t understand the heightened affection for Britta. Britta is characterized as beloved (several times) and even idolized by Laura. Is there a background story I missed?
I also noticed the group of 5 friends had overlapping relationships where they became more than just friends. This is another background story that is not developed.
The relationship between Laura and her father is complex. Their conflict and the themes going along with it could make an excellent standalone story.
My last points made the story feel undeveloped and distracting.

(Review) A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City by Anonymous

Publisher and Publication Date: Picador. 1953. My eBook Kindle copy, 2017.
Genre: Memoir. World War II. Germany. Post World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 300.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

The translator of the diary is Philip Boehm.

Amazon link
The Kindle price is $2.69 today.

A Woman in Berlin is a diary (kept in 3 notebooks) by a 34 year old German woman during the final weeks of World War II and the first few weeks of post war Germany.
She had worked as a journalist. She’d traveled in Europe before the war.
The diary began April 20, 1945. The diary ends June 22, 1945.

Two important points:
~This is a diary and not a complete historical record of World War II. It is the personal life and private thoughts of this German woman.
~The memoir is a trigger for people who have been sexually abused.

Warning! The memoir depicts graphic rape scenes.
In other books I’ve read, the rape scenes are not described in detail like this book. This memoir is the before, during, and afterwards of rape. Nothing in this memoir is romantic and beautiful. It is heart-wrenching, sad, and painful.

My Thoughts:
~I am a survivor of sexual abuse. This book triggered my difficulty in sleeping, flashbacks, and an overall uneasiness.
~I saw through her eyes the German soldiers as they retreated. In addition, she provided a surreal and disturbing account of the bombings, basement sheltering, scarcity of food and water, starvation, the violence of the Soviet soldiers, and civilian death and burial.
She acknowledges the harsh bitterness against the Nazi’s who caused this.
She confesses: “We’ve been led by criminals and gamblers, and we’ve let them lead us, like sheep to the slaughter.” Page 129.
~The 100,000 German women who were raped by Soviets were of all ages. The Soviet Army did not always discriminate who they plundered. German women who had babies might be ignored. Girl children might be ignored. Teenage girls were vulnerable because they were thought to be virgins. Elderly women were plunder. Females were considered war plunder with no rights and they were to accept this behavior!

Other Thoughts:
~In Berlin, at the end of the war, there were women, children, and old men.
~Women began to have a different attitude towards men. They were surviving (or not) without the men who had led them astray. They had a bitter attitude towards men. They had a pitiful attitude towards men.
~After the war is over information came to her and others about the Holocaust.

Final Thought:
The diary doesn’t reveal what she knew about the Holocaust before the war ended. I don’t know what she knew or what she thought. When she heard about the crematory in the camps it was one more thing to add to her oppressed soul.

I searched online to find who was the anonymous woman author. Her name was Marta Hillers (1911-2001).

(Review) Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Publisher and Publication Date: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2013.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II history. German history. Nazi Germany.
Pages: 288.
Source: Borrowed eBook, library copy.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. This book is specific to German women involved in the Nazi pogrom.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Ilse Koch
Irma Grese
Female SS German camp guards at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Hitler’s Furies is an analysis of German women who were actively involved in the Nazi genocide during the Holocaust.
These women worked in several different areas: nursing, secretary, guards, and teaching. Also, these women were often the wives of Nazi soldiers (especially wives of high ranking officers).
Hitler’s Furies explores several German women who were known perpetrators. Their personal stories are brief. Their atrocities are examined in detail.
One of the last chapters in the book explores why these women committed such horrific crimes?

My Thoughts:
The main reason I was drawn to this book is its subject. I’d not read a book in particular about female German Nazi criminals. Another book came close to this subject: Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm.

In my mind, women are more apt to be maternal, compassionate, settled, and domestic. Most of the women I’ve known have had these traits to some degree. I know of one family where it was the husband/father who has been the primary childcaring parent. Hitler’s Furies has ended my naivete.

In every case, the female perpetrators became monsters. They were vicious, vile, despicable people. It’s difficult to rationalize (wrap my mind around) their behavior. It’s difficult to believe this behavior didn’t continue after the war.

This is a hard read because of the subject. But if you are a reader of World War II and the Holocaust, this book is important.

Some of the women published their stories many years later, but were selective in what they revealed. Their motive was to share what had happened, but they did not want to be faulted and condemned. In Lower’s research, she had to be acutely aware of who to trust in their personal reflections.

~I feel Hitler’s Furies is thorough in its research and text.
~The dryness of the details is offset by illustrations from the perpetrator’s stories.
~I believe it is impossible to read this type of book and not judge. I have a heart and it has been pricked by the evil actions of these women.

(Review) Api’s Berlin Diaries: My Quest To Understand My Grandfather’s Nazi Past by Gabrielle Robinson

Publisher and Publication Date: She Writes Press. September 15, 2020.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir. World War II. Nazi Germany.
Pages: 329.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback (advanced reader copy) from She Writes Press. I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II stories, Nazi Germany, and memoirs.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

A Books Forward campaign.

GABRIELLE ROBINSON tells stories about people that reveal their personal situation within its historical context. One reason for her fascination with the intersection of the personal and historical stems from her own experience. Born in Berlin in 1942, her father’s fighter plane was shot down over England in 1943; after her family was bombed out twice, they fled Berlin in 1945, the beginning of a string of migrations that ended in the US. Gabrielle holds an MA from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. She has taught at the University of Illinois, at Indiana University South Bend, and abroad, and has won a number of awards for her writing and community engagement. Gabrielle is now settled in South Bend, Indiana, with her husband Mike Keen, a sociologist turned sustainable neighborhood developer, and their cat Max. Her favorite leisure time reading is about animals and trees. Learn more about Gabrielle and Api’s Berlin Diaries at https://www.gabriellerobinson.com/.

Imagine if you found out that someone you loved had a dark past. That happened to author Gabrielle Robinson, as she tried to reconcile the grandfather she knew with his complex past in her memoir Api’s Berlin Diaries (She Writes Press, September 15, 2020). 
After her mother’s death, Robinson found two diaries her grandfather had kept while serving as doctor during the fall of Berlin 1945. He recorded his daily struggle to survive in the ruined city and attempted to do what little he could for the wounded and dying without water, light, and medications. But then the diaries revealed something that had never been mentioned in her family, and it hit Robinson like a punch to the gut: Api, her beloved grandfather, had been a Nazi. 
In this clear-eyed memoir, Robinson juxtaposes her grandfather’s harrowing account of his experiences during the war with her memories of his loving protection years afterward, and raises thoughtful questions about the political responsibility we all carry as individuals. Moving and provocative, Api’s Berlin Diaries offers a firsthand and personal perspective on the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich — and the author’s own inconvenient past.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read a long list of World War II books. These books are about the Holocaust, German children’s experiences, Army nurses, American soldiers, Adolf Hitler, the Nuremberg trials, the Pacific War, nurses and civilians in Japanese prison camps, Japan’s invasion of China, the rape and slaughter of Nanking, the war in Europe, civilians, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day Omaha Beach, Jewish women who married Nazi Germans, Christians who rescued Jews, Christians who wrote pamphlets against Nazi Germany, Christian pastors and priests who preached against Nazi Germany, the rebuilding of Germany post war, the Resistance, spying and espionage during the war, and how the next generation of Germans have come to terms with the war.
In an account like Api’s Berlin Diaries, the author is sharing their personal and private family history in print. And, during the course of the memoir, the reader is given the author’s thoughts, feelings, realizations, insights, and wrestling with making peace with each new discovery.
Gabrielle Robinson wants to discover her parents and grandparent’s history during World War II. What was their experiences? What was their role in the war? To what extent did they know about the Holocaust?
Robinson was a small child during the war. Her memories are brief. One memory is she and her mother are at a Berlin train station that is crowded with people.
Robinson’s family didn’t talk about the war except in whispers.
The title of the book and the synopsis gave me the understanding it was about Robinson’s search for who her grandfather was during the war. But, I knew in my heart this was a book about self-discovery. It is a book about understanding where Robinson had come from (family lineage)? Who her family was outside of their family roles? And lastly, how does Robinson deal with the heavy weight of guilt and shame?
Api’s Berlin Diaries covers about 6 months at the end of the war and the summer after its end. Api was in Berlin at the end of the war. He was a physician in the military.
Excerpts from the diary are included in the book.
Black and white photographs are included in the book.

Several reasons I love this story:
~The author and her family traveled to the places mentioned by her grandfather in his diary. I saw through her eyes these places plus her thoughts about what she viewed. I felt as if I traveled along side her.
~The book is more than just about her grandfather. It is a book about the other members in her family.
~The book is a way for Robinson to unpack memories and come to terms in someway. She is trying to make peace with her past which is something many of us do when we get older.
~A personal and harrowing account of Berlin at the end of the war.
~I love how Robinson paired her grandfather’s memories to the documented history of those events.
~I love Robinson’s reading and research of World War II and Nazi Germany.
~Robinson gave other examples of people who will not talk about their feelings or role during the war.

Final Thoughts:
Robinson included some of her grandfather’s prayers. I felt this was especially heart-wrenching and touching.
Robinson’s grandfather was in the German military and was a member of the Nazi Party. He was an eye surgeon. He was not in combat. He did not take an active part in the murder of Jews. But, he was a member of the people group who did these atrocities.
To an extent Robinson answered many of the questions that began her journey of discovery. What I have learned as I’ve grown older is some questions can not be answered. This life is messy and complicated. And, sometimes we will not have an answer to the why.

It’s been 21 years ago that my family and I traveled to Europe. It was a trip of a life time. We visited many of the places my dad had been because he was in the American Army during World War II. Dad was a D-Day Veteran. He was a Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. He was even captured by Germans and was a POW. My brother-in-law had met friends when he was in the Army and stationed in Germany, 1960-1964. These friends were a family that treated him like family. It was arranged for us to meet together at a restaurant for dinner. They didn’t speak English. My brother-in-law was the only one of us who spoke German. I understood a few words because I took German in high school. If you can imagine the mixed assortment of our group. An older woman who was a German citizen during the war. Her adult children. My dad an American Veteran. And, the rest of our group. We wanted desperately to communicate with one another, but the language gap and the uncertainty of what to say hung about our heads like bulging cartoon captions. Yet, we all eventually settled down to a delicious meal and an interpreted conversation. My dad told me later he didn’t have hard feelings against those people. He told me not to judge. He said, “Annette, you don’t know their personal stories or what they endured. You don’t know the memories they live with.”

(Review) The White Rose Resists: A Novel of the German Students Who Defied Hitler by Amanda Barratt

Publisher and Publication Date: Kregel. May 26, 2020.
Genre: Christian historical fiction.
Pages: 336.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the underground movement during World War II.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

In German: Weiße Rose.

Christian fiction can be undeveloped in areas and this is a negative for some readers. This is the first thing I want to mention, because a reader may see this book and realize it’s Christian fiction and immediately dismiss it. Please give this book a chance. It does not have a thinly veiled storyline and plot. If you know the history about the White Rose underground/resistance movement in Germany during World War II, then you know how the story ends for several of the people involved. Instead, the people involved in the White Rose is the focus of their story. How they came to know one another? How they became willing to sacrifice their young lives for the cause? How they interacted with one another and the deep relationships that developed? All these questions are answered in this beautiful and moving story.

Several other books have been written. One of them I’ve read, Long Live Freedom! Traute Lafrenz and the White Rose by Peter Normann Waage. The link is for my review at Goodreads.

Other books on this subject (links to Goodreads):
A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler by Richard Hanser
The White Rose Munich 1942-1943 by Inge Scholl, Dorothee Solle, Inge Aicher-Scholl
At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl by Hans and Sophie Scholl, Inge Jens, J. Maxwell Brownjohn
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn
We will Not Be Silent, The White Rose by Russell Freedman
Defying Hitler: The Germans Who Resisted Nazi Rule by Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis
An Honorable Defeat: The History of German Resistance to Hitler 1933-1945 by Anton Gill
Alexander Schmorell: Saint of the German Resistance by Elena Perekrestov
The Short Life of Sophie Scholl by Hermann Vinke and Hedwig Pachter

Additional links of interest:
The Holocaust Encyclopedia
Jewish Virtual Library
National World War II Museum

Monument to the White Rose at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Several students at the University of Munich work together in secret to create pamphlets that are distributed to the public. These pamphlets describe a movement of people rising up against Hitler’s ideology. They condemn Hitler and all people who act inhumane, oppressive, and violent.

My Thoughts:
~Beautiful and enticing front cover.
~Great opening sentence: “My future is waiting, a spark in the distance burning steadily brighter as the train approaches the city.”
~The Scholl family is independent-minded and intelligent. This gave the brother and sister team an edge from other young people. Amanda Barratt gave a solid view of the Scholl family that is convincing, necessary, and believable.
~Strong descriptions. I love the descriptions of two mothers. One smells like “fresh bread and soap.” The other has skin smelling “like faded lavender.” It’s in the olfactory of sense that the young women feel a comfort.
~I easily visualized the young people. Whether it was a young man who smoked a pipe or cigarettes, or a change in how the girls wear their hair after attending the university. The students transition from children to young adults in a short period of time.
~After a young man shares what he witnessed, the group began to make plans to actively rise up against Hitler’s regime. They will not just talk among themselves in secret but actively do something. This created for me the building up of their courage and resistance. It is also a pivotal point in their lives and the story. This leads to my favorite reason for loving this book: it captures the characters unique calling.
~A second favorite reason for loving this book is the special bond-perfect unity-strong connection in the group. This wasn’t an average type group of friends who hung out together, but a special group of people. I kept thinking about a verse from the book of Esther: “…for such a time as this.”
~Lastly, the book showed me the group understood (as best they could) the tragic and unfair loss of their young lives.

Scripture reference from Bible Gateway.