[Review] The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945, Citizens and Soldiers by Nicholas Stargardt

Publisher and Publication Date: Basic Books. 2015.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. War literature. World War II.
Pages: 704.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library copy.
Audience: World War II history readers, especially those with an interest in civilians.
Rating: Excellent.

8 black and white maps.

52 black and white illustrations.

Link for the book at Amazon.

Author page at Goodreads for Nicholas Stargardt.

I recommend a previous book Nicholas Stargardt has written and I’ve read: Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives Under the Nazis.

Summary:

In brief, The German War is a “social history” of the German people, both soldiers and civilians, during World War II.

The German War is a study of German men and women, boys and girls, who lived during pre-World War II, World War II, and post-World War II. It is a thorough exploration showing various points of views of the Nazis, Hitler, the war, and Allies.

Stargardt researched and worked on this book for over 20 years. He was privileged to read private archives and personal letters.

One of the questions he had upon starting this work is when did the German people know about “the murder of the Jews?” The answer is both shocking and disturbing.

Another question is how did they become swept up in believing Hitler was a savior of sorts?

My Thoughts:

It has been a few years ago that I was looking for books to read from the civilian perspective during World War II. I have read a lengthy list of Holocaust and World War II books, but few have been written with a focus on civilians.

I’m reminded of a personal story of my own. In 1999 and 2001, I traveled with family to several European countries. We traveled to several cities in Germany. During the trip, we ate dinner with a family my brother-in-law knew when he was stationed in Germany in the early 1960s. The family owned a pub. They treated him like a son. He has continued to keep in touch with the children (who are all in their senior years). The mother of the family had a tattoo of numbers on her arm. My brother-in-law never asked her about those numbers nor her personal story. Before our dinner together, my brother-in-law asked me and my parents (my dad a World War II veteran), not to bring up the war. And we did not. It was a great meal and visit, despite me not remembering much high school German, my brother-in-law speaks fluent German, and no one else in our party spoke the other’s language. He was the interpreter. Of course, I had many questions I wanted to ask.

It appears the don’t ask questions and the not talking about the war is widespread in that generation and the next. This is one of many things I learned in reading The German War.

The most shocking and disturbing concern is people do not learn from history. The same type of thought patterns and behavior continues on and on. I am referring to control of what is released in the media. I am not referring to one particular group, but this is widespread, and is also displayed on social media. People share what they want the public to know about them. They do not share everything. These things are often released at opportune times to make them look a certain way. Transparency is rare.
Before any of you get your panties in a ruffle, I am not referring necessarily to a political group, but religious, businesses, and individual peoples. I’m reminded of the Hollywood of the early days when press releases about actors were released strategically.

Another interesting thing I learned is the German people have been divided over who were the real victims during the war.

Other reasons why I believe The German War is excellent (I want to clarify, these are not positive as in feel good points, but bring an education for readers).

  1. A broad look at groups of people: Jews, Ethnic Germans, German soldiers, Jehovah Witnesses, Homosexuals, disabled people, children, Polish people, mixed marriages of race, Catholics, and Soviets.
  2. The disturbing, senseless, and barbaric methods of murder of the disabled adults and children.
  3. Large groups of Polish (both Jews and non-Jews) murdered by the Germans that were without “restrictions.”
  4. Food rationing among other factors faced by German civilians.
  5. Women who remained at home while their husbands or boyfriends were fighting.
  6. Rumors of poison gas that would be used by the Allies.
  7. Even in the 1920s, children were taught in German schools that, “France is a hereditary enemy and Hitler is their hero.”
  8. Catholic priests who spoke out against the Nazis.
  9. People’s trust is shown in their government, medical doctors, and those in authority.
  10. A list of countries and the total number of Jews murdered.
  11. Various forms of execution.
  12. Allied bombings of Germany.
  13. Civilian’s experiences during the raids.
  14. Post war Germany. The hunger and lack of food.
  15. Allied soldiers who asked the German people about the war and the limited to no response.

After I read the last page, and I closed the book, I continued to sit in my reading chair pondering what I’d read. I’ve used the word disturbing in this post several times, but it is the best word to describe. Other words are traumatic, visceral, shocking, and memorable.

My God, what humanity does to another.

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Nick’s 2023 George Eliot Chapter-a-Day Read-along

Good Monday morning after a long holiday weekend. In reading my email this morning, I came across a blog hosting a reading challenge/read along for 2023. If you are interested and want to read about this well-organized project: Nick’s 2023 George Eliot Chapter-a-Day Read along.

The first book that will be read is Adam Bede.

I’ve actually read in the past 3 of the books in this reading schedule (many years ago). I am planning to read them again plus the others. I’m most looking forward to reading Middlemarch. And I believe 2023 is the year to read a biography of George Eliot that has been sitting on my dusty bookshelf for several years. I’m so excited about this read along!

I am posting the link again. In the post, there are additional links to read the books free online, so you do not have to purchase the books.

http://nicksenger.com/onecatholiclife/announcing-the-2023-george-eliot-chapter-a-day-read-along

Happy Reading!

[Review] Modern Magic: Five Stories by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: The Modern Library. 1995.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 275.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers with an interest in other stories Alcott wrote.
Rating: Good for A Pair of Eyes. Okay for most of the stories. My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the one I dislike.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Modern Magic is a collection of five short stories.

  1. A Pair of Eyes; or, Modern Magic.
  2. The Fate of the Forrests.
  3. Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power.
  4. Perilous Play.
  5. My Mysterious Mademoiselle.

I’m in the process of reading Little Women for the first time. While at the library a couple of weeks ago, I came across a book of Alcott’s short stories which I’d already heard were vastly different than Little Women.

I cannot say with honesty that I enjoyed reading any of the stories. They are different. They most certainly were different in the 19th century when they were written. I’m not sure what was going on in Alcott’s head to prompt her to write at least one of them. It satisfied a curiosity in me to read this book.

The introduction in this book helps. The introduction in my copy of Little Women published by Penguin Classics certainly helps.

My review will contain spoilers, because if I do not give a little information about one of the stories you will be left wondering what I’m referring too that is so odd about one particular story.

In the first story, A Pair of Eyes. The main character is an artist who lives for his art. He considers that he is married to his work. However, he meets a woman who has these “mysterious eyes” that he must paint. The more time he spends with her the more he is enchanted with her and is overtaken with overwhelming feelings.

I feel this story has excellent dialogue, storyline, mystery, especially in the building up of the story.

A Pair of Eyes is my favorite.

The Fate of the Forrests is a story about a Hindoo curse on a family. I had a hard time becoming apart of the story. I understand the plot and storyline. I just did not care for it.

Behind a Mask is another story in the book about manipulation and control which is a strong theme running through all the stories. At least in this story there is a nice ending.

Perilous Play is about curiosity to use hashish bonbons. I am glad the story is one of the shorter ones because I was ready to move on.

My Mysterious Mademoiselle is the story I dislike, but it too is brief. A middle age unmarried English man meets a kittenish young girl on a train. The description of this girl is feminine with golden curls. This man is smitten. The two share a compartment on the train and exchange a light flirtation. The man takes a nap. When he wakes up, he is seated near a young man-a teenager. This young man is revealed to be the nephew of the man. The young man in female clothes is not what bothers me, it is the young man knew this was his uncle he was flirting with. It’s been a ploy. And at the end, the two leave together as if this “almost escalated” situation is not a big deal.

What I learned from reading Alcott’s short stories:

  1. She can write both long stories and short stories. Not all writers can do this.
  2. She writes excellent dialogue.
  3. She writes unusual and creative stories.
  4. I don’t see the stories as wicked which is what many in the 19th century thought of them. I have 21st century eyes and views, etc. I do believe they are melodramatic, dark, a little sinister and mysterious.
  5. In all the stories there are characters who are untrustworthy because they are manipulative, calculating, and have a ploy.

Quote of the Week

“No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.”

“My Psalm.” Stanza 1.

John Greenleaf Whittier [1807-1892]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company. 1955
Page 527.

Quote of the Week

O Lord! That lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!

William Shakespeare [1564-1616]

Henry VI, Part II, Act I, Sc.1, Line 19.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1955. Page 124.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers!