[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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[Review] D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose

Publisher and Publication Date: Crown Publishing. April 23, 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Resistance in France during World War II. Espionage. Women in literature.
Pages: 394. I counted every written page. From pages 289 to 394 is Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography, Index, and About the Author.
Format: Hardcover. Library binding.
Source: Public library.
Audience: World War II history readers, especially those with an interest in the Resistance work in France.
Rating: Very good.

Author page @ Goodreads for Sarah Rose.
Website/ Twitter.

Summary:

A character chart is located before the first chapter. The characters are Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, Odette Sansom, Yvonne Rudellat, Mary Herbert, Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill, Claude de Baissac. In addition, I noted other characters: Hélène Aron, Andre Girard, Major Karl Bömelburg, André Marsac, and Phyllis Latour.

Beginning in 1940, England recruited 39 women to train for various spy work in a new government agency called the Special Operations Executive or SOE. These women were recruited because most young men were busy in military service. These women were from all walks of life. They spoke French. They were all trained with knowledge and abilities to carry out specific spy and espionage work in France. Some examples of the work are radio operators and sabotage efforts.

The inside flap cover of the book mentions Sarah Rose used extensive research for the book, including “recent declassified files.”

Odette Sansom was recruited in 1942. Her story has been written about in other books I’ve read, and she is a defining character in D-Day Girls.

The book begins in 1942, and the climax will be during the D-Day invasion of Normandy beaches in France.

My Thoughts:

I’ve mentioned this before, but World War II history is one of my favorite subjects to read. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction or fiction. I like all of them. I’ve read children to adult books in this subject.

The principal reason I love this genre is my dad was a veteran in World War II. He was a veteran of Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.

I stood on that beach with dad and other family members in the fall of 1999. Dad reminisced about that event. It was then I realized his story was no longer a story told in bits and pieces at the dinner table. His story was real. Violent. Historical. Memorable.

Several reasons why I love D-Day Girls:

  1. There is no fluffy stuff in the book. What I mean is the book delivers exactly what the inside flap summarized about the book. The women involved in the SOE work in France in the two years before the D-Day invasion. Fluffy is added material in a book that creates a larger and longer work with information not necessarily pertaining to the main topic.
  2. No one character is in the spotlight. The work they all did as a whole is explored and studied and recreated for the reader.
  3. I’m amazed at the courage, bravery, ingenuity and savvy nature of all of them. Even one of the last characters in the book who is suggested as not that bright is a person of determination.
  4. I saw one of the most important traits of a spy, to be one step ahead of the enemy. To think and plan and be one step ahead of them.
  5. A baby is difficult to hide. In one person’s case it is a double blessing for them.
  6. D-Day Girls is a concise, panoramic view, and engaging read.

[Review] Berlin: Life and Death in the City at the Center of the World by Sinclair McKay

Publisher and Publication Date: St. Martin’s Press. August 23, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. History.
Pages: 464.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: World War II history readers with a setting of Berlin, Germany.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Sinclair Lewis’s author page at Goodreads.

Summary:

Beginning in 1919, just after World War II, the city of Berlin is explored in its history, culture, society, and its changing politics.

The book holds more information about pre-World War II, World War II, and post-World War II Berlin. There is a brief analysis of the period during the fall of the Berlin wall. However, my interests are where the book’s emphasis is held-the war years.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read more books on World War II than after the war. This is what drew me to read this book. It is the main reason that held my interest.

Several reasons on what I learned or why I enjoyed this book:

  1. The bombing raids over Berlin were filled with women and children. I have empathy for them. McKay is descriptive about the shelters, bombings; and later when the Russians are in Berlin at the close of the war, the raping of the women-women of all ages.
  2. Brief memoirs are given of people who lived in Berlin. These are not lengthy but serve a strong purpose to personalize the book rather than let it be academic in nature.
  3. Some of the memoirs are of Jews who hid during the entirety of the war.
  4. The Nazis used the poverty and sadness of the people after World War I for their agenda. Their agenda included the young people in Hitler youth groups. It is eye-opening and disturbing how people can be taken advantage of and misled to the extent of indoctrination to mass murders and war. I have empathy for the beginnings of how they must have felt after World War I. I cannot agree to decisions that were made.
  5. Several things I’d not heard of before about Berlin society and culture. For example, there was a craze to be a nudist. This happened right after World War I. I did not know that there were revolutionary demonstrations after World War I. I knew the Nazis began to rise and have demonstrations. I did not know about other political groups.
  6. There is a chapter with a focus on the history of film. There were 300 cinemas in Berlin at the time of World War II. Hitler loved film, and he chronicled his ideology and work.
  7. Berlin had been a place that was tolerant of the gay culture. There were doctors who had helped people transition. This changed during the Nazi years.
  8. I had mentioned this in number 1 above. There is a disturbing story of a young woman who worked in a grocery store during the time the Russians came into Berlin. She was raped on the counter during the time the store was open. This rape was public. It was done with the intention to dishonor and shame her in view of other people.
  9. By 1960 there were over 200,000 people who in East Berlin left to live in freedom on the other side. This is such an important chapter, to share memoirs about those who tried to escape.

I want to clarify. I do not have empathy for the Nazi machine. They were mass murderers and instigated a war that led to defeat. I have great empathy for those like the woman who was raped in a grocery store. I have empathy for any child who was abused and suffered. I am also not going to state something as equally hateful as “you got what you deserved.” I am not that kind of person. However, the Nazis were despicable people. I believe many of them, civilians, were unaware of the consequences in believing Hitler was their savior.

[Review] The Light Attendant: A Canadian Bluebird Novel, Part One by Wendy Fehr

Publisher and Publication Date: ShiftersPress. February 17, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. War literature. Nursing history during World War I.
Pages: 303.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary NetGalley Kindle e-book. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war stories, World War I, and romance.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon. The Kindle copy is $2.99.

Part Two of the book is @ this link: Amazon. It is $3.99.

Wendy Fuhr @ Goodreads.

Info on Wendy Fuhr at ShiftersPress/ Instagram/ Twitter/ Facebook.

Summary:

Two main characters: Henry Ryzak and Abbigail or Abbi Grieves. They are both from Canada. They were both raised on farms. Henry is the second son, and there is animosity between him and his father. Abbi and her father do not see eye to eye on a scheme her father has planned to involve her life and the farm.

A year after World War I begins, Henry’s older brother enlists. Henry enlists to keep watch over him.

Abbi talks her father in to letting her go to nursing school, but there is a requirement for her after returning. She must fulfill an obligation.

Abbigail finished nursing school and became a Canadian Nursing Sister or Bluebird for the war.

Abbi and Henry both experience the war but from different views and experiences.

Their lives will intersect, and first impressions will be different for both. However, war has a way of changing people.

My Thoughts:

I love this story! I have several reasons why I love it.

1. This story is what I had been looking for several months ago when I began to read a couple of other books about this historical event. I wanted to read about medical care for the injured during World War I. In one of the books, it seemed more focused on the extra activities of the medical personnel and the soldiers, rather than on their roles in the war. The other book gave me more knowledge about the physicians who operated on the injured. The Light Attendant shares the gritty details of what they actually did-on a daily basis, and during specific missions.

2. One of the reasons I love this story is that even though romance is a theme, it does not take away or distract from the events and personal experiences of war. What I mean is often when I read a book about two people who care for one another and they are both directly involved in the war effort, the romantic aspect totally shifts the story and can even hijack the overall story. The war then becomes a background, and this is never the reality during a time of war.

3. War is horrific, violent, lengthy, and damaging. People who are in a war, whether they are in combat or in direct contact with caring for the injured are changed. They cannot go back to the people they were before. This is never said in the story, but I can tell by the behaviors and developments of the characters.

4. Some things I’d never thought about that a soldier did. He learned to care for his own needs. For example, mend a torn shirt. This is a task their mother or wife or sister did. Now, they must do this type of thing. This is a personal but important example to share about the soldiers.

5. I learned that injuries and death is not always on the battlefield but is a result of accidents or negligence on the part of the soldier or another soldier.

6. I love that Abbi demonstrates that nursing is a skill, but it is also showing compassion, patience, and care to the injured.

7. I love the comparison stories of Henry and Abbi. He will share his story and then in the next chapter the same scene is shared but it is through Abbi’s eyes and thoughts.

8. I love reading how triage is handled by Abbi. She is thrust into this task without having done this before. And triage is probably not a word used at this point in history, but it is still an act that must be implemented.

9. I love stories that will give me a panoramic sweeping view of what is happening. In a war, during a battle, the story can take a reader up close, and it can shift away for the reader to see the larger scene taking place. The same can be said of a hospital tent or the injured laying on the grounds in front of a hospital. To me this is such an important structure for a story! It brings the scene to life in my mind.

I love this book so much I bought the 2nd part of Henry and Abbi’s story.

[Review] Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scout to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” by Colonel Richard Ernest Evans and Barbara Evans Kinnear

Publisher and Publication Date: Kieran Publishing. July 3, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. War memoir.
Pages: 508.
Format: Large Paperback. 8×10 size.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Books Forward and Barbara Kinnear. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

Site for the book: Richard Eager.

Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram

A write-up about the book is located in the Knoxville Daily Sun.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Summary:

Barbara Kinnear and her late father’s debut release, Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” (July 3, 2021, Kieran Publishing Company) showcases the humanity and personalities of war heroes in a charming biography. The family of U.S. Air Force veteran, Richard Earnest Evans, has preserved his history in a captivating new book. A detailed account of the golden age of aviation, spanning the 1930’s to the 1960’s, told through the firsthand stories of beloved son, brother and father and heroic pilot, Colonel Richard Ernest Evans.

A bet between WWII commanders. An Eagle Scout from Tennessee assigned to pilot one of the greatest leaders of the Allied Forces. This is the story of how young Captain Richard Evans became the B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot for Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, during missions throughout North Africa and Italy.

My Thoughts:

My first thought is this book targets a specific group of readers because not all readers will want to read detailed information about flight details, the mechanics of flying, and military words. For me, I enjoy reading war memoirs. I enjoy reading a story I’ve not heard before.

Second, the book shares stories of Richard Eager as a child growing up and personal details of life as a family man. The book is not completely chronological in time. As far as his military experiences it follows chronological time, but he reminisces in whole chapters about his childhood.

Richard Eager’s personality is displayed in his writing style. He is matter of fact, determined, confident, detailed, and freely expresses himself. He has a keen sense of humor.

The story is told from Richard’s voice. He is the narrator.

This is a large paperback filled with both story, and black and white photographs of people and maps. I want to mention this because it’s a chunkster size book.

The dedication of the book (located in the opening) is memorable.

I believe this is a splendid war memoir!