The Girls of Room 28 [EPUB]

The Girls of Room 28 [EPUB]
The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt by Hannelore Brenner
2009 | EPUB | 1.75MB

From 1942 to 1944, twelve thousand children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp, near Prague, on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In The Girls of Room 28, ten of these children—mothers and grandmothers today in their seventies—tell us how they did it.

The Jews deported to Theresienstadt from countries all over Europe were aware of the fate that awaited them, and they decided that it was the young people who had the best chance to survive. Keeping these adolescents alive, keeping them whole in body, mind, and spirit, became the priority. They were housed separately, in dormitory-like barracks, where they had a greater chance of staying healthy and better access to food, and where counselors (young men and women who had been teachers and youth workers) created a disciplined environment despite the surrounding horrors. The counselors also made available to the young people the talents of an amazing array of world-class artists, musicians, and playwrights–European Jews who were also on their way to Auschwitz. Under their instruction, the children produced art, poetry, and music, and they performed in theatrical productions, most notably Brundibar, the legendary “children’s opera” that celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

In the mid-1990s, German journalist Hannelore Brenner met ten of these child survivors—women in their late-seventies today, who reunite every year at a resort in the Czech Republic. Weaving her interviews with the women together with excerpts from diaries that were kept secretly during the war and samples of the art, music, and poetry created at Theresienstadt, Brenner gives us an unprecedented picture of daily life there, and of the extraordinary strength, sacrifice, and indomitable will that combined—in the girls and in their caretakers—to make survival possible.

Witness by Ruth Gruber [EPUB]

Witness by Ruth Gruber [EPUB]
Witness: One of the Great Correspondents of the Twentieth Century Tells Her Story by Ruth Gruber
2009 | EPUB | 23.72MB

With her perfect memory (and plenty of zip), ninety-five-year-old Ruth Gruber–adventurer, international correspondent, photographer, maker of (and witness to) history, responsible for rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II and after–tells her story in her own words and photographs.

Gruber’s life has been extraordinary and extraordinarily heroic. She received a B.A. from New York University in three years, a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin a year later, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cologne (magna cum laude) one year after that, becoming at age twenty the youngest Ph.D. in the world (it made headlines in The New York Times; the subject of her thesis: the then little-known Virginia Woolf).

At twenty-four, Gruber became an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and traveled across the Soviet Arctic, scooping the world and witnessing, firsthand, the building of cities in the Siberian gulag by the pioneers and prisoners Stalin didn’t execute . . . At thirty, she traveled to Alaska for Harold L. Ickes, FDR’s secretary of the interior, to look into homesteading for G.I.s after World War II . . . And when she was thirty-three, Ickes assigned another secret mission to her–one that transformed her life: Gruber escorted 1,000 Holocaust survivors from Italy to America, the only Jews given refuge in this country during the war. “I have a theory,” Gruber said, “that even though we’re born Jews, there is a moment in our lives when we become Jews. On that ship, I became a Jew.”

Gruber’s role as rescuer of Jews was just beginning.

In Witness, Gruber writes about what she saw and shows us, through her haunting and life-affirming photographs–taken on each of her assignments–the worlds, the people, the landscapes, the courage, the hope, the life she witnessed up close and firsthand: the Siberian gulag of the 1930s and the new cities being built there (Gruber, then untrained as a photographer, brought her first Rolleicord with her) . . . the Alaska highway of 1943, built by 11,000 soldiers, mostly black men from the South (the highway went from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, 1,500 miles to Fairbanks) . . . her thirteen-day voyage on the army-troop transport Henry Gibbins with refugees and wounded American soldiers, escorting and then photographing the refugees as they arrived in Oswego, New York (they arrived in upstate New York as Adolf Eichmann was sending 750,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz).

In 1947, Gruber traveled for the Herald Tribune with the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) through the postwar displaced persons camps in Europe, and then to North Africa, Palestine, and the Arab world; the committee’s recommendation that Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state was one of the key factors that led to the founding of Israel.

We see Gruber’s remarkable photographs of a former American pleasure boat (which had been renamed Exodus 1947) as it limped into Haifa harbor, trying to deliver 4,500 Jewish refugees (including 600 orphans), under attack by five British destroyers and a cruiser that stormed the Exodus with guns, tear gas, and truncheons, while the crew of the Exodus fought back with potatoes, sticks, and cans of kosher meat. In a cable to the Herald Tribune, Gruber reported that “the ship looks like a matchbox splintered by a nutcracker.” She was with the people of the Exodus and photographed them when they were herded onto three prison ships. Gruber represented the entire American press aboard the ship Runnymede Park, photographing the prisoners as they defiantly painted a swastika on the Union Jack.

During her thirty-two years as a correspondent, Ruth Gruber photographed what she saw and captured the triumph of the human spirit.

“Take photographs with your heart,” Edward Steichen told her.

Witness is a revelation–of a time, a place, a world, a spirit, a belief. It is, above all else, a book of heart.

1941: The Year That Keeps Returning [EPUB]

1941: The Year That Keeps Returning [EPUB]
1941: The Year That Keeps Returning by Slavko Goldstein
2013 | EPUB | 5.43MB

The distinguished Croatian journalist and publisher Slavko Goldstein says, “Writing this book about my family, I have tried not to separate what happened to us from the fates of many other people and of an entire country.”

1941: The Year That Keeps Returning is Goldstein’s astonishing historical memoir of that fateful year—when the Ustasha, the pro-fascist nationalists, were brought to power in Croatia by the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia. On April 10, when the German troops marched into Zagreb, the Croatian capital, they were greeted as liberators by the Croats. Three days later, Ante Pavelić, the future leader of the Independent State of Croatia, returned from exile in Italy and Goldstein’s father, the proprietor of a leftist bookstore in Karlovac—a beautiful old city fifty miles from the capital—was arrested along with other local Serbs, communists, and Yugoslav sympathizers. Goldstein was only thirteen years old, and he would never see his father again.

More than fifty years later, Goldstein seeks to piece together the facts of his father’s last days. The moving narrative threads stories of family, friends, and other ordinary people who lived through those dark times together with personal memories and an impressive depth of carefully researched historic details. The other central figure in Goldstein’s heartrending tale is his mother—a strong, resourceful woman who understands how to act decisively in a time of terror in order to keep her family alive.

From 1941 through 1945 some 32,000 Jews, 40,000 Gypsies, and 350,000 Serbs were slaughtered in Croatia. It is a period in history that is often forgotten, purged, or erased from the history books, which makes Goldstein’s vivid, carefully balanced account so important for us today—for the same atrocities returned to Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s. And yet Goldstein’s story isn’t confined by geographical boundaries as it speaks to the dangers and madness of ethnic hatred all over the world and the urgent need for mutual understanding.

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