A Cold and a Book

For the past two weeks I have had a strange cold. The first day I had chills, the second and third day I had a sore throat and my symptoms moved on from there. But they never left my throat which remained crazily messed up – causing me hours of crazy coughing (and anyone who knows me well, knows once I start crazily coughing, I cough forever). And because of the coughing, I lost my voice … and my energy. (No runny noses in this weird disease.)

So for days, I lethargically wandered around, wishing I had my usual pep. I wrote, finishing a few assignments, but that’s about it. I lost my appetite – mainly because my throat was so coated with cough drops and cough syrup I no longer had taste buds.

You would think me being me, I would’ve curled up in a chair and read one of the dozens of books I have around the house – but no, that didn’t happen either. I would read two or three pages and decide I wasn’t interested in the story.

OnHitler.jpge day, in desperation, I got in the car and headed for Barnes and Noble, determined to find a book that would hold my interest more than 10 seconds.

Alas, I had only been at the bookstore five minutes when one of my coughing spells hit me and I knew I’d have to leave. I grabbed the first book I saw that looked somewhat interesting, quickly purchased it and left.

The book was On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmgard A. Hunt.

An absolutely fascinating book. Irmgard tells the true story of being a young girl growing up in Bavaria on Hitler’s Mountain, right below the Eagle’s Nest/Obersalzberg. Her family were Nazis and totally bought into Hitler’s promises that Germany would be the greatest nation. They were naively unaware of his real purpose and had no idea that Jews were being killed.

When she was three, her family hiked up the mountain one day because they heard Hitler would come out to greet his admirers. That was the day he put her on his lap – a moment of glory for her parents.

But things began to happen. Her grandfather never did like what as going on. Her father joined Hitler’s army and lost his life and instead of the country getting better, slowly things got worse.

Irmgard, a good writer, takes you right there into her unique childhood where she attended school with the children of Hitler’s right hand men. She talks of Hitler’s policies slowly changing what they were learning in the classroom, of people starving, of being allowed to go up to the homes on the mountain (after the war was over) and take what they wanted. She also talks about the difficulties after the war.

Through it all, “beneath the bravado, I remained a committed Lutheran.” She goes on to say how her faith brought her solace and hope.”

I’ve read many books about World War II – stories of Jewish families who escaped, stories of Germans who helped the Jews, stories of people who were part of underground rescue missions. This was different. This was the story of a girl who was just there because that’s where her family lived.

Ms. Hunt now lives in the US and works on environmental issues.

The book was good and I am better.

A Good Book – For the Glory

51ue03zybml-_sx327_bo1204203200_My favorite type of book is a biography and I recently read a particularly good one.

For the Glory, Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton is (obviously) the story of Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame. But he was so much more than an Olympic champion – in fact that is just one day in a fascinating life.

(This is a fairly new book so easy to find if you’re interested.)

By the way – the picture below is of West Sands Beach in St. Andrews, Scotland where the opening and closing shots of the movie were set. The beach is right next to St. Andrews Golf Course. I had the privilege of taking this picture while in Scotland (which was indeed a privilege – I loved  Scotland.)

Read below the picture to read about some interesting facts I learned.

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  1. He was smart, graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in science.
  2. He was part of the Scottish National Rugby Team.
  3. He was not the stoic, serious athlete portrayed in Chariots of Fire, but had a great sense of humor and was liked by everyone.
  4. This was not the first Olympics where athletes refused to run on Sundays. In the previous Paris Olympics, several Americans dropped out because of it.
  5. Eric know about the Sunday race months before and the British Olympic Committee was supposedly going to do something about it, but didn’t get around to it.
  6. Eric was also not the only one who didn’t race on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics either (the one Chariots of Fire was based on).
  7. He was good friends with Eileen Soper who was a world-renown artist, illustrating children’s books. They carved their initials in a tree. Eileen painted a portrait of Eric which is in a gallery today.
  8. He could’ve continued running and easily won medals in the next Olympics, but he walked away from running glory to be a missionary in China. (His parents were missionaries in China.)
  9. He married Florence, a true partner in ministry and they had two daughters.
  10. When life got dangerous in China because of the Japanese aggression, he sent his wife and two daughters home – his wife was pregnant with daughter #3. He never saw his family again.
  11. He ended up in a Japanese prison camp where he became the camp leader, showing kindness to everyone, organizing games, teaching Bible studies.
  12. He died in camp of a brain tumor.

 

THE GIRLS OF ROOM 28 – FRIENDSHIP, HOPE AND SURVIVAL IN THERESIENSTADT

In the middle of the Christmasing and breakfasting (hey, great fun with Lauri yesterday at Egg Harbor and with Carol today at Panera), I’ve been reading a fascinating and sad book called The Girls of Room 28.

I have read books about the hardships of the Jews during World War 2: Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank and many other books about lesser known, but still persecuted people.

In the midst of the concentration camps was a place called Theresienstadt (sometimes called Terezin).

The Nazis presented the town as a model Jewish settlement and sent the well-known musicians, artists, authors, diplomats, scientists  and actors to Theresienstadt.  So many musicians were housed at the camp, that there were four concert orchestras, chamber groups and jazz ensembles. Plays were acted out with regularity.

These people, experts in their fields, were assigned to teach the children. They taught the children in all areas of education including drawing and music.  (More than 6,000 of the drawings were hidden and recovered after the war.)  They even acted and produced a children’s opera. If you go on iTunes and enter the word “Terezin” you will find a long list of music composed by the Jewish musicians imprisoned at the camp.

The Girls of Room 28 is the story of one room in the children’s barracks. Much of it told through the point of view of a young girl named Helga who kept a journal of her life in Theresienstadt. Counselors were assigned to the children – often adults who had some experience in the real world, so the children’s world at Theresienstadt was orderly and disciplined with  high educational standards.

In 1944 the Nazis  invited the Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt to prove to the world that the camps were healthy places, brimming with culture. They built shops and filled them with beautiful clothing and other items (not mentioning that much of what was in the shops was stolen from the Jews whom they’d captured). To make the place look less crowded – more than 7,000 Jews were sent to Aushwitz and gassed.  The visit was so successful, the Nazis then decided to make a film about the settlement.  After the shooting of the film the crew, cast and producer were also sent to  Aushwitz.

More than 140,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt during the war. Thirty three thousand died on site because of hunger and disease. Another 88,000 were went to Aushwitz. The Nazis might have told the world that they had a model village where children happily played and attended school and sang beautiful music, but the truth is quite different.

More than fifteen thousand children lived at the Theresienstadt during the course of the war.

Approximately 150  survived.

The book, written by Hannelore Brenner tells the story from the children’s point of view.