Category Archives: Memoirs

Lorri M. Book Review: The Life of Gluckel of Hameln: A Memoir

gluckel of hameln The Life of Gluckel of Hameln-written by herself: A Memoir, translated from the Yiddish by Beth-Zion Abrahams, is quite the fascinating read, although written in Yiddish, initially, this book was actually a series of diaries written by the author for her children. They weren’t written in anticipation of them being published as a memoir.

Centuries later, her story comes to light, and with it an incredible description of life in Germany in the 17th Century. From one woman’s pen comes a multitude of historical references and insights.

Life for women was difficult enough during Gluckel’s time period, never mind the fact that she was a widow and mother of twelve. From daily life descriptions to interactions with the world outside, the story behind her life and the lives of her children is astonishing for its historical content and context.

She was a proud woman, proud of her business acumen, and proud of the fact that she strove to raise her children in the best possible light, giving them not only emotional nourishment, the necessities and much more, but also monetary sums to help them survive their adult circumstances.

Her writing transcends generations and centuries, and transports the reader back in time, to the realities of life’s struggles and harshness, especially for women. Life was difficult enough for a man to make his way into the world, striving to care for his family. Being a woman made the adversities more demanding to overcome. Adding children to the demands of daily living and survival, made Gluckel’s accomplishments more amazing.

She was married twice, and after the death of her first husband she began to write a diary to help her during sleepless nights. She eventually remarried, and continued writing, once again, after the death of her second husband. Writing consoled her, and she felt she was leaving a legacy for her children and any future descendants. She wanted them to be proud of their heritage, and felt the writings would cement that pride.

The memoir was translated from her journals. Through the plague, wars, births, deaths and Jewish life, Gluckel’s memoir is an astounding and descriptive look into Jewish life and into the history of the time period. Current events are chronicled, and Jewish life, practices and traditions are documented. The word imagery is quite vivid, and this reader could envision the scenarios presented.

The writing might seem a bit awkward and/or mundane for some readers, but one must take into account the time period of the memoir. The translator, did not stray from the original diaries and embellish entries, but chose to translate it as accurately as possible. That Gluckel wrote as masterfully as she did, is a tribute to her, as an individual, and a tribute to her goals to leave a legacy for her family. She did that and more, leaving the world a memoir of important historical value.

I recommend The Life of Gluckel of Hameln: A Memoir.

August 13, 2013 – 7 Elul, 5773

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Lorri M. Review: Hanns and Rudolf

hannsandrudolf Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz, by Thomas Harding, is a brilliantly written and well-researched book.

This non-fiction account of two men whose lives converge, told through the eyes of the author, Thomas Harding, whose Great-Uncle was Lieutenant Hanns Alexander. Hanns was a Jewish German, and also the son of an immigrant family who fled Germany for England, turning over all of their holdings in order to gain exit visas.

Rudolph Hoss (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess) was a farmer, a man who enjoyed the earth and farming. Farming eventually became far removed from his life, and it eluded him once he joined the “Schutz-Staffel” (SS), under the suggestion of Heinrich Himmler.

Harding refers to the two men by their given name, and I shall do the same. Their personal lives are depicted throughout the pages, regarding their childhoods, their families, their adult lives and their aspirations.

One thing that struck me was the dedication to Judaism within the Alexander family. And, cemented within that, is the family Torah, the “Alexander Torah”, which survived the war. So did correspondence between Hanns and his family, and between Hanns and his girlfriend, Ann, who eventually became his wife.

Within rotating chapters detailing the lives of both Hanns and Rudolf, the reader gains an intense perspective of their backgrounds, their personal lives, their goals and their individual quests in the name of country and war.

Hanns’ life takes dramatic turns once he is in England. He wants nothing more than to be viewed as “English as possible” and wants to gain citizenship. He joins the British Army hoping. This enlistment leads to more than he could ever imagine. At the end of his enlistment, he is given full British citizenship.

The pages are infused with compelling documentation, letters, forms, photographs, testimonies, and portions of Rudolf’s own journal entries. From all of the intense documentations, one is given perspectives that are unimaginable, concerning Rudolf’s rise to Kommandant, not only Kommandant, but Kommandant of Auschwitz.

Rudolf writes forthrightly concerning the atrocities he is involved with, and this reader could see how his initial attitude of concern for Jews eventually turns into one of pure evilness and lack of caring and concern for humanity. How he went from a man who was repulsed by witnessing camp murders (yet, stood there watching as if it was a normal fact of life, to save his reputation), to a man whose attitude changed dramatically is beyond the pale. He became a man possessed with death and destruction, and a man who had no remorse or concern for his implementation of the gas chambers. Yet, he had a wife and children who he came home to, acting as if nothing horrific had occurred.

He had a hand in the design and was witness to the first group of Jews that were gassed. He programmed the entire operation, employing not only his power, but whatever was available in order to incorporate construction, destruction and horrific atrocities. He oversaw over one million individuals exterminated at the hands of the Nazis. He was the master planner, and created the extermination program that existed, including the procedures, schedules, structures, and instructions. He was fearless, merciless and steadfast in his pursuit to please his superiors.

Hanns moved up through the ranks, and his Lieutenant status saw him eventually given the status of respect he desired. He took part in the Normandy Landing. In 1945 he was afforded a role on the newly formed War crimes Investigation Team for England, based in a Brussels suburb. This position took him to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where he saw the remains of unspeakable acts of genocide, after liberation.

His reputation fostered, he was given the job as an interpreter, taking notes from interviews and witness statements in German and then transcribing them into English. he interviewed several high-ranking individuals affiliated with Auschwitz, and other individuals from the SS. He untiring efforts garnered information that proved that certain SS members knew that gassed exterminations occurred at Auschwitz.

The war crimes trial began with the trial of Josef Kramer and forty four other people. Hanns could tell, after a few days of trial testimony, and knew in his heart of hearts that there were others who were conspirators or who headed the exterminations of the Jews.

The War Crimes Group was created, and those involved, including Hanns, were trying to locate SS high ranking officials through their intelligence experise. In 1946, he looked over the list of war criminals, and Rudolf’s name was next. He began investigating and searching for Rudolf. He was relentless in his investigation and searching. He left no stone unturned, every possible person involved, including family members, were interviewed and interviewed again. On March 10 1946, Rudolf was taken to prison.

From there, the rest is history, and Harding illuminates it immensely. Rudolf confessed to murdering over two million individuals. He was hanged at Auschwitz, in the same spot where Jews were hung. His memoir (which some excerpts are quoted from in Hanns and Rudolf) details his life, including his involvement in the SS.

Hanns and Rudolf
is an incredibly compelling book, reading like a spy story of sorts. It is intense, written brilliantly and with extreme accuracy, through the dedication of exhaustive research in all of its formats. Harding has done both Hanns and humanity an amazing tribute, in vividly detailing the tirelessness of Hanns and his efforts to right the wrongs through justice being done.

Harding has also shown the world a side of Rudolf that is invaluable for historical purposes. The reader is taken on a journey of a man who controlled his emotions, controlled the deaths of Jews, and who controlled Auschwitz with a firm hand.

I knew the book would be intense and filled with horrific situations and events. Yet, I read it, and within the pages of depictions of Auschwitz and the lack of humanity within the electrified fences, I was chilled to the bone reading about some of the circumstances, and more chilled and horrified at how Rudolf seemed to slough off the atrocities as if they were nothing of importance, as if Jewish humanity was irrelevant in the scheme of life.

Harding’s efforts are to be applauded. Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz is a work of extreme brilliance and Thomas Harding is masterful in the telling. From the opening page, describing Hanns’ funeral, to the last page, I was involved in reading the relaying of history, and inhaling the familial dynamics, especially of the Alexander family. Hanns and Rudolf belongs on every book shelf, personal or otherwise. It is books such as this that will keep history alive, and will keep it so, not only for this generation, but the generations that came before us, and generations to come. It is an invaluable historical resource.

I want to thank Leah Johanson, Publicist, Simon and Schuster for the Galley of Hanns and Rudolf. I am grateful to have received it, and to have read it. Thank you!

July 15, 2013 – 8 Av, 5773

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Jewish History, Jewish Immigrant, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs

Lorri M. Friday News 5/17/13

2 Mogen david

I reviewed the memoir, Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945.

I wrote about Cancer in Varied Forms, this week.

I finished reading The Golem and the Jinni, and I absolutely enjoyed it, although it is not my normal genre of reading.

Blossomsmall

Hannah’s Nook has a delicious sounding Fruity Red Lentil Curry recipe posted.

Leora’s Sketching Out blog has a wonderful colored-pencil drawing: Fishing at the Raritan River: Man and Boy. What are your thoughts on it?

Visit Shiloh Musings and read her Jewish Blog Roundup which has several links to browse.

Zivah writes on Naso – raising us up.

Yidstock 2013 – The Festival of New Yiddish Music

Visit Women of the Wall to see their latest update.

The Jewish Journal has a post about the new documentary: State 194: A Documentary About Palestine.

Jewish Waltz With Planet Earth Retreat, such an interesting concept.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Lorri M. Book Review: Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945

country of ash Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945, by Edward Reicher, is a compelling memoir, and one that speaks forthrightly about the Holocaust and how it affected Reicher and his family.

The horrific incidents and events that took place between 1939-1945 are depicted with candor, leaving no detail undisclosed. From the Lodz ghetto to the Warsaw ghetto and all locations in between, Reicher writes about the horrors of the Jewish ghetto life, the inhumanities that the Jewish population faced and had to deal with, and the agonizing moments of family separation.

At one point he had to make a choice between his severely ill father in his house, and his wife and child back home. He chose to stay with his father, because he felt he would not be able to go on without him. He felt that his family would be able to survive, and prayed he made the right decision.

Being a doctor who specialized in skin disorders, he was forced to treat the Germans. which he did. He was not given special privilege for his efforts. Reicher literally saved Germans from the agony of skin diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea. He did so out of duty as a doctor. He also treated other Jews who ended up turning on him, and did nothing to help him. He eventually was able to hide on the Aryan side of Warsaw, disguised and running from place to place.

Reicher witnessed a lot of abusive actions and witnessed Jews being murdered. He, himself, suffered abuse, but he writes about that in a minor fashion compared to what other Jews endured. He had involvement with Chaim Rumkowski, a man that he described as a madman, and a self-appointed “King of the Jews”. He courageously testified against Hermann Hofle, and how Hofle helped send hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in Poland.

Reicher survived the Holocaust, along with his wife and daughter. His daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher translated her father’s book to French from Polish, and now, it has been translated to English by Magda Bogin.

Country of Ash: A Jewish Doctor in Poland 1939-1945 is not only a tribute to the strength, determination, and fortitude, but a tribute to all of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It is a tribute to those who were not Jewish, yet did strive to offer a place to hide and offer food to Reicher and/or his family. It is a memoir that honors Reicher’s daughter, Elisabeth Bizouard-Reicher’s determination to see her father’s memoir in print for all the world to read the horrors and inhumanities suffered by the Polish Jews.

Country of Ash
is intense, graphic with its depictions, and a brilliantly written account of one man’s environment and interactions during the Holocaust. It is written without flourish or exaggeration, but written as Edward Reicher witnessed events, and as he found himself involved in the many crossroads of decision and action.

It is not a book I will soon forget due to the extensiveness and intensity of the content, which makes it a difficult read. But, read, I had to, because I wanted to know the truth of his story. It is not a book I will soon forget.
May 16, 2013 – 7 Sivan, 5773

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Lorri M. Review: Where She Came From

whereshecamefrom Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s History, by Helen Epstein is an extremely compelling memoir. We journey with Helen Epstein as she searches for her familial past, and searches for answers regarding her family members who were murdered during the Holocaust.

The book is difficult to put down, once you start to read it. I was engrossed in this book from the first page…although it was a slow read for me, because I wanted to grasp the intensity of the generational saga, and grasp the historical facts, correctly.

Epstein
has more than proved herself as a writer in this dramatic memoir of family generations, identity, and history. We journey with her through time, through the positive and negative aspects, through the good and not so good, through the hardships and adversity. The reader is given remnants of life in a familial tapestry, through history, through the horrors of war, and how it affects all the generations, from past to present, and also how it can and will affect future generations.

From assimilating into society and racial and religious identity, to how one views themselves and what they identify with, Where She Came From is written with insight, often brutal in Epstein’s vivid descriptions. She writes with love, with yearning and the emotions of loss, she writes with clarity. Where She Came From is an extremely inspiring book.

How does one start over after enduring such atrocities and horrors? Is there laughter in your life, once again? How does the past affect the present? Does God exist? These are just a few of the questions Where She Came From leaves the reader to ponder, and Epstein pondered those issues and questions, and many more. She manages to weave a tapestry of her family, each moment in time adds to the fabric of her own identity, as she comes closer to some of her ancestral answers. We laugh with her, and cry with her, and we are inspired by Where She Came From.

Successive generations live with the past every day of their lives…it seems inevitable, and Epstein reinforces that theory through her writing. Epstein’s writing draws us in, and her memoir is intriguing, insightful and concise, but mainly it is extremely inspiring. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone, as its educational value is priceless.

Where She Came From is both compelling as a memoir and as a historical book. It is an incredible resource for schools, colleges, universities, and anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of life before, during and after the Holocaust.

I applaud Helen Epstein for such an exceptional read!

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permissio

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Lorri M. Review – Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience

gabby1 Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience, is a book of remembrance, remembrance of a love story, a strong woman, and a remembrance of what once was in the body’s ability to persevere through pain and recovery.

Gabrielle Giffords was a physically and mentally vital woman before she was shot in the head on January 8, 2011. Through her determination, she remains a mentally vital woman, but a person with a few physical issues that still need constant working on. With her husband, Mark Kelly, at her side, she is a determined woman, and one who continually strives to get as close to her former self as possible. She has made strides, but is always seeking more advancement, physically and mentally. She has overcome much adversity, and is an example of inspiration and strength.

Her struggles are told with forthrightness, and her therapeutic progress is inspirational. Although her speech is affected, and although she has lost sight in one eye, she is a cognizant individual. She has her own ideals and determinations on how best she can serve her country, now that she is no longer a member of the House. She is an advocate for several causes.

Gabby’s political perspectives are told through Kelly’s voice, and her determination to be a House representative of depth and detail is well documented. She put her constituents first and foremost. She was a democratic representative for the people in every aspect.

Although, I did like the story regarding Gabby’s therapeutic endeavors and her strong will to recover, I felt that much of the book centered on Mark Kelly. The reader learns about Kelly’s history, before meeting Gabby, and while dating her. We learn about his status as a Navy pilot and as an astronaut, and his goals. I would say that the information is interesting, but so is Gabby’s premarital story, which I thought should be expanded upon.

In retrospect, though, the book is about the two of them and their relationship. Their story is one of love and support, through the difficult times of physical, mental and emotional injury.

In the future, I would like to see a book written strictly by Gabrielle Giffords, and one where her recovery efforts are told through her voice, and her voice alone.

I do recommend Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience, by Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly, and contributor Jeffrey Zaslow.

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