The Librarian of Auschwitz

I finished reading the Librarian of Auschwitz yesterday. I will not do a book review, although it is a very good and well written book, but I will go into some aspects of the book which brought the Holocaust quite near to me in a way I did not expect.

However before I do that I have to mention Dita Kraus.

Dita served as librarian in the block set up for children in Birkenau, at the time she was still a child herself, with only a handful of books. Fredy Hirsch also ran the children’s block, creating a network of Zionist instructors who filled their young guests’ time with educational and cultural activities. One of these young educators was Otto (Ota) Kraus, Dita’s future husband.

Aside from the few physical books they also had some ‘living books’ these were the teachers who would tell the stories from books they had read, and had memorized. One of the teachers was Mrs Magda. the living book she would convey to the children was “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” The story is basically a fairy tale about a Swedish boy , Nils Holgersson, whose “chief delight was to eat and sleep, and after that he liked best to make mischief”. He takes great delight in hurting the animals in his family farm. Nils captures a goblin in a net while his family are at church and have left him home to memorize chapters from the Bible. The goblin proposes to Nils that if Nils frees him, the goblin will give him a huge gold coin. Nils rejects the offer and the goblin turns Nils into a goblin, which leaves him shrunken and able to talk with animals, who are thrilled to see the boy reduced to their size and are angry and hungry for revenge. While this is happening, wild geese are flying over the farm on one of their migrations, and Martin, the farm’s white goose attempts to join the wild ones. In an attempt to salvage something before his family returns, Nils holds on to Martin’s neck as he successfully takes off and joins the wild birds.

The book was also adapted as an animated TV Show in 1980. As a 12 year old boy, I would be hooked to the show, and glued to the TV when it was one . When I saw the name.Nils Holgerson, mentioned in the Librarian of Auschwitz it gave me goosebumps. It amazed me that those children in Block 31 in Auschwitz were in awe by the same character as I was as a child.

The author of ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’ was Selma Lagerlöf.

She was a Swedish author and teacher. She published her first novel, ‘Gösta Berling’s Saga’, at the age of 33. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909. Additionally, she was the first woman to be granted a membership in the Swedish Academy in 1914.

Gösta Berling’s Saga was made into a 1924 silent film directed by the Finnish Jewish director Mauritz Stiller starring Greta Garbo.

The book ‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’ also makes reference to the German author Karl May. Dita had read a Karl May book once. She really liked Karl May’s stories of the Wild West about Old Shatterhand and his Apache friend Winnetou. I too, as a young boy like those stories. They were made into TV movies starring Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, who also portrayed Tarzan a few times.

What both Dita and I didn’t know , at the time we would read Karl May’s books or watch the adaptations on TV , is that Karl May was also one of the favourite authors of Adolf Hitler.

During the war Hitler reportedly admonished his generals for their lack of imagination and recommended that they all read Karl May. Albert Speer recounted in his Spandau diaries.

One other thing that touched me and brought the story into the 21st century, is a passage on page 394. I am not going to say too much about that part because I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet. But I think it will resonate with many people.

“They make sure she eats her food ration and periodically gets out of the Hospital, that she doesn’t stay with her mother for too many hours at a time and that she wears a mask”

I would recommend everyone to read the book. Although it is about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and although some parts are harrowing and very sad and gut wrenching, it does also manage to give a positive message. A message of resilience, perseverance , courage and hope.

sources

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057380/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_51

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/05/hitlers-forgotten-library/302727/

https://www.yadvashem.org/remembrance/archive/torchlighters/kraus.html

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Dora Gerson-Body lost or destroyed.

Dora

Dora Gerstein was a Jewish actress and singer  born  on 23 March 1899  in Berlin. She was murdered on February 14,1943 in Auschwitz. On one of the sites I used to do the research on Dora I noticed the line ‘Body lost or destroyed’.

Not only her body was destroyed but also her talent and beauty. Her short life is a poignant illustration how in a few years time, a poltical movement with a warped ideology impacted her life and ultimately caused her death.

In 1920 she starred in 2 silent films. Die Todeskarawane aka Caravan of Death and Auf den Trümmern des Paradieses aka In the Rubble of Paradise. She played the same character in both movies. The movies were based on novels by Karl May. Many Europeans have seen the Winnetou and Old Shatterhand westerns which were penned by Karl May. He was also admired by Albert Einstein  who said about him , “My whole adolescence stood under his sign. Indeed, even today, he has been dear to me in many a desperate hour.”

Ironically another admirer was Adolf Hitler who mentioned Karl May in Mein Kampf.

Between 1922 and 1924 Dora was married to the Actor/Director Veit Harlan. In less then 16 years after their divorce Harlan would become a pivotal figure in the Nazi propaganda machine. In 1940 he directed the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film Jud Süß.

Jud

To escape Nazi persecution she moved to the Netherlands in 1936, where she met her 2nd Husband Max Sluizer. The couple had 2 children  Miriam Sluizer born on 19 November 1937 and Abel Juda Sluizer born on 21 May 1940,only 11 days after Germany invaded the Netherlands.

Dora and her family were all transported to Drancy internment camp and from there they were deported to Auschwitz where they were all murdered on February 14,1943.

pass

Finishing up with one of Dora’s recordings “Vorbei”  an emotional ballad, reminiscing pre-Nazi Germany.

!They’re gone beyond recall
A final glance, a last kiss
And then it’s all over
under the frame of eternity
A final word, a last farewell”

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Sources

IMDB

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/110288165/dora-gerson

http://www.musiques-regenerees.fr/GhettosCamps/Camps/GersonDora.html

YouTube

 

Tarzan in WWII

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Tarzan has been played by a great number of actors,  the actor mostly associated with the character Tarzan is the former Olympian Johnny Weissmüller. But the title of this blog indicates WWII,and Weissmüller did not serve during the war.

However two other actors who played Tarzan did actively serve during World War II

Glenn Morris

Capture

Glen Morris had also previously been an Olympian

In the U.S. Olympic track and field trials for 1936, Morris scored a new world record of 7,880 points, earning him Newsweek’s sobriquet “the nation’s new Iron Man.” Morris broke his own world record, and the Olympic record, in the Berlin games, with a decathlon score of 7,900 points.It was said that Adolf Hitler never left his seat while Morris was competing, and that the Germans thereafter offered Morris $50,000 to stay in Germany and appear in sports films, an offer Morris refused.

Glenn_Morris_and_Leni_Riefenstahl_1936

In 1938 he played Tarzan in ‘Tarzan’s Revenge’ The reviews were so thoroughly bad that Morris never made another movie.

He played four games with the Detroit Lions football team, before injury curtailed this new career, then worked as an insurance agent.He subsequently served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in the Pacific during World War II, commanding amphibious-assault landing craft.Reportedly wounded, Morris was treated for psychological-trauma issues and spent several months in a naval hospital.

Lex Barker

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Disowned by his family for his choice of an acting career, he worked in a steel mill and studied engineering at night. In February 1941, nearly a year before the attack on Pearl inHarbor,lex-barker

Barker left his fledgling acting career and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private. The 6’3″ 208-pound soldier rose to the rank of major during the war. He was wounded the leg in action fighting in Salerno and in the head in Sicily.

Back in the USA, he recuperated at an Arkansas military hospital, then upon his discharge from service, traveled to Los Angeles. Within a short time, he landed a small role in his first film, Doll Face (1945).

Barker signed a contract at RKO. He had small roles in The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), Crossfire (1947), and Under the Tonto Rim (1947).

Barker went to Paramount for Unconquered (1947). Back at RKO he was in Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Berlin Express (1948), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Velvet Touch (1948), and Return of the Bad Men (1948), playing Emmett Dalton.

In Tarzan’s Magic Fountain (1949), Barker became the tenth official Tarzan of the movies. His blond, handsome, and intelligent appearance, as well as his athletic, now 6’4″ frame, helped make him popular in the role Johnny Weissmuller had made his own for sixteen years. His Jane was Brenda Joyce who had been in Weismuller’s last three films.

Barker’s second Tarzan was Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950), where Jane was played by Vanessa Brown. In Tarzan’s Peril (1951), Barker’s Jane was Virginia Huston, with African location footage. Dorothy Hart was Jane in Tarzan’s Savage Fury (1952), directed by Cy Endfield.

Barker got the chance to play a non-Tarzan role in Battles of Chief Pontiac (1952), a Western. He returned to the role one last time in Tarzan and the She-Devil (1953).

_Tarzan_and_the_She-Devil__(1953)

He had his greatest success in Germany where he played Old Shatterhand a friend of Apache chief Winnetou in a series of Westerns which were adaptations of novels by German author Karl May.

 

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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