* Lew’s review of “Gregor Strasser and the Rise of Nazism” by Peter D. Stachura … research for CHOOSING HITLER, Lew’s novel-in-progress
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 25, 2013
Posted in * Lew's reviews - research reading for CHOOSING HITLER | Tagged: Gregor Strasser, night of the long knives | 1 Comment »
* Lew’s review of “The Coming of the Third Reich” by Richard Evans … research for CHOOSING HITLER, Lew’s novel-in-progress
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 15, 2013
A brilliantly clear and comprehensive exposition of the complex events of 1930-32 which led to the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, corresponding exactly to the next chapter(s) I will be writing in my novel-in-progress CHOOSING HITLER.
Evans paints a heartbreaking scenario of the many opportunities
(albeit with hindsight)
whereby Hitler could have been stopped.
These include …
… Nov 1932 vote was a disappointment to NS leaders … they had gathered splinter party votes but had not made inroads into Social Democrat or Centre Party voters … a feeling (among NS leaders) that NS vote may have peaked … Goebbels: “we won’t get to an absolute majority this way … something must happen … the time for (electoral) opposition is over … now deeds!” … Goebbels and Hitler agreed that, if they stuck to a parliamentary route to power, the stagnation of their vote suggested that the situation might start to slip out of their grasp … Hitler’s only open route to power was to get appointed Chancellor
… the unwillingness of the Centre Party (Catholic) and the Social Democrats (socialist) to work together … NS now (Nov 1932) had less seats (196) than the combined two Marxist parties – Communists (100) + Social Democrats (121) = 221 … Centre Party had 70 seats … the Nazis were jubilant at the failure of the Social Democrats and trade unions to respond to the Papen coup … Goebbels wrote in his diary … “They have missed their big chance. It’s never going to come again.”
… the arrogant assumptions by the military and some industrialists that Hitler could be used but also controlled … Schleicher: if Hitler establishes a dictatorship in Germany, the army will be the dictatorship within the dictatorship … Papen: within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak
… the evident peaking of the Nazi electorate … the NS vote (Nov 1932) fell from 13.7 million to 11.7 … seats fell from 230 to 196 … in local elections held in Thuringia (in Dec 1932) the NS vote plummeted by 40% from the previous July … NS was virtually bankrupt
This is where the Nazis stood on Jan 1 1933.
Yet just 30 days later, Hitler was Chancellor.
What made this turnaround possible was the fact that parliamentary government no longer functioned in Germany. The country was run by Presidential decree, exercised through an appointed Chancellor. Hindenburg, in his 80s and after 7 years as President, was tired and declining. He never considered democratic alternatives. There was no effective leadership from the more moderate parties.
… after 1930 election, Reichstag virtually unmanageable … 107 brown-shirted, uniformed Nazis joined 77 well-organized Communists … raising incessant points of order, chanting, shouting, interrupting, demonstrating their total contempt for the legislature at every juncture … power drained from the Reichstag … every session ended in an uproar … soon came to seem pointless to meet at all … after Sept 1930 only negative majorities were possible .. in Feb 1931, Reichstag adjourned itself for 6 months – did not return until Oct … from July 1932 to Feb 1933, Reichstag convened for 3 days in 6 months
Posted in * Lew's reviews - research reading for CHOOSING HITLER | Tagged: Choosing Hitler, Hitler, third reich | 1 Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 9, 2013
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII
An extraordinary study, published in 1977, presenting the response of the German churches – Catholic and Protestant – to the challenges posed by the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist Party. It is Scholder’s well documented conclusion that words like “blindness, lies, arrogance, stupidity, and opportunism” are appropriate to describe the behavior of both Catholic and Protestant churches in their interactions with Hitler.
The Protestant Churches – there were 28 regional organizations in Germany – talked and talked and talked, without ever taking a stand, while Hitler acted relentlessly in ways that, day by day, restricted the opportunities to oppose him.
By contrast, German Catholicism initially presented an almost united front against Hitler. The Diocesan offices in Mainz proclaimed this position (in 1930) as follows … “no Catholic may be a card-carrying member of the Hitler party … no member of the Nazi party may participate in funerals or any other Catholic events … so long as a Catholic is a card-carrying member of the Hitler party he may not be admitted to the sacraments … Racial hatred is fundamentally un-Christian and un-Catholic.”
In 1931-32, Catholic writers continued the attack … “The Nazis are a brutal party that would do away with all rights of the people … Hitler’s message does not proclaim peace and justice but rather violence and hate … National Socialism means enmity with neighboring countries, despotism in internal affairs, civil war, international war … National Socialism means lies, hatred, fratricide, and unbounded misery.”
What changed and totally undercut this Catholic opposition to Hitler were the workings of Pope Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) from Rome. Focused to the exclusion of all other considerations on the threat of Communism and the desire for a Reich Concordat, the Vatican began by disapproving the Mainz proclamation and then increasingly compelled the Catholic Centre Party to consider how it was to collaborate with Hitler.
The Catholic Centre Party in 1931-32 was the only power in Germany still capable of mediating between the different political parties to forge a moderate alternative to Hitler, but it failed to even make an effort to do so because of pressure from the Pope and Pacelli. German Catholicism’s previous open opposition to Hitler was thus undercut by pressure from Rome. The Catholic Centre party ended up fully capitulating to Hitler (in passing the infamous Enabling Act which made Hitler an unrestricted dictator) before voting itself out of existence.
* Lew’s review of “Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany” … research for CHOOSING HITLER, my novel-in-progress
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 8, 2013
A clear, crisp and perhaps the most complete account of the last days of the Weimar Republic. Covers all of the intrigues between Hitler and the leaders of Weimar – Hindenburg, Bruning, Schleicher, and Papen. Shows clearly both the slippery slope that led to totalitarian dictatorship and the series of opportunities to prevent it, lost one by one due to a lack of imagination, an inability to compromise, and an absence of political energy. When opposed to Hitler’s relentless and, it must be admitted, brilliant political propaganda, organization, and maneuvering, the more moderate forces just gave up. Perhaps they under-estimated Hitler’s ability and his evil, or perhaps they just didn’t have it in them to keep fighting, or both.
There are other lessons for us today …
… Chancellor Bruning was convinced Germany’s public finances could only be put in order again if the country went through a long period of utmost parsimony and public expenditure cuts … these programs were not successful … There were demands heard from the German public to address the financial crisis with the help of public works programs and deficit spending policy … these demands were ignored by Weimar, but were later implemented by the Nazis.
LMW: sound familiar? The policies of austerity during economic downturn are just as futile and counter-productive today as they were in 1930s Germany.
… local elections in Thuringia on Dec 4 1932 were catastrophic for the Nazis … lost 15% from previous election … membership cards were being returned … intra-party criticism was mounting … party finances were in a precarious state … there was mounting tension within the Nazi movement.
LMW: the Nazi electoral support may well have peaked. Had Weimar hung on a little longer, it might have survived. But less than two months after that disastrous election loss, Hitler was Chancellor.
Posted in * Lew's reviews - research reading for CHOOSING HITLER | Tagged: Hitler, weimar | Leave a Comment »
* Lew’s review and extracts from “Why Hitler Came Into Power” … research for my novel-in-progress tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 5, 2013
This is a fascinating report, drawn from essays written by Nazi members in 1934, in response to a contest organized by a Columbia University professor. The timing is just after Hitler took power and well before his intentions to murder the Jews of Europe were as clear as they later became.
As I enter the phase of my new book where my main German character is “drawn” into the Nazi world, these statements by others who decided to become Nazis are invaluable sources of understanding. One of the challenging aspects of my novel-in-progress ["Choosing Hitler"] is to write in a manner that accurately and honestly shows the enthusiasm of those who were drawn to Hitler when I myself am filled with repulsion and hatred for every aspect of Hitler and those who supported him.
Here are some of the hundreds of notes I have taken from this excellent but little known book …
… the racial doctrine advocated by the NS was equally important to the principle of leadership in underpinning the ideology of the movement … there were three main tenets … one was the belief in the biological superiority of the “Germanic” race … Second was the opinion of that racial purity is the basis of national health and that intermixture of races is the source of all social decay … Third is the claim that the Jews are an inferior race and that their influence on the economic, political, and cultural life of Germany, past and present, is responsible for everything that was and is evil
… The tendency to interpret personal experiences in a fashion that made Jews the culprit … the prevalence of anti-Semitic literature in Germany … the acts of violence perpetrated against Jews … have for their background a tradition which is at least 1000 years old
… The spread of the NS movement depended largely upon adequate promotion … modern advertising psychology was utilized to produce mass effect … the sheer bulk of the propaganda effort was remarkable … the party propaganda covered Germany with a thoroughness that made its doctrines known in almost every home in every city and throughout the countryside
… People who supported Hitler were primarily influenced by the belief that they were backing a winning contender … this confidence was supported by the superiority of the NS organization over that of all other parties … it was better coordinated and disciplined and show greater vitality and driving power … its military aggressive nature appealed to many …
Hitler had a twofold function … he was the chief executive, the planner, and organizer … he also played the role of prophet of the movement … he commanded unquestioned allegiance to his person and through this personal allegiance inspire members with loyalty and devotion to the movement
Hitler’s followers submitted themselves to him willingly and unquestionably … to them he was a prophet whose pronouncements were taken as oracles … he was a hero whom they naïvely trusted to perform the impossible if it were necessary … he was seen as a man of superhuman power with a special star guiding his destiny
… If we won Germany was saved … if we were defeated a gate would open in the East and Moscow’s Red hordes would swarm in and plunge Europe into night and misery
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2013
I was recently asked to prepare discussion questions for a book club that is reading The Heretic. Here’s my list …
NOTE: I can do book club appearances via SKYPE anywhere in the world.
Discussion questions for The Heretic, a novel by Lewis M. Weinstein
1. Did you know about the Church’s persecution of Jews in 15th c. Spain? Did you find it surprising?
2. What do you think prompted the Church’s actions?
3.Was the description of the earliest printing interesting to you?
4. What did you know about Queen Isabel before reading The Heretic? Were you surprised by her portrayal in the book?
5. How would you compare the relationships between …
… Gabriel & Pilar
… Tomas & Esther
… Isabel & Fernando
… Tomas & Isabel
6. Why did the attempts to convert the Jews of Spain not work out as anticipated?
7. What did you think of Prince Hasan, and his friendship with Benjamin and Esther?
8. Did Prince Hasan conform to your image of a Moorish leader?
9. Why do you think the author selected 15th c. Spain for exploring the issues of hatred of Jews?
10. Do you see a connection between the Church’s attitude toward Jews in 15th c. Spain and the Church’s behavior in Germany before and during the Holocaust?
11. What did you learn about Judaism, and the connections between Judaism and Christianity?
12. What did you think of Tomas’s discussion with the rabbi in Seville regarding the plausibility of the virgin birth of Christ?
13. Did you think Friar Perez believed in the mission he had been assigned or did he have doubts?
14. Who do you think was the ultimate victor in the battle between Friar Perez and Gabriel Catalan?
15. What were the most emotional scenes for you? Did you cry?
16. Which do you remember as the most memorable scenes?
17. Were there scenes that made you cringe? Do you think those scenes were necessary to the story?
18. Was there anything in the story you found not quite believable?
19. How true do you think the story was to the actual history?
20. Were you surprised at the positive reaction of Catholic leaders to this book which is surely not a flattering portrayal of the Church?
21. Were you curious how the author got blurbs from Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz … (those are, by the way, two fascinating stories)
purchase The Heretic at amazon …
$5.99 in Kindle (also available for Nook) … $14.95 in paper
Posted in * Appearances & News, * The Heretic | Tagged: book club selections, Jewish historical fiction, persecution of Jews by the Catholic Church, Queen Isabel, Secret Jews in Spain, Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 15, 2013
Pat and I had the great pleasure of meeting with the Weston (FL) Book Club to discuss my novel “The Pope’s Conspiracy.” We met in the glorious surroundings of Hawk’s Cay resort in the Florida Keys.
It was very exciting for me since all of the ladies proved to be extremely intelligent and perceptive readers. Their questions, about the book and the writing/publishing process, made for a terrific two hour discussion.
I want to thank especially Kelly Tepper, who found my book in a Google search (novels-Jewish-Florence) in preparation for her recent trip to Italy and who graciously hosted the event.
PLEASE NOTE …
I really enjoy meeting with book clubs, and would love to meet with yours,
either in person or via SKYPE.
You can contact me at email@example.com.
Posted in * Appearances & News, * The Pope's Conspiracy | Tagged: Florence, Florida Keys, Hawk's Cay Resort, Italy, Jewish historical fiction, Lorenzo de Medici, Renaissance Florence, The Pope's Conspiracy by Lew Weinstein | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 12, 2013
Several friends have expressed an interest in the research I am doing for my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER.
I organize my books on Goodreads.
- The books I have read or plan to read are listed in my book category “ch-research.” …
- Those I have reviewed are listed in the category “ch-reviews.” …
I welcome additional suggestions.
Here are some of the books I have so far found particularly useful in my research …
- Warsaw: The Cabaret Years (Nowicki)
- Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth (Shandler)
- The Shame of Survival: Working Through a Nazi Childhood (Mahlendorf)
- Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland (Blobaum)
- Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (Weitz)
- Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany (Morris)
- State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda (Bachrach)
- The Catholic Church And Nazi Germany (Lewy)
- Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939 (Pease)
- Life is With People: The Culture of the Shtetl (Zborowski)
- Stranger in Our Midst: Images of the Jew in Polish Literature (Segel)
- Munich 1923: The Story of Hitler’s First Grab for Power (Dornberg)
- When Money Dies: The Nightmare Of The Weimar Hyper Inflation (Ferguson)
- Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918-1939 (Watt)
- Address Unknown (Taylor)
- There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok (Eliach)
- Poland’s Threatening Other: The Image of the Jew from 1880 to the Present (Michlic)
- Hitler (Kershaw)
- Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews (Hoffman)
- The Catholic Church and Antisemitism … Poland 1933-39 (Modras)
- On The Edge Of Destruction: Jews Of Poland Between The Two World Wars (Heller)
- Why Hitler Came Into Power (Abel)
- The Coming of the Third Reich (Evans)
- The Face Of The Third Reich: Portraits Of The Nazi Leadership (Fest)
- The Anguish Of The Jews: Twenty Three Centuries Of Antisemitism (Flannery)
- Hitler And The Beer Hall Putsch (Gordon)
- Mein Kampf (Hitler)
- Hitler, Vol 1: 1889-1936 Hubris (Kershaw)
- Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich (Large)
- Adolf Hitler (Toland)
- Justice at Nuremberg (Conot)
Posted in * CHOOSING HITLER ... Lew's novel-in-progress, * Uncategorized | Tagged: Hitler, holocaust, Jewish historical fiction, Jews in Nazi Germany, Lewis Weinstein, Nazi Germany, Nazis, Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, Poland | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 28, 2013
… 5 of 5 stars
“Thank you Lewis Weinstein for this fabulous book!
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 20, 2013
*** This is a story that combines history and feelings in a masterful way, where the adventures of a family saga follows the evolution of the history of Spain, in its most gruesome, a book that shows the social ascent, servility, betrayal , love, righteousness in ideas, obsession and hope.
*** A well-documented historical novel in which the author, brings to each of his characters, to a different reality, reflecting the difficult lives of those who chose another religion in a state dominated by intolerant Catholic church of the time.
*** Gabriel Catalan has seen the death of his father, a Jewish convert, beaten in the streets of Seville, and make the decision to continue practicing the faith of their elders. But times are tough for the Spanish Jews, and Torquemada just sent to Seville the Dominican Ricardo Perez with the mission of exposing the converts that still practiced Judaism in secret.
*** Heretic is a great recreation of the life of the Jews in Spain in the fifteenth century, caught between political intrigues and religious persecution.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 19, 2013
Just received from my Spanish publisher algaida editores …
an accounting of sales for Hereje for 2012 …
1134 copies sold.
Hereje is the Spanish edition of The Heretic, published in 2000.
It tells the story of a family of secret Jews struggling to survive
the persecution of the Catholic Church in 15th century Spain
on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.
purchase Hereje at amazon …
purchase The Heretic at amazon …
Posted in * The Heretic | Tagged: Jewish historical fiction, persecution of Jews by the Catholic Church, Queen Isabel, Secret Jews in Spain, Spanish Inquisition, The Heretic in Spain, Torquemada | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 14, 2013
FROM THE FLY-LEAF … Melita Maschmann’s memoir (publ 1964) … without self-exculpation or self-pity … she changed from an ordinary 15 year old schoolgirl in 1933 into a high-ranking member of the Nazi elite … blindly dedicated … she remained loyal to National Socialism against all protests of truth and justice … imbued with the latent antisemitism of her parents’ generation … when she saw Jews, Poles and others suffer she switched off her feelings … because to think for oneself or to make moral judgments was immoral in the time of Germany’s need.
BEFORE READING THE BOOK … I am going to hate this woman … but will certainly understand more about the sickness that so many ordinary Germans welcomed and allowed to control their lives.
NOW I HAVE READ THE BOOK … My conclusion is that, despite her protestations to the contrary, Maschmann’s memoir is a self-justifying lie! So must be many (most?) of the claims of Germans that they never knew. Perhaps they didn’t want to know and looked the other way, but that is a very different thing. Nevertheless, Maschmann’s writings provide significant insight into what a young Nazi was thinking, and perhaps why. Here are a few of her reflections …
… we thought the Nazi’s violent antisemitism was a passing phase, a propaganda stunt
… the fact that I was involved in something greater than myself relieved me of any sense of guilt … I wanted to attach myself to something that was great and fundamental
… Maschmann’s mantra … I would repeat these same verses 10 or 15 times over … “You must believe in Germany as firmly, clearly and truly as you believe in the sun, the moon and the starlight. You must believe in Germany, as if Germany were yourself; and as you believe your soul strives towrd eternity. You must believe in Germany – or your life is but death. And you must fight for Germany until the new dawn comes.”
… I never allowed any of my experiences to prompt me to come to grips with the so-called “Jewish Question” for myself … my antisemitic attitude seemed to me to be a natural part of my National Socialist outlook … basically the problem did not interest me … LMW: it is thus vital to understand why antisemitism was so natural for Germans. My own view is that it was largely the centuries-long persecution and denigration of Jews by the Catholic and Lutheran churches.
… on Kristallnacht … I forced the memory of it out of my consciousness as quickly as possible … on the night of the broken glass our feelings were not yet hardened to the sight of human suffering as they were later in the war
… as the years went by I grew better at switching off quickly … it was the only way to avoid the onset of doubts about the rightness of what had happened … and serious doubts would have torn away the basis of my existence from under me
… on the invasion of Poland … I was utterly convinced of our superior moral position
… on the news of ‘Bloody Sunday’ at Bromberg … the German press reported that 60,000 German nationals had been murdered in an appallingly savage manner … my clear recollection was that we had invaded Poland after the news of Bloody Sunday had reached Berlin … in point of fact the events happened in reverse order … but my version, which I held until a few months ago, was much better for easing our political conscience.
… our noble, refined and intellectual German qualities were in danger of being suppressed by the brutality of the primitive Poles
… England had conquered a world empire … France had acquired colony after colony … now at last Germany’s historic hour had come … the dream of her greatness would become a reality in the Reich of our Fuhrer
… there was an irresistible fascination with the words ‘Reich’ and ‘Fuhrer’
… we had no idea there was evidence at Nuremberg that Hitler really had murdered millions of people … and (in 1946) we never thought to ask: what if the American allegations about the concentration camps are true after all?
… many former Nazis still say … how much better it was in Hitler’s day … in those days, they believed in something that roused them from their humble existence
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 14, 2013
This is the first of the Lynley-Havers stories, and also the first that I am re-reading. I hope I don’t remember too much of the plot (it’s been 10 years at least) but my real purpose in re-reading is to study George’s writing techniques. Her use of setting, development of character, and plot surprises, among other elements, are superb. For fans of Elizabeth George who are also writers, I recommend Write Away: One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life..
George unfolds the layers of a complicated story in a way that builds the emotion and tension but never leaves the reader confused. There are many characters whose roles keep evolving, but George always gives the reader the 2-3 words that assure you always know the connection of the character to previous points in the story. (NOTE: This contrasts so vividly with books like Wolf Hall and The Casual Vacancy (first half) where the authors make no such effort and the reader is often left adrift.)
Much of the emotion in “A Great Deliverance” comes from the tense and evolving and ultimately caring relationship between Lynley and Havers, as each helps the other deal with debilitating attitudes that threaten their personal and professional futures.
I didn’t realize until very recently that this was George’s first novel. Wow!
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 19, 2013
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 19, 2013
I just started Wolf Hall, and I find the relentless use of “he” to be extremely irritating. In the first several chapters, there are dozens of instances where it is not clear who is speaking. Every once in a while, as if recognizing the problem she has created, Mantel uses the phrase “he, Cromwell.” Why not just say Cromwell?
Unless there is some good reason which I can’t imagine, this sort of obfuscation is just lazy writing which disrespects the reader. May I re-think that, based on a comment by another reader. It’s not lazy writing. It’s very purposeful. And very distracting.
… later …
I just read some of the amazon reviews. There are actually quite a few readers who found the “he” business as disconcerting as I did, and who expressed their displeasure in rather strong terms, along with many *-star ratings. However, many others really liked the book, as do many Goodreads readers, so it must not bother them as it does me.
Another Goodreads reader suggested that the use of “he” all the time created a closer intimacy with Cromwell. Perhaps, but I see it differently. If you want to create intimacy, use the first person. Then it is clear that everything is seen and felt by the single protagonist, and the reader can share that character’s viewpoint, thoughts and feelings. What Mantel has done is not to bring us close to Cromwell, but to inject herself, the author, between the reader and the prime character. She does this on practically every page and I find it jarring every time it happens.
Before my final negative notes, let me say that Mantel clearly has an exquisite command of the language. Even in the few chapters I read, her elegant choice of words often made me reflect and smile. She can paint a picture when describing a character or a setting that is truly wonderful. And, when she chooses to do so, she writes a vivid scene that has power and emotion.
Such continuity of story, however, is the exception rather than the rule. The constant switching of time and place, often without the merest hint of transition, made the reading much more difficult than it had to be. Just a word here or there would have made a huge difference.
Finally, the breezy style in which much of the book is written is entertaining, as many have noted and I agree, but it had the effect of making me wonder if Mantel was as true to the history as I think a historical fiction should be. Of course the dialogue and many of the personal incidents are made up, but does the author, when portraying actual events, present them accurately? I think such concern for the truth is an obligation of an author when writing about historical characters and events. Mantel left me unsure.
I think I’ve had enough of Wolf Hall, and perhaps other Goodreads readers have had enough of my criticism of what is surely a popular book. I don’t usually write negative opinions, but this book just seemed to drag them out of me. I hope I have not offended anyone.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 17, 2013
Reviews on this site
(Click to read my review)
Weimar Germany by Eric D. Weitz
reviews on Goodreads
(click to read my review and others)
The Jews and Their Lies by Martin Luther
Jean-Christophe: Dawn, Morning, Youth, Revolt by Romain Rolland
Night by Elie Wiesel
Jodendom, Christendom, Germanendom sermons by Cardinal Faulhaber
Mila 18 by Leon Uris
Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada
The Statement by Brian Moore
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 17, 2013
reviews posted on this site
(click to read my review)
reviews posted on Goodreads
(click to read my review and many others)
The Triumph of the Sun by Wilbur Smith
Has God Only One Blessing? by Sister Mary Boys
Careless in Red(Inspector Lynley #15) by Elizabeth George
Running Blind(Jack Reacher, #4) by Lee Child
The Double Helix by James Watson
The Turnaround by William Bratton
Bone Island Mambo: An Alex Rutledge Mystery by Tom Corcoran
Trinity by Leon Uris
World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth, #2) by Ken Follett
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold(George Smiley #3) by John Lecarre
Joan of Arc by Mark Twian
Killing Floor(Jack Reacher, #1) by Lee Child
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 11, 2013
The futility of continuing on for any purpose other than to express love,
but that is enough, and so he does, with no hope of any reward
other than that which he feels in the moment.
Is it a fearful look into what McCarthy sees as a possible future?
Is it an allegory for everyone’s approach to what we all know is certain death?
Whatever McCarthy’s purpose, which could well encompass both of the above and more, The Road is an utterly compelling read. The sparse sentences express emotion in so few words yet with such power. The absence of names makes the story universal.
The only part that did not ring true for me was the ending. Why, among the possible choices, was this ending chosen? … any thoughts on that?
Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 10, 2013
WEIMAR GERMANY by Eric D. Weitz is an excellent overview of major themes
in the Weimar years, connecting some of the dots to the subsequent Nazi takeover
1n 1933. Here are some fascinating (to me at least) items
that will probably appear in one way or another in my new novel
The Threepenny Opera …
was the theatrical sensation of 1928 … the depraved, degenerate exploitative nature of capitalism … everybody lies, everybody cheats … the police are indistinguishable from the criminals … the Nazi’s Volkischer Beobachter called Threepenny Opera a noxious cesspool that the police should simply sweep away
Ideal Marriage …
published in 1926, after which the Dutch physician Theodor Hendrik von Velde conducted a lecture tour of Germany … his book and lectures were wildly successful … especially his explicit descriptions of sexual techniques
the new German woman …
short hair, slender, athletic, erotic … provoked loathing commentary … the notion that women could determine their own lives, might decide not to marry and to have a variety of sex partners, not all of them male, was fundamentally terrifying to traditional Germans, both men and women
Germans danced as never before …
in hotels and cafes, using radio & phonograph as well as live bands … dances were held in the late afternoon (a startling innovation) and in the evening, when large dance halls were packed
Catholic and Protestant churches thundered against the sexual revolution …
citing a scandalous number of abortions, rapid increase in venereal disease, premarital sex as the new norm, the “unblemished beginning of marriage” an exception … the social order has weakened and shattered, greatly endangering the protection and dignity of the female sex, and threatening the honor and responsibility that defines the male sex
the Weimar Republic’s most dangerous antagonists came from the Right …
the army, Protestant & Catholic churches, state bureaucracy, industry, finance, schools & universities … none of them were committed to democracy and Weimar’s “liberal” agenda … these elements of the establishment Right were never coordinated until the Nazis absorbed most of the radical Right (violent, paramilitary, lower-class) in the early 1930s … the establishment elite was then willing to accept the violence and hatreds of the Nazis in order to overthrow the hated Weimar republic … the middle class, longing for order and stability, trusted the elite (including the churches) and formed docilely behind them to collude with Hitler and the Nazis to end Weimar democracy
the Catholic and Protestant churches made the Nazis aceptable …
the language of the radical right (including the Nazis) had many affinities with the anti-Weimar fulminations constantly emanating from the Protestant and Catholic churches … these similarities made the Nazis acceptable in polite society … Hitler’s theme that Germany was engaged in an existential struggle against its Jewish-Marxist enemies sounded much like the rhetoric that churchgoers heard regularly from their pulpits … coming from all sides was the notion of a vast world conspiracy against Germany, all of it the result of the Jew (der Jude)
Posted in * CHOOSING HITLER ... Lew's novel-in-progress, * Lew's reviews - research reading for CHOOSING HITLER | Tagged: holocaust, Jewish historical fiction, Nazi Germany, research for Choosing Hitler, why Hitler | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 30, 2013
I have read about 80 pages. It is a poignant, illuminating memoir written as a novel. A powerful description of the early Nazi years (up to 1936) seen mainly through the eyes of a young boy. Marienthal was adopted by a Chicago couple in 1936 and went on to a brilliant academic and film career in the U.S.
There are many insights into what was happening and why; here are two …
… contempt, indignities and malice grew throughout the country, suffocated all hope, distorted everyone’s daily life, stripped away personal identity
… the Nazis had gotten to him … it wasn’t the uniforms or the parades or the trappings of power … what attracted him was the Nazi promise of knowing where one belonged in society … he shared an ethos in common with millions of Germans – he loved conformity, while idiosyncrasy was inimical to his sense of well being
I have put the book aside but will return. For now, it is a few years ahead of my timeline in researching and writing CHOOSING HITLER.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 28, 2013
It is likely that no one else would be as excited about this book as I was. I have long had in mind having the major German character in my novel-in-progress (tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER) make his career in the German Railway.
This book provides incredibly relevant detail for that purpose, including … the educational background he would need … the sequence of positions he might hold … the relationship between the German Railway, the Reichswehr, the SS, and Hitler … the role of the Railway in support of Hitler’s wars … and the role in transporting Jews to the ovens.
What did railway officials and workers know about the ongoing Holocaust? Plenty.
What did they care about the Jews being taken to murder? Most of them, not at all.
* research reading for CHOOSING HITLER … Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany
Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 28, 2013
Fascinating detail of the major cases of a Jewish lawyer who fought for justice in Munich during the Weimar years. Max Hirschberg was the premier courtroom lawyer in Munich during the Weimar Republic, representing Munich’s Social Democratic Party in its most important political trials. He also took on numerous cases where the right-leaning criminal justice system had resulted in what he saw as a miscarriage of justice.
Right at the top of Hitler’s list, Hirschberg was arrested by the Nazis in the early morning hours after the Reichstag fire in February 1933. He was held in “protective custody” for over 5 months and then inexplicably released. He fled to Switzerland, then to America, and lived into the 1960s.
The lingering feeling I get from this book is the critical importance to a civilized society of the rule of law, how impossible life must be when this no longer applies, and how much we should appreciate those who fight to maintain it.
I have written about the perversion of the rule of law in my novels A Good Conviction and Case Closed: … why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax case.
And of course Hirschberg’s cases raise yet again the question of how educated Germans could have failed to see what they were getting with Hitler, or if they knew, why they were willing to make the bargain.
I am thinking of imagining and writing a dinner conversation between Max Hirschberg and Munich’s Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, in 1930, where these issues and questions will be discussed. Faulhaber had been outspoken against antisemitism in the 1920s, became far less so when the position of the Catholic Church became one of accommodation to Hitler in the 1930s, then again adamant in the Church’s successful campaign against Nazi euthanasia in the early 1940s … while never mentioning the mass murder of Jews of which he surely knew.
I think Faulhaber’s evolving positions are fertile material for my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER.
But … my wife tells me it is not possible that the Cardinal would come to dinner at a private home, especially that of a Jew. I’ll have to find another way.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 4, 2012
an extract from the Prologue of CHOOSING HITLER
“But the Nazi bastard didn’t die,” Abraham Weintraub said, his vehemence undiminished after more than four decades. “Of course it was the Polish woman. If she hadn’t suddenly appeared as a witness, Becker would’ve been sentenced to death … like he deserved … like Goering and Rosenberg and Streicher and the others.”
“Anna Gorski’s entire family was murdered by the Nazis,” Marissa said. “She was the only one who survived. It’s just incredible that she decided to testify in Nuremberg. Her reasons, and Becker’s story, must shed light on some very important questions.”
Dear Herr Becker,
I am a professor of history at Brandeis University, specializing in Holocaust studies. Despite the many books written on this subject, there is an aspect of the Hitler years to which I believe more attention could usefully be given. Specifically, I would like to explore why Germans supported Hitler at various stages in his career and what these supporters felt when they realized what Hitler was doing to the Jews .
The reason I come to you is that my father was the U.S. attorney in charge of prosecuting your case at Nuremberg. The surprising testimony of Anna Gorski at your trial suggests that your personal experience and feelings may provide very useful insight into both of the above questions.
I would like to come to Munich and meet with you as soon as possible. Please let me know if you are open to such a meeting.
Yours very truly,
* an enthusiastic new review of “The Heretic” on Goodreads … “History, action, and love all abound in this book.”
Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 6, 2012
Elie Wiesel: The Heretic is deeply absorbing … it helps Jews and Christians better understand their complex and often painful relationship.
Alan M. Dershowitz: The historical novel that is both true to the past and relevant to the present is rare indeed. The Heretic humanizes the tragic history of religious persecution.
Faye Kellerman: The Heretic is a sweeping historical tale of love, honor, justice, religion, and morality, meticulously researched and wonderfully exciting. (author Faye Kellerman has written two historical novels as well as her hugely popular detective series)
The Heretic is a wonderfully written novel about the Spanish Inquisition and the impact it had on the Jewish population in the 15th century. In Lewis Weinstein’s able hands, the history of Jewish culture trying to survive the Anti-Semitic acts of that era survive. In fact, Weinstein describes with great deft, the roots of Anti-Semitic views in Europe.
I read this book in one day, finding it difficult to put down. History, action, and love all abound in this book. Also present is the notion of ignorance and the discrimination that extends from it.
The Catholic Church’s sins are outlined historically and accurately in the book. To understand history is to make an effort not to repeat it. Had the world taken greater note of the issues described so well by Mr. Weinstein, perhaps the world, and most notably, the Jewish population, may not have been forced to suffer through the Holocaust.
- Students of history should read this book.
- People of the Catholic and Jewish faiths should read this book.
- It may sound like an over-reaching statement, but I believe that all humanity would be well-served reading this book.
Once you read the foreword, you’ll be compellingly hooked.
from the Foreword to The Heretic by Msgr. Tom Hartman
The Heretic, a book by Lewis Weinstein, was where I turned in order to understand the Inquisition. I knew the outline of Christian atrocities but Lew’s book taught me about the painful positions many good people were put into in order to survive. It’s not a pretty picture. Their lives were all scarred in one way or another. But The Heretic reminds us of a history that we should not forget.
read … The Heretic: PROLOGUE
“No. Don’t go out there,” she pleads.
“You stay inside,” he orders.
She shouts to her son. “Run! Get your father. Hurry!” She follows her father-in-law to the door, horrified by what she fears will happen.
The old man reaches the street just as the first of them come around the corner. He walks straight at them — they shrink back — the crowd has not yet gained the courage to attack one who is not afraid. They shout.
He raises his hands, and surprisingly, the crowd quiets.
“Why do you call me Jew?” he says softly. “I’m baptized just as you.”
“Liar! We know what you converso Jews do. You don’t work on Saturday, and you don’t eat pork. You just pretend to be Christian.”
“That’s not true. I gave up the Jewish religion long ago. I wet my head in your baptismal water and I’ve been a good Christian ever since.”
He smiles, laughs almost, knowing they are not convinced, that nothing he says will ever change their minds. But he is not afraid. He stands taller. He is eerily calm.
“You say I’m a Jew. Why? I don’t pray to the God of Israel. I go to church and take the sacraments. My son is not circumcised.”
He turns away. They follow. He spins to face them. It is time, after so many years. Time to be a Jew.
“Is this what you want?” he thunders.
Deliberately, he places his high crowned hat on his head. He tugs under his cloak and removes a long white scarf, the Jewish prayer shawl, the tallit. He holds it solemnly in front of him, aged eyes straining to see faded words. He prays silently, in Hebrew: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by Thy commandments, and has commanded us to wrap ourselves in tallit.
He raises and twists the tallit. The pure white fabric unfolds, soars majestically and lands gently on his shoulders. He lifts it to cover his head. His face is hidden. He closes his eyes tightly. He is in another place.
He prays, she thinks, for the years he has lost, and perhaps also for the years ahead, though not for him: O God of Israel Who desires repentance, allow me to repent for the foolishness of my baptism. O God of Israel Who forgives, forgive me for willfully discarding Your commandments. O God of Israel Who redeems His people, accept me, and allow me once again to walk in Your ways.
He raises his voice, knowing the effect the strange sounding Hebrew words will have.
Hear O Israel … the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
The crowd gasps. Swords are raised.
“Jesus of Nazareth is not God!” he shouts. “There is only one God, and He is the God of Israel!”
The first sword explodes against the side of his head, knocking his hat to the ground. A second shining blade slices into his shoulder. Bloodied, he does not fall. He says the Hebrew words slowly, powerfully.
Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom for all eternity
The bloody sword flashes again, and he smiles, the last act of his life.
Now they all find courage. They know how to stomp on a dead man. Clubs and stones obliterate his features. Stabs to his chest. His tunic dark red.
She hears the horses a split second before the mob looks up. Her husband runs into the square, six armed men behind him. The mob retreats, its anger spent. He wraps the body of his father in his cloak, cradles the corpse gently in his arms, walks slowly into the house.
The young boy bends to retrieve his grandfather’s bloody tallit from where it has fallen.
More Praise for The Heretic
from secular sources …
Rick Steves’ Spain:To get the feel of Spain past and present, check out these three books: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway); Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes); and The Heretic (Lewis Weinstein)
Professor Jane S. Gerber:I couldn’t put the book down and was thoroughly absorbed in the character development and plot line. The Heretic is the best book I have encountered using Sephardic history as the backdrop. (Professor Gerber is the Director of the Institute for Sephardic Studies at the CUNY Graduate School and the author of The Jews of Spain.)
Midwest Book Review:a superbly written debut novel of political intrigue … Weinstein is a master storyteller … The Heretic leaves the reader looking eagerly toward his next literary effort.
Renaissance Magazine: vivid and descriptive, breathtaking detail.
from Catholic sources …
Monsignor Thomas Hartman: a compelling read … the book is historically accurate.
John Cardinal O’Connor: “The Spanish Inquisition of which you write in The Heretic was just one tragic event out of many in the Jewish-Catholic encounter. (Cardinal O’Connor was the Archbishop of New York)
Bishop John J. Snyder: an absorbing and challenging story … an important epic. (Bishop Snyder is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine and a member of the U.S. Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.)
Dr. Eugene J. Fisher: My predecessor, Fr. Edward Flannery, used to say that we Christians have torn out of our history books all the pages the Jews remember. The Heretic may help redress that serious imbalance in historical memory between our two ancient peoples. (Dr. Fisher is Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
from Jewish sources …
The Jewish Press: a breathtaking tour de force … historically accurate and unusually entertaining … an exciting page turner.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency: compelling and gripping depiction
Hadassah Magazine: a captivating first novel.
The Jerusalem Post: Weinstein portrays his characters as real people living in a very frightening period … exciting, interesting and very readable epic.
San Diego Jewish Times: a mesmerizing novel about all those things that make us humane and caring human beings
Detroit Jewish News: literary brilliance, exciting action, romance, cinematic action on paper
Jewish Week: a stirring novel, much period detail … much to say about family, faith and Jewish identity.
Posted in * The Heretic | Tagged: Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, Faye Kellerman, Fergie, Jewish historical fiction, persecution of Jews by the Catholic Church, Queen Isabel, Secret Jews in Spain, Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 2, 2012
- A new book by Errol Morris re-opens the Jeffrey MacDonald case … A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
- DID Jeffrey MacDonald, an Army doctor and Green Beret stationed at Fort Bragg, stab and bludgeon his family to death early on the morning of Feb. 17, 1970?
LMW NOTE …
I have long believed that MacDonald was wrongly convicted by prosecutors who may have had an agenda to protect the “military brats” who were the likely killers. Evidence was ignored and some was lost, perhaps purposely.
The MacDonald case was part of what stimulated me to write my novel, A Good Conviction, which tells the story of a young man convicted of a murder he did not commit by a prosecutor who had come to know he was innocent. … (read about A Good Conviction on amazon.com)
In the real world, the issue of wrongful conviction, including hiding and fabrication of evidence, is a cancer on the American justice system.
For a complete and convincing review of the travesty of the MacDonald case, I recommend … Fatal Justice: Reinvestigating the MacDonald Murders by Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost (Apr 17, 1997)
- “A Wilderness of Error,” which will be released Tuesday by Penguin Press, is a reinvestigation of a case that many thought they knew, written by an obsessive who never leaves well enough alone. With his book Mr. Morris is reopening a lurid, deep wound that preoccupied much of the nation for years after the crime took place.
“A Wilderness of Error” may not exonerate MacDonald,
but it makes a forceful argument that
his conviction was riddled with shortcomings.
- The case will be the subject of a new hearing on Sept. 17 in United States District Court in Wilmington, N.C., after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last spring that the lower court had failed to consider the entire body of evidence.
“I believe he is innocent.
I don’t see any evidence to suggest that he is guilty,” said Mr. Morris.
- “One thing we do know is that evidence was lost, some of it went uncollected, and some of it was contaminated.
One of the reasons we can’t prove he is innocent
is that so much of the evidence is unavailable to us.”
* Lew’s review (ongoing) of “Backing Hitler” by Robert Gellately … It is getting harder for me to reconcile the horrors of the totalitarian state graphically described by Gellately with his contention that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany.”
Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 12, 2012
In his introduction, Gellately sets the premise that Hitler was well received in 1933 by most Germans who applauded his goals of “restoring the grandeur of the Reich” and “cleaning out undesirable aliens.” He argues that this widespread support for Hitler did not waver substantially until more than a decade later when it was obvious that the war Hitler had sought was clearly lost.
He states that the Nazi regime, while selectively brutal with its chosen enemies, did not create a universal terror for most Germans, and that most Germans supported brutality against people for whom they had little sympathy. He further asserts that a vast array of material regarding the concentration camps was published in the media of the day, and that the German people knew very well what was going on. He does not, at least in the introduction, deal with what the German people knew about the death camps of the 1940s and the mass murder of the Jews.
The most shocking quote so far is from a well-spoken middle class German woman who, looking back, says, “We had wonderful years.” The footnote sources this quote to a book by Alison Owings called Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich.
Now we’ll see what proofs Gellately assembles regarding these premises, which have enormous potential significance to my novel-in-progress.
Lew’s comments on Gellately’s Chapter 1 … “Turning Away From Weimar.”
Gellately’s conclusion is that a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany. This is especially damning in light of the evidence Gellately presents. Consider the following, all of which took place during 1933, all of which Germans knew, and despite which they supported Hitler …
… “In less than six months (after Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933) the Nazis undermined the parliamentary system and had begun the destruction of justice by suspending civil and legal rights.”
… the Nazis won more than 80-90% of the vote, after eliminating all opposition parties.
… German police were increasingly empowered to act without restraint, but those who were “good Germans” knew they had nothing to fear.
… the Nazis trashed their opponents without restraint.
… “dead bodies were found in the surrounding forests, and no one dared to know anything about them.”
… “news published about the stream of people sent to concentration camps provided an obvious lesson to any potential opponents”
… “inequality before the law was an essential feature of justice under Hitler’s dictatorship.”
… new laws expanding the meaning of treason and setting up a People’s Court to mete out justice to offenders.”
… Germans accepted that their country would have a secret police.
… “the paramilitary SA, millions-strong, indulged in vigilante acts of violence that totally ignored the law.”
… Jews were systematically turned into outsiders with their legal emancipation reversed.
… Jews were driven from the professions, and “it appears beyond doubt that their expulsion was popular,” at least in part because it created employment opportunities for Christian Germans.
… doctors’ organizations were brought under Nazi control and Jews barred … “there was virtually no opposition to what happened.”
To me, there seems to be a huge disconnect between what the German people knew about Hitler’s approach and their wholehearted support of their new Fuhrer.
What kind of people, understanding what Hitler and his thugs did to those they classified enemies, and how easily and without appeal it was possible to become one of those enemies, and how Hitler had totally co-opted the police, the courts, the press, and the Catholic Church, would still support such a brutal leader?
I guess we must conclude (a) they didn’t care about the people Hitler was persecuting and (b) they didn’t think it would happen to them.
Also, to be fair, 1933 was also almost a decade before the mechanized mass murder of the Jews at Auschwitz and elsewhere, so support of Hitler in 1933, awful as his policies were even then, does not yet mean support for the death camps of the 1940s. Gellately’s views on whether the German people also supported the Holocaust are, I expect, dealt with in subsequent chapters.
Lew’s comments on Gellately’s Chapter 2 – Police Justice
It is getting harder for me to reconcile the horrors of the totalitarian state graphically described by Gellately with his contention that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany.” For one thing, as the net of repressive and arbitrary police procedures grew ever tighter, how is it possible to know if the German people continued to support Hitler or were terrified not to support him?
A review of “Backing Hitler” by Professor Conan Fischer, cites a prior book by Gellately, “The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933-1945″ as demonstrating conclusively “that the much feared and allegedly omnipresent Gestapo in fact relied on widespread public support to function effectively. Denunciations of fellow citizens and relatives by members of the public initiated many Gestapo investigations, even though the whistleblowers understood that those denounced could suffer torture, be consigned to an uncertain fate in a concentration camp, or be executed without due legal process.”
To me this statement, and Gellately’s identical contention in “Backing Hitler,” flies in the face of common sense. In a world where the police can detain anyone in “protective custody” for “public criticism of the government or the Nazi Party, even if the remarks were made in private,” how could any denunciation of one citizen by another be construed as an expression of support for the regime, when it is far more likely to be a desperate effort to prevent one’s own denunciation for failing to denounce a fellow-citizen’s “crime?”
In a chapter where Nazi police are described as adopting a “preventive role, by which they meant arbitrarily arresting people who the police thought might commit a crime,” how is it possible to believe that any German citizen felt secure? How could any German be thought to support such a regime, no matter how much they publicly insisted they did?
These questions lead to other questions …
… Are those Germans who quite appropriately feared for their lives excused from culpability for the actions of a nightmarish government they outwardly professed to support?
… Who had the power and moral authority to combat such a regime from within or from without?
… Who could have acted but didn’t?
… And why does Gellately continue to insist that “a huge majority of Germans supported Hitler’s policies and thought Hitler was good for Germany?”
I’ll keep reading and looking for evidence that has not yet been provided … all the while trying to figure out how I will present these questions and choices in my new novel.
****** MORE TO COME ******
Posted in * Lew's reviews - research reading for CHOOSING HITLER | Tagged: "Backing Hitler" by Robert Gellately, holocaust, Jewish historical fiction, Nazi Germany, research for Choosing Hitler, why Hitler | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 7, 2012
I’m taking a course at Oxford this summer on “The Brain and the Senses.” So this is a little extra homework. The idea of memory, where thoughts come from, etc., is fascinating to me. And, many years ago, before I was there, Eric Kandel had his laboratory at the Public Health Research Institute, of which I was later CEO. Unfortunately for me, we have never met.
I HAVE NOW COMPLETED BOTH THE COURSE AND KANDEL’S BOOK.
BOTH WERE TERRIFIC!
The course, offered by Oxford tutor Gillie McNeill, combined descriptions of sensory processes with an explanation of the underlying molecular activity that integrates the incoming perceptions and what’s already in memory to create a coherent narrative. We started by eating a cracker and considering what was involved in our individual perceptions of that event … taste, smell, sight, feel, sound, and memory of crackers and herbs previously ingested. Quite a bit for one bite in the first few minutes of the course.
for more about the Oxford Experience, see our travel blog at …
Kandel’s book offers enchanting glimpses of his life story, the history of brain psychology and science, and a description of the experiments (of Kandel and others) which are moving our understanding of the brain forward at an incredible pace while also revealing just how little we still know.
Kandel’s decision, early in his career, to begin his life’s work with the study of a single cell, set the stage for the way he approached his work. He decided to study the giant marine snail Aplysia as his first means to understand how information was brought into a cell and transferred out to another cell. Learn how that happens, multiply by tens of billions, and you have a working human brain.
These quotes may communicate the excitement of Kandel’s journey (which by the way led to a Nobel Prize) …
- “the realization that the workings of the brain – the ability not only to perceive but to think, learn, and store information – may occur through chemical as well as electrical signals expanded the appeal of brain science from anatomists and electro-physiologists to biochemists.”
- “I was testing the idea that the cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory are likely to have been conserved through evolution and therefore to be found in simple animals.”
- “We pointed out the importance of discovering what actually goes on at the level of the synapse (the place where signals are passed from one cell to another) when behavior is modified by learning.”
This last quote is almost a synopsis of what the course at the Oxford Experience was about. It turns out that there is considerable growth and change in the brain connections and that this goes on all the time.
Your brain has changed since you started reading this review.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 14, 2012
This is really an extraordinary book. I expected a typical non-memorable crime/thriller story, of which I read many. Instead, here is a brilliantly constructed multi-generational exploration of the very interesting lives of some very flawed people. And does Parker ever make me care about these people!
There was something unusual and very powerful about the structure of the story. It reached what seemed to me could have been the conclusion of a shorter novel about half-way through, at a point when many novels are struggling with that fearsome middle-of-the-book trough. (Since I was reading the book on kindle, I didn’t know how far along I was and thought the story was about to end. When I checked, I learned I was at 48%.) But exactly here Parker gathers up a new burst of writing energy and the story takes off again, with one revelation after another, until the final resolution many worthwhile reading hours away.
Parker’s use of time is also worthy of note, especially for me since he does so successfully what I am struggling to achieve in my own novel-in-progress. You start in the present in Boston, with two people who seem to love each other but are not clear if they can be together. Some cataclysmic event has thrown them into relationship disarray. Then you jump back 70 years, and a young man in Dublin is an IRA terrorist fighting British domination in Ireland. The story emerges in a series of flashbacks, and in the very skillful and emotional revelation of the impact of these past events on the original two lovers, getting ever closer to the present. To say more would reveal too much.
Parker has of course been enormously successful, although I have read only 1-2 of his subsequent crime stories, which I do not remember. Another Goodreads reviewer said Parker never again reached the level of excellence of this early novel that did not have much commercial success. If that is true, what a shame that he was not encouraged to reach harder for the literary excellence that was clearly within his potential.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 14, 2012
I am taking a one week course at Oxford (July 2012) … The Brain and the Senses. This is one of the books to read in advance.
It is a fascinating journey through what is currently known (2010) about the way the brain receives information from the outside world, and how this information is categorized, stored and retrieved. There are many examples at an individual level to illustrate some of the experimental results. The graphics are brilliant.
The book is necessarily stronger on the receipt of information than it is on storage and retrieval. I have many margin notes asking the same question about memory, especially about how a memory is retrieved or, as the book argues, re-constructed. How is it done? How? How? This is the stuff of future research and understanding.
I think much of what we think we know on this subject is still in the nature of conjecture, based on research utilizing brain scans to show what part of the brain lights up when various stimuli and tasks are presented. The research field is new and rapidly evolving. In one of my previous lives, as CEO of a biomedical research institute, I learned a little about the objectives and practice of cutting-edge scientific research: everything we think we know is only tentative … everything will eventually be disproved or at least significantly enhanced by new and better research … sometimes proving something is not true is as important as an experiment which confirms your hypothesis … better to have a working hypothesis than no hypothesis at all.
Funny, but my friend who has studied and taught history for over 50 years tells me the same is true of what we think we know of historical events and patterns. What really happened? It depends very much on what facts you are looking at and how those facts were assembled. Are they really facts? It should be humbling to understand the degree of uncertainty about our past as well as our future. Let alone the present, whatever that is.
Two fascinating thoughts (chosen from many possibilities) are particularly related to my experience as a novelist and my current novel-in-progress …
… the process of retrieving memory of things which have actually happened is essentially the same as the process of imagining the future (and thus evaluating prospects and plans) or the process of inventing people and events which never existed (i.e., creating fiction).
… the killing of Jews by the Nazis required a distinct transformation in the behavior of individuals performing such acts which allowed them to carry out horrific acts of violence without being assailed by normal feelings of fear and disgust … afterward, they fell into a state that precluded normal reflection and self-awareness and thus prevented them from acknowledging the awfulness of what they had done (and would do again tomorrow).
In her concluding paragraph, Rita Carter says, “the findings outlined in this book give only the sketchiest impression of the landscape of the mind … yet I believe (it) is already clear (that) there is no ghost in this place (the mind) …what we are discovering is a biological system of awe-inspiring complexity … the world within our heads is more marvelous than anything we can dream up.”
These are the kinds of thoughts stimulated by “Mapping the Mind.” I recommend the book even if your scientific understanding is limited. It will make you think outside your normal box. It will make you more aware of what incredible potentials lie within all of us.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 5, 2012
2,500 Jews comprised 50% of the population of the Polish village Tykocin on August 25, 1941. Until that day they were a vibrant shtetl community full of the joy and learning of Polish Jewry. Two days later they were gone.
The Nazis first had Polish Christians dig large pits in a quiet forest about 3 miles from Tykocin.
A week later, all Jews were ordered to appear at 6:00 am in the old market square roughly half way between the synagogue and the Catholic church. German lorries arrived and heavily armed men sealed off the square. Jewish women and children were loaded onto the lorries and driven off to their burial pits. The Jewish men were formed into columns and marched after them.
The Jewish women and children were lined up in small groups at the edge of the pits and shot. Their bodies fell into the pits.
The Jewish men were held overnight and then marched into the forest the next day. They too were lined up along the pits and shot. Their bodies were dumped on top of the women and children murdered the previous day.
This incident, as described in a publication honoring those who died, raises many questions which are relevant for my novel-in-progress.
- The Christian Poles of Tykocin obviously saw the Jews leave, and they certainly knew they did not return. Yet our guide insisted they did not know what happened to them. How can that be true?
- “And if they did know,” the guide said, “so what? What could they have done?” I disagree with that characterization of impotence.There were many opportunities, other than committing suicide by confronting the Nazis, to protest the mass murder of the Jews.
- Did the parish priest, for example, report the incident to his superiors, and if so, what did they do?
- Did the Christian citizens of Tykocin report the incident to former Polish government authorities or resistance groups?
Either of these notifications might in turn have triggered a broader international public awareness
of what the Nazis were doing. They might have helped to mobilize international opinion and action
at a time when most of Poland’s 3 million Jews were still alive?
- After the war, the mass graves were found, by whom and how I don’t (yet) know, but it seems likely that some of the Christians still living in Tykocin were the ones who identified the grave sites in the midst of dense woods 3 miles from town. Which means they very likely knew what was there.
- The synagogue has been restored by Jewish sources including the Lauder Foundation. and is now a moving museum. The town bakery makes excellent challah bread.
- But other than the synagogue and a single marker at the old Jewish cemetery for those who were buried from 1522 until the day in 1941 when the mass execution took place, there are no memorials to Jews in Tykocin.
- The Christian Poles act as if the Jews were never there.
On the day of our visit, not a single Jew was living in Tykocin. Many Jews, however, visit every day. Within the two hours we were in Tykocin, there were four different tour groups with at least 30 Jewish young people in each group. Several groups prayed and sang in the synagogue.
- What do the Christian Poles now living in the homes of the executed Jews think of all this?
- Do they ever reflect on the Jews who were their neighbors for over 400 years?
- Are these Jews ever mentioned by the priest in the large church just a few meters from where the Jews were collected for annihilation?
The synagogue at Tykocin is beautiful. Photos of it and the shtetl homes near it can be seen at our travel blog …
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 1, 2012
Courtroom 600 in Nuremberg is one of the major focal points of my novel-in-progress. We have seen many of the movies that were set there. I have read the transcripts and several book length accounts of the trial of the major Nazi war criminals in 1945-46.
But actually being there … sensing the presence of prosecutor Jackson, Judge Biddle, and defendants Goring, Streicher, Shacht, Speer and the others … that was a whole different experience. I could even feel the presence of my fictional defendant Berthold Becker, sitting in the defendant’s dock, expecting a death sentence.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 1, 2012
I come asking uncomfortable questions, all of which are crucial to my novel-in-progress dealing with the Nazi years in Germany and Poland …
- Why did so many Germans support Hitler?
- What did Cardinal Faulhaber think when he retreated from his early positions opposing Hitler’s antisemitic programs?
- Did the German population realize what was happening at the death camps?
These questions have no easy answers, and real evidence to support any answer may be difficult or impossible to obtain, and, to say the least, controversial. Yet each of these professional historians and archivists were generous with their time, their opinions, and their reference to sources previously not known to me. I truly appreciate their interest in my work, and hope to call on each for further asssitance as my novel-in-progress moves along.
Dr. Andreas Heusler works at the Munich State Archives, where he is a leading expert on the Nazi years. He is also the author of a major article on the history of Jews in Munich contained in a publication of the new Munich Jewish Center.
Dr. Christian Hartmann works at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Contemporary History), currently as leader of a project to produce a new annotated edition of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. In addition to providing historical perspectives, he, along with his wife and daughter, provided Pat and me with a wonderful Bavarian dinner at his home.
Dr. Guido Treffler works in the archive section of the Archdiocese of Munich, where he has responsibility for the archival records of Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, the Archbishop of Munich from 1921 to 1948, who was perhaps the dominant Catholic figure in Germany during the entire span of the Nazi years.
Posted in * CHOOSING HITLER ... Lew's novel-in-progress | Tagged: Archdiocese of Munich, Cardianl Faulhaber, death camps, Dr. Andreas Heusler, Dr. Christain Hartmann, Guido Treffler, Hitler, Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Contemporary History), Munich State Archives, Nazis | Leave a Comment »
* today we followed the 2.5 km route of Hitler’s march through central Munich in the failed 1923 beer hall putsch
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 26, 2012
In 1923, in Munich, Adolf Hitler led a putsch (coup d’etat) attempt to take over both the Bavarian state government and the national Reich government of Germany.
Shortly after noon on November 9, 1923, about 2,000 rag tag troops set off from the now demolished Burgerbraukeller beer hall. They marched to the Ludwigsbrucke bridge, where they overcame a small police force and continued toward the center of the city.
They reached the Marienplatz, where the City Hall was festooned with swastikas, and where they were cheered by a mostly supportive and raucus crowd.
Turning right at the City Hall, they headed toward the Odeonplatz, which they never reached. At the Feldherrnhalle, they were met by a large force of police and Army troops. A short but fierce firefight ensued, and 30 seconds later the putsch was over.
Hitler escaped that day, but was soon captured and brought to trial on charges of treason. Most Germans, who had viewed the putsch as an incompetent, almost comic, event, thought that Hitler and his Nazi movement were finished.
Pictured below are (1) the gate into the center of Munich, (2) City Hall in Marienplatz, (3) the view of the edge of the Feldherrnalle the marchers would have seen as they came down Residenzstarsse, and (4) the view the police and Army troops would have had looking toward Residenzstrasse.
Here’s what it might have looked like on November 9, 1923 as Hitler and the Nazis emerged from Residenzstrasse and faced the government troops, just before shots were fired.
The events of the 1923 putsch will be portrayed through the eyes of my characters in my as yet untitled novel-in-progress.
* Sophie Scholl, almost 70 years after she was executed, is still a major presence at the University of Munich
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 24, 2012
Sophie Scholl, along with others calling themselves The White Rose, learned what the Nazis were doing to Jews and other civilians in Russia and to tried to induce Germans to passively resist the Nazis. She and the rest of the White Rose group were arrested for distributing leaflets at the University of Munich on February 18, 1943. Four days later, they were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. They were beheaded a few hours later. Sophie was 21 years old. Her last words were …
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
On the day we visited the campus, a group was rehearsing for a night of readings and music in honor of the White Rose students.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 24, 2012
I have in mind that my fictional character Berthold Becker will study at the University of Munich, so we set out to see the main buildings of the university, hoping that some would look the same as they did in 1930. I had written to the university, and we were fortunate to have two guides, former students who were knowledgeable and also interested in my project. Pat and I met Simone and Viviane at 11:00 am Saturday at the fountain in front of the main building.
The first thing I learned was that Berthold would not be able to study engineering at this campus, since those courses are not and were not offered here. I believe it was Simone who suggested that perhaps philosophy would be a better choice for the kind of character I am trying to create. See how easy it is to change majors?
As we walked around, we identified many campus and classroom locations that fit scenes I already had in mind, and also several that suggested new ways to develop my characters.
And then, we had the great pleasure of a Bavarian lunch at our first Munich beer garden.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 20, 2012
Hereje is the Spanish translation of The Heretic, a novel by Lew Weinstein first published in English in 2000. It was published in Spanish in 2012.
The Heretic (Hereje)
By Lew Weinstein ’62
Posted on May 31, 2012
(Algaida) The Heretic, set in 15th century Spain, follows a Jewish family facing persecution from the Catholic Church in the years leading up to the Spanish Inquisition. As the main character, Gabriel, decides not to renounce his religion and continues to embrace his Jewish faith in secret, his family has to contend with a series of threats and dangers. Weinstein is the author of four novels.
* praise for The Heretic … Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, John Cardinal O’Connor, Faye Kellerman, Rick Steves, Bishop John J. Snyder, Hadassah Magazine … many others
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 13, 2012
Alan M. Dershowitz: The historical novel that is both true to the past and relevant to the present is rare indeed. The Heretic helps us to understand why the Pope is correct in insisting that the Catholic Church do much more to seektschuva – forgiveness and redemption – for its monumental sins and crimes against the Jewish people. The Heretic humanizes the tragic history of religious persecution.
Rick Steves’ Spain 2007: To get the feel of Spain past and present, check out a few of these books: The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Death in the Afternoon (Ernest Hemingway); Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes); The Heretic (Lewis Weinstein); and Tales of the Alhambra (Washington Irving).
Monsignor Thomas Hartman: I found The Heretic a compelling read. I felt the emotion. I kept wishing it would turn out differently, but of course I knew it wouldn’t. Unfortunately, the book is historically accurate. The Church has treated Jews horribly over the years, and we were wrong. It is important for Catholics to know what was done and the impact it has had, even in this century, if we are to continue Pope John Paul’s initiatives to build a different path to the future. (Father Tom Hartman is the co-host of The God Squad, and the Director of Radio and Television for the Diocese of Rockville Center.)
Hadassah Magazine: The Heretic is a captivating first novel. For anyone who wants to know why Jews have long memories regarding tragedies of the past, this well-researched narrative is valuable reading for Jew and non-Jew. But as much as The Heretic is a story of horror and destruction, it contains, as all Jewish stories must, the kernel of perpetual hope and rebirth.
David A. Harris: This book should come with a warning label: don’t start reading it unless you’re prepared to put everything else aside until you finish. The Heretic is powerful, riveting, and inspiring. It should be a must read Catholics and Jews. (Mr. Harris is Executive Director of The American Jewish Committee.)
Midwest Book Review: The Heretic is a superbly written debut novel of political intrigue that adds a definitively human touch to the terrible ills of religious persecution. Weinstein is a master storyteller, and The Heretic leaves the reader looking eagerly toward his next literary effort.
The Jewish Press: The Heretic is a breathtaking tour de force that is both historically accurate and unusually entertaining. Weinstein’s book has captured the spice and flavor of 15th century Spain. It is a truly exciting page turner.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency: The Heretic is a compelling and gripping depiction of the hatred wreaked by religious fanaticism directed at both Jews and “conversos” in 15th century Spain. The lives, loves and tragedies of the characters, fictional and historical, come alive, inviting the reader to see, feel and share their emotions. The Heretic is a must read for both Jews and Christians as we engage in dialogue to explore the depths of devastation and destruction unleashed by religious fanaticism, yesterday and today.
John Cardinal O’Connor: “The Spanish Inquisition of which you write in The Heretic was just one tragic event out of many in the Jewish-Catholic encounter. As we freely admit the sins of many of our Catholic brothers and sisters over the centuries, we can move on, hopefully liberated by the truth and reminded by it to challenge hatred and intolerance in our present time. (Cardinal O’Connor was the Archbishop of New York. He wrote these comments shortly before his death.)
The Jerusalem Post: Weinstein portrays his characters as real people living in a very frightening period, bringing to life the fanaticism of the period, highlighting for both Jews and Christians alike the dangers of intolerance. He has written an exciting, interesting and very readable epic.
Bishop John J. Snyder: I found The Heretic an absorbing and challenging story. From one perspective it was not easy reading since it presents us with a part of the Church’s history that we would rather not face. However, it brings home to us the reality of our sinfulness and the discrimination and violence that is part of our story. We can and must seek forgiveness for the past but even more importantly we are challenged not to follow that path in the years to come. My gratitude to you for sharing this important epic with me. (Bishop Snyder is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine and a member of the U.S.Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.)
Professor Jane S. Gerber: I couldn’t put the book down and was thoroughly absorbed in the character development and plot line. The Heretic is the best book I have encountered using Sephardic history as the backdrop. (Professor Gerber is Professor of History and Director, Institute for Sephardic Studies at the Graduate School of the City University of New York, and the author of The Jews of Spain.)
Lorraine Gordon: When I finished reading your wonderful novel, I wished I had another one just like it. I thoroughly enjoyed The Heretic. As a matter of fact, it has the same appeal as Noah’s books have for me … well-drawn characters, interesting history, and an absorbing story.” (Ms. Gordon is the wife of author Noah Gordon.)
Dr. Eugene J. Fisher: My predecessor, Fr. Edward Flannery, used to say that we Christians have torn out of our history books all the pages the Jews remember. The Heretic may help redress that serious imbalance in historical memory between our two ancient peoples. If so, you will have done a mitzvah for the Church, and for future generations of Catholics and Jews. (Dr. Fisher is Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
Rabbi Leon Klenicki: I want to tell you how much I appreciate The Heretic. Its historical view, the vividness of portraying characters and situations, surrounded me immediately and made me feel in situ. I will recommend The Hereticto my Christian friends. (Rabbi Klenicki was, until recently, the director of the Department of Jewish-Christian Relations of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.)
Historical Novel Review: Steeped in late medieval culture, immerses the reader in a world of religious intolerance and cross-cultural cooperation. Characters, both fictional and historical, are vital living beings, well motivated, true-to-life and, more importantly, true to the period. The narrative is compelling, sweeping the reader along on a well-paced journey, while the setting comes alive with the sights, sounds and smells of medieval Spain. The history of the relationship between the Jewish people and the Christians is incorporated in a believable way so that readers become acquainted with the historical background behind the rise of the Inquisition.
Curled Up With A Good Book: Weinstein sets his dramatic novel in the bloody upheaval of the Spanish Inquisition. The great Dominican purges of 1391 and 1412 have created a large number of conversos, those willing to relinquish their faith and embrace Christianity rather than be burned at the stake as heretics. Weinstein reveals the ugly face of intolerance, fanatics demanding blood sacrifice in one of the most brutal periods of history, Jews and conversos scattering before the sword of Christianity, one great religion pitted against another. God watches His children destroyed in His name.
First Things, The Journal of Religious and Public Life: reflects the conflicted motives that led churchmen to cooperate with the royal effort to “purify” the Spanish nation … vividly dramatizing the sins which John Paul II has asked Christians to candidly acknowledge
Sephardic Image: a compelling historical novel (set against) a backdrop of political and religious upheaval. Intriguing portraits of real historical figures, enthralling fictional treatment of a pivotal point in history. A historical novel with a message about the future (and) special relevance for our time.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 13, 2012
Now that I’m embarked on research for my new novel, I get into conversations I would never have had before. Pat and I had crepes this week at one of our favorite Collioure restaurants. The middle-aged couple sitting next to us spoke French and perhaps a little German, but as we each received “l’addition,” we were addressed in English. The couple turned out to be Swiss. When the conversation touched on retirement, I said I was busy in mine, writing novels. Which led to my current project and my new conversation-grabbing question.
“So why do you think so many Germans supported Hitler?” I asked.
There are so many ways to answer that question. First of all, what time frame are we talking about?
- In 1923, the people who supported Hitler were mainly frustrated war veterans, unemployed, super-patriots, Jew-haters … looking to overthrow what Hitler repeatedly called the “Jew Communist Republic” in Berlin. Of course, the 1923 Munich putsch failed, and Hitler was sent to prison. But after he got out (his sentence was absurdly lenient) his supporters actually increased.
- A second major time frame was the late 1920s to 1933, at the end of which Hitler actually achieved power. Who supported Hitler then? Who gave him the 25% of the vote that he manipulated into the Chancellorship and the ultimate power? Who allowed that political manipulation to succeed? Why?
- Then there’s after 1933, as Hitler transformed Germany, built a war machine, improved the economy, and made Jews persecuted non-citizens. Who supported those actions? Why?
- And finally, the Holocaust. Box cars heading east. No Jews returning. Who supported that? Why?
My new Swiss friend chose to talk about the early 1930s. “Hitler had a minority of the vote, a minority of legislative seats,” he said. “But he was able to block everything the government wanted to do. It was bad times, the Depression. Nothing was getting done. Finally, the majority made a deal with Hitler. He became Chancellor, with the Interior and Justice Ministries under Nazi control. Then, with that power, he made the other political parties illegal and took total control, using brute force as a political weapon.”
But that, it seems to me, begs the question. You can’t change 25% into total control without the compliance of the 75%. Who were those 75% and why did they go along? I didn’t get to ask that question before we left the table, and I have not yet read enough to suggest an answer. Perhaps next week in Munich and Nuremberg I will get other perspectives.
There is no simple answer. At different points in time, Hitler’s supporters came from different segments of the German population, and each had different reasons for playing their part in enabling Hitler to accomplish his clearly stated objectives.
What did those Germans think Hitler would do if he got power? He had been telling everyone who would listen for more than a decade, including endlessly repeating that Germany could never be great until all the Jews were eliminated.
In 1933, did the 75% believe him? Did they care?
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 12, 2012
Prologue … 1989
“I want to write a book based on your Nuremberg case,” Marissa said between the first and second innings.
“After all these years?” A frown added to the lines in her father’s face. “Why do you want to dredge that up again? You know I’ve never considered it the shining moment of my law career.”
“Your case was presented brilliantly,” Marissa objected. “Berthold Becker was convicted of crimes against humanity.”
“But the Nazi bastard didn’t die,” Abraham Weintraub said, his vehemence undiminished by the years. “It was the woman … Anna Gorski. If she hadn’t suddenly appeared as a witness, Becker would’ve been sentenced to death … just like Göring and Rosenberg and Streicher and the others.”
“Gorski’s appearance suggests there might be something important in Becker’s story,” Marissa said.
Will this book further your career?” Abraham asked.
Marissa smiled. Her father, as always, got right to the crux of the matter.
“It could,” she said. “You know how it is in academia.”
Professor Marissa Whitten had been teaching “The Destruction of European Jewry” at Brandeis University for several years, and was well regarded by her colleagues and students. Her mentor was a towering figure in Holocaust studies. He would be retiring in three years and the competition to take his place as the lead Holocaust professor at Brandeis would be fierce. Marissa needed a significant publication to support her case. The approach she was planning to take would be unconventional and more than a little risky, but if she could carry it off, it would be an important advance in an area of Holocaust study that still lagged, even with thousands of books already published. She had discussed her plan with her mentor and he had been enthusiastic.
Getting access to the critical materials and people would largely depend on her father, who had prosecuted the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials case which would be the lynchpin of her research. She had arranged to spend the weekend with her father in New York. They would go to a baseball game, something they had not done for many years, and she would ask for his help.
“There’ve been so many books,” Abraham persisted, shaking his head.
“I know,” Marissa said, “but most of the Holocaust literature has described the horrible things that happened to the Jews. I want to go behind what happened to shed more light on why it happened, and more specifically why the German people let it happen. My goal is to learn everything there is to know about Berthold Becker and Anna Gorski. If they’re still alive, I want to find them and talk to them.”
She paused, a smile breaking tentatively across her face. “And I want to work together with you. I’d like us to be co-authors.”
Abraham had mixed emotions. Marissa was his only child and he wanted to do what she asked. He had been an Army lawyer for forty years until he retired and took an “of counsel” position with a New York law firm. When Marissa was growing up, he had been based all over the world as the Army required. His wife had died much too early and he had never re-married. His daughter had lived with him until she graduated from high school and went off to college, so they had far more time together than most fathers and daughters. Later, their separate careers in different cities had limited their time together. At 73 years of age, this unexpected opportunity to work together with her thrilled him. Marissa had known just how to make her request.
At the same time he was reluctant. The case that so interested his daughter was for him the worst failure of his legal career, even though the Chief American Prosecutor at Nuremberg had always praised his work. Truth be told, he didn’t relish a published review of the trial record that would embarrass him again.
“Can you give me some time to think about it?” Abraham asked.
“Sure, Dad. I understand.”
The Yankees lost and Marissa went back to Boston to await her father’s decision.
“Becker’s still alive.”
It was three days later. Abraham had spoken as soon as Marissa answered the phone.
“How do you know that?” Marissa asked, even as her heart leaped. He was going to do it!
“I made some calls,” Abraham said. “Becker’s living in Munich, where he was born and lived as a child. I have his address and telephone number.”
“Does this mean I have a co-author?”
“I couldn’t turn you down,” Abraham said.
“I appreciate that, Dad,” Marissa said. “I know you have reservations.” She paused, then asked, “Will the German government be helpful?”
“Yes,” Abraham said. “At least I think so. It took the Germans way too long in my opinion, but since that U.S. television series about the Holocaust was broadcast in Germany ten years ago, there’s been a big change in attitude, especially among the younger generation. Many of them desperately want to know why their parents and grandparents committed such horrible acts … not to excuse, mind you, but to understand. If our book sheds new light on that question, it’ll be well received in Germany.”
Marissa heard the “our” and smiled.
“I’ve sent an overnight package. A copy of my file on Becker and a few notes about Gorski. It’s all I have.” He paused. “Thomas Dodd, another one of the Nuremberg prosecutors, sent home boxes full of Nazi souvenirs.”
Marissa answered, “Well, I’m glad my father didn’t.”
Over the next several days, Marissa contacted the International Tracing Service in Germany and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York. Abraham reminded her that he had accompanied General Eisenhower when the Supreme Commander came to Washington to urge the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to fund the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and he called people at the UN to arrange access to the UNRRA’s archived records. From these sources, she learned that Anna Gorski had spent time in a displaced persons camp in Germany, was among a group of Polish Jews smuggled into Palestine in 1947, and was currently living in Jerusalem.
“I think I may have seen them together,” Abraham said when Marissa called to tell him she had located Anna Gorski.
“At the trial?”
“Yes, but also before. At Ohrdruf.” Abraham shook his head sadly, visualizing the moment forty-four years before. “Ohrdruf was a place where prisoners were concentrated for a railway construction project. Before we got there, the SS had evacuated many of them, sent them on death marches to Buchenwald …” He paused, feeling the emotion of painful memories. “Ohrdruf was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by the U.S. Army. I was one of the staff officers who accompanied General Eisenhower when he visited the camp about a week after it had been liberated.”
Another pause. “We saw piles of naked bodies … decomposing … some partially incinerated. It was sickening. That was the moment I began to hate all Germans. Animals! Before that, they were just enemies.”
A quizzical tone came to his voice. “Becker was there, already under arrest. When he was brought out for transport to Nuremberg, he passed near me. He was staring at someone and I followed his eyes. I realized when she showed up at his trial it had been Gorski and I wondered about that look. I guess I should have asked him on cross-examination, but I didn’t.”
Marissa spoke gently, “Now maybe we’ll have another chance.”
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 10, 2012
I’m busy trying to arrange appointments for our trip to Munich later this month. My goal is to talk with today’s Germans about how and why so many of their ancestors came to support Hitler and his program of exterminating the Jews.
In particular, I hope to speak with one or more Church leaders about the role of the Catholic Church in Hitler’s rise.
This is all research for my new novel, the first section of which takes place in Munich in 1923.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 8, 2012
I really like Corcoran’s Key West stories. Part of it is I live just a few blocks from Alex Rutledge’s fictional home, so I recognize just about every street, restaurant and landmark.
The story line is confusing. I’m not sure I had it all figured out even at the end. Matter of fact, I’m not sure Corcoran actually explained it all. Many characters and multiple plot lines are woven together in non-stop action. Only the fact that it’s all from Rutledge’s perspective keeps the lack of coherent transitions from being a major problem. The reader just lives with Rutledge’s life as it comes at him.
Usually confusion bothers me, but this time it didn’t matter. I kept reminding myself there was no examination at the end of the book and let myself enjoy a series of great rides – by boat, motorcycle and Cannondale. The characters are interesting, there is Corcoran’s excellent sense of humor, and the flavor of a place I love. There are some serious aspects to the plot, if you want to worry about them, but they don’t get in the way of the fun.
Oh, and the most memorable quote has to do with a vibrator.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
For the past two years, I have organized and taught a fiction writing workshop at the Keys Center Academy (KCA) in Key West. Last week, they held an appreciation breakfast for all of the adult volunteers who contribute to their unique learning environment.
KCA is a program of the Key West High School for girls “at risk” for a variety of reasons. There are no issues, however, with their intellectual capabilities, and every one who came to my workshop produced the beginnings of a solid first scene, and one produced what I thought was a publishable story.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
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Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
read the prologue … * A GOOD CONVICTION – PROLOGUE
NEWS FROM THE REAL WORLD OF PROSECUTORs hiding evidence TO GET FALSE CONVICTIONS
reviews of A Good Conviction
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
purchase the THE POPE’S CONSPIRACY
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 28, 2012
purchase ... * CASE CLOSED
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at Lew’s CASE CLOSED BLOG
… over 250,000 clicks so far … every aspect of the FBI’s unsupported case against Dr. Bruce Ivins has been demolished on this site.
read the opening scene … * Case Closed … opening scene