The Brigade by Howard Blum

bookshelves: summer-2014, wwii, nonfiction, history, published-2001, jewish, military-maneuvers, nazi-related

Read from March 13 to August 18, 2014

 

Description: Although the official history of the Jewish Brigade Group (a unit of some 5,000 Jews who fought with the British Eighth Army in Italy in the waning months of the conflict) has been written, Blum (Wanted! The Search for Nazis in America) breaks new ground by looking into the clandestine operations that occurred after the shooting had stopped. Once they learned the true extent of the holocaust, soldiers of the brigade began using intelligence reports to pinpoint the location of former SS officers and camp guards. The enraged Jewish troops took vengeance into their own hands, eventually slaying hundreds of Nazi death dealers. Blum follows the story of three men Israel Carmi, Johanan Peltz and Arie Pinchuk in detail, interviewed dozens of others, read unpublished personal memoirs and had Hebrew-language documents translated for him. During the war, the more daring Jewish soldiers formed a secret unit that appropriated British supplies trucks, weapons and food and diverted them to ships heading illegally for Palestine The plan included the “repatriation” of thousands of war orphans, who were clandestinely taken from displaced person camps and smuggled to Palestine. The underground Jewish Haganah figured prominently in these operations, which contributed directly to the creation of Israel. Blum, twice nominated for a Pulitzer as a New York Times investigative reporter, and now a Vanity Fair contributing editor, presents the material masterfully, building suspense and carefully documenting all the action.

Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is loosely based on this – from the US pov only, of course.

So this is the start of the group that were to dedicate their future lives to the hunting down of Nazi criminals. And this brings me smack bang back into an interesting discussion at the end of The Railway Man – would forgiveness given straight away have been a better way forward: the unforgivers turning bitter and twisted over time. Is that how we view Israel today? HAH – big questions and only little old me; perhaps there are no answers.

Further reading is Leon Uris ‘Exodus’

The Brigade is a fascinating, action-packed non-fiction that reads like a full-on adventure thriller, which proves yet again, fact is waay more bizarre than fiction. Fully recommended, and four gleaming menorahs.

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Tales Of London’s Docklands by Henry Bradford

 

First published 2007 as Slaves, Serfs and Wage-Slavery – A Tale of London’s Docklands

Description: Presents an anthology of true stories, drawn from the author’s personal experience as a Registered Docker in the Port of London. This work is an attempt to preserve the memories of day to day life of the docklands in the past. It is of interest to those whose relatives worked as dockers, and to social historians.

Opening: Eric was a year younger than me. Although we had been to the same school in Gravesend and I had encountered him as a boy, we came from different areas within the Borough and never got to know each other for two specific reasons. First, his father was a shipwright, employed by a ship repair company that operated within Tilbury Docks and on vessels on the River Thames. He was therefore classed as an artisan in full-time remunerative employment. This meant Eric was prime candidate for the A and B forms when we were at school. The second reason we didn’t get to know each other was that I was a docker’s son.

Liberally spotted with some fab photos from the author’s collection, I was engrossed in all the little anecdotal stories and built up a good idea of how it must have been working in the Port of London. The overall impression was it must have been a tough life no matter which rôle one worked.

Location 28/140: ‘He never took chances with men’s lives in an industry that had a horrendous number of accidental injuries and deaths. Dock working was always a dangerous game of chance.’

Three canny crane drivers who double up as important bods from the film industry.

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

 

Read by Danika Fairman

Description: In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.

Read her two books the wrong way around. This non-fiction is superbly written, and she really does have stories that need relating to help us understand DDR because let’s face it, no matter how many time the history is read the subject remains hard to get one’s head around.

DDR was a paranoid place and awful things happened to ordinary people and Funder has pinned the subject matter smack, bang to the , erm, wall.

I mentioned that I read her books the wrong way around – ‘All that I Am’, a novel based on factual events, did not resound so well, maybe I am just a non-fiction kind of girl at heart.

Astounding read worth five checkpoint-charlies even though there are some flaws.

Surfy Googling yields some interesting piccies:

Alexanderplatz. We stayed in the Hotel up those stairs on the left, and that square was full of Christmas market. How it looks today:

Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris

 

** spoiler alert **

RELEVANT QUOTE – “I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”
― Primo Levi

From wiki – On 11 March 1944, neighbors of a house owned by Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot at 21 rue Le Sueur in Paris, complained to police of a foul stench in the area and of large amounts of smoke billowing from a chimney of the house. Fearing a chimney fire, the police summoned firemen, who entered the house and found a roaring fire in a coal stove in the basement. In the fire, and scattered in the basement, were human remains.

General Information
===============
Narrator…………………..Paul Michael
Abr/Unabr………………..Unabridged
Genre………………………True story of a brutal serial killer
Total Runtime……………13 Hours 54 Mins

BLURBS: Death in the City of Light is the gripping, true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-Occupied Paris. As decapitated heads and dismembered body parts surfaced in the Seine, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu, head of the Brigade Criminelle, was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer in a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, spies, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.

The main suspect was Dr. Marcel Petiot, a handsome, charming physician with remarkable charisma. He was the “People’s Doctor,” known for his many acts of kindness and generosity, not least in providing free medical care for the poor. Petiot, however, would soon be charged with twenty-seven murders, though authorities suspected the total was considerably higher, perhaps even as many as 150.

Who was being slaughtered, and why? Was Petiot a sexual sadist, as the press suggested, killing for thrills? Was he allied with the Gestapo, or, on the contrary, the French Resistance? Or did he work for no one other than himself? Trying to solve the many mysteries of the case, Massu would unravel a plot of unspeakable deviousness.
When Petiot was finally arrested, the French police hoped for answers.

But the trial soon became a circus. Attempting to try all twenty-seven cases at once, the prosecution stumbled in its marathon cross-examinations, and Petiot, enjoying the spotlight, responded with astonishing ease. His attorney, René Floriot, a rising star in the world of criminal defense, also effectively, if aggressively, countered the charges. Soon, despite a team of prosecuting attorneys, dozens of witnesses, and over one ton of evidence, Petiot’s brilliance and wit threatened to win the day.

Drawing extensively on many new sources, including the massive, classified French police file on Dr. Petiot, Death in the City of Light is a brilliant evocation of Nazi-Occupied Paris and a harrowing exploration of murder, betrayal, and evil of staggering proportions.

This book should have come face to face with an active editor to whittle it down to ten hours max. Georges Simenon, Sartre, Camus, Fleming, Picasso and de Beauvoir’s lives overlap with this grisly tale.

Frustrated Falcons: The Three Children of Edmund of Langley by Brian Wainwright

Frustrated Falcons: The Three Children of Edmund of Langley - Mr Brian Wainwright BA (Ho

bookshelves: summer-2014, history, published-2013, biography

Read on July 27, 2014


Description: This is a biography of the three remarkable children of Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York: Edward, his successor, Constance, Lady Despenser and Countess of Gloucester, and Richard, Earl of Cambridge. This is first time that the facts of their lives have been assembled all in one place, and is based largely on the research the author did for his novel, Within the Fetterlock, with some new information added more recently.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot. See that biography description? What really is happening here is a few paragraphs that seems to be just an aide memoire for authors. You can tell by the Contents page:

P4…Authors Note
P6…Historical Background
P10… The Parents – Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, and Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York
P13…Son and Heir – edward, Earl of Rutland and Cork, Duke of Aumale, 2nd Duke of York
P26…Daughter of York – Constance, Lady Dispenser, Countess of Gloucester
P39…Richard the Obscure – Richard ‘of Conisbrough’, Earl of Cambridge
P47…Select Bibliography

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

bookshelves: summer-2014, history, nonfiction, published-2012, sciences, psychology

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Brain Pickings
Read from July 13 to 23, 2014


Read more of this article from Brain Pickings

“While our delusions may keep us sane, hallucinations — defined as perceptions that arise independently of external reality, as when we see, hear, or sense things that aren’t really there — are an entirely different beast, a cognitive phenomenon that mimics mysticism and has no doubt inspired mystical tales over the millennia. In the 18th century, Swiss lawyer-turned-naturalist Charles Bonnet, the first scientist to use the term evolution in a biological context, turned to philosophy after deteriorating vision rendered him unable to perform the necessary observations of science. Blindness eventually gave him a special form of complex visual hallucinations, known today as Charles Bonnet syndrome, but he was otherwise fully lucid and marveled, as a cognitive scientist might, at “how the theater of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain.”

Charles Bonnet Syndrome also discussed in Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

The Lost Villages of Britain by Richard Muir

bookshelves: reference, dip-in-now-and-again, history, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, nonfiction, skoolzy-stuff, published-1982, summer-2014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Richard III FutureLearn
Recommended for: Jemidar
Read in July, 2014


Diagrams, colour plates, black and white piccies on glossy paper. Absolutely lovely and something I shall dip into a lot when planning our UK cottage rental short breaks.

Although the main reason for reading is to do with when the landed gentry started enclosing the lands for sheep back in late mediaeval times, it is surprising the amount of more recent evacuations such as when Tottington in Norfolk became deserted when the army took over.

Tottington

The most ominous desertion I have seen is in Farmagusta where the washing still hung on the lines and the buildings taken over by nature.

Rating is five ‘munching-the-land-where-there-used-to-be-kitchen-gardens’ sheep.