Tag Archives: World War II

Hope and Memory

Dear readers, I am currently in the thick of this amazing book, Hope and Memory: Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Tzvetan Todorov. Here’s an eminently sane Romain Gary quote from the book:

The bombs I dropped on Germany between 1940 and 1944 maybe killed a Rilke or a Goethe or a Holderin in his cradle. And yes, if it had to be done over, I would do it again. Hitler had condemned us to kill. Not even the most just causes are ever innocent.

Remembrance Day

A day late but always important to mark this date. Please see my other website and enjoy this song, “The D-Day Dodgers.” It is sung to the tune of “Lili Marlene” and refers to the dismissive attitude so many had toward the Allied Forces in Italy. With the “glamour” and headlines of June 6, 1944, they were overlooked, though their sacrifices were every bit as extraordinary, their battles as harsh, their courage as strong. (My uncle, in his letters, refers several times to his friend George Yente/s – or Lente/s – who was sending him letters from the front in Italy.)

Auden’s “Refugee Blues”

A powerful poem, written in 1939, about the plight of European Jews.

REFUGEE BLUES

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
“If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”:
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”:
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, “They must die”:
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

Vel D’Hiv

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Rafle du Vel d’Hiv in Paris. It took the French over 50 years to admit their very proactive role in this tragedy, and Jacques Chirac was the one to finally tell the truth. For this reason, I will always have respect for him, in spite of his being — in my view – politically objectionable on other matters. There was absolutely nothing for him to gain from this in terms of votes. It was simply the right thing to do.

The Versailles Treaty

When I was in high school, I had a history teacher named Mr. McGrahan. He was mean to me. He was always mystified when I did fabulously well on a test, which was EVERY TIME I WROTE A TEST. He just did not like me. But he said one thing that was useful – he told us that the Versailles Treaty was not unjust, that it was not a cause of World War II, that the Germans had no justification to whinge about it. As I went on to study history at university and on my own time, I came to the conclusion that he was correct, though the received wisdom was always that the Versailles Treaty was unfair to Germany and a cause of the war. This is my very long-winded way of saying that I was thrilled to come upon this column in the Wall Street Journal, written by Joseph Loconte: The Versailles Treaty Gets a Bum Rap. 

I think you should read it!