Posts Tagged ‘Holocaust’

Life Expectations

Sunday, 13 July 2008

So, another week about to begin. I’m taking a break from my Braille practice to write to you. I was mightily confusing myself on Friday by constantly switching back and forth between the Perkins Brailler and my laptop (which I had directly behind the Brailler), and trying to touch-type both of them almost at once. I managed, fairly well, but both were somewhat slowed down. I think it helps that fewer fingers are used on the Brailler, as it helped my fingers decide which was which!

201. Step-Up History: The Indus Valley Civilisation by Rhona Dick

The Indus Valley Civilisation flourished 4-6,000 years ago in an area around the border of modern-day India and Pakistan, but there is a lot that is unknown about it, and this presentation, aimed at children, is nice and clear for an uninformed adult as well.

202. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Books narrated by Death make me think of Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld character, but this book really isn’t so much like the few of Pratchett’s books I’ve read (the flatmate is more keen). Or perhaps it is, in some ways, but at the same time this has to be so much more serious, as set in the Germany of the 1940s in this world, and no other. I cried, but I did laugh, too, in some places, and I could accept the characters, in a setting more messed up for being real than any fiction.

203. My Life in My Hands by Alison Lapper with Guy Feldman

This is a very open and honest autobiography of a woman who is a prestigious enough artist in her own right to have received an MBE for services to art, and yet who is far better known as the subject of a controversial sculpture, and as a participant (with her son Parys) in the BBC‘s series Child of Our Time. This book is more about her life as a disabled woman than specifically as an artist, although since much of her art is to do with her body shape and people’s reaction to it, that is in no way ignored. I would heartily recommend this to those in art, disability, or just in biography in general.

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Pensive on Purim

Friday, 21 March 2008

Purim is a time for fun, for dressing up and giving gifts (food to friends and charity/tzedaka to those in need), but it’s also a good time to reflect, to turn things over in one’s head, rather than just upside-down.

Reading the Book of Esther so soon after Parshas Zachor, and when I’ve been reading so much about the Holocaust (and other wars), and considering the ongoing and renewed conflicts across the world makes me think of how our lives can be overturned in an instant, and about how Yom Kippur is often glossed as Yom Ke-Purim, a day like Purim.

82. Trench Art by Nicholas J. Saunders

Simple evidence that whenever they can people will try to personalise, beautify the objects they use, perhaps more than ever in the the dehumanising atmosphere of front line war. (I actually read this yesterday, but didn’t get to blog it.)

83. Animal Groups: Life in a School: Dolphins by Richard & Louise Spilsbury

If even dolphins can regularly make the effort to help lift the weaker members of their school to the surface to breathe, what possible excuse do we as humans have for not caring for each other?

84. Hitler’s Forgotten Victims: The Holocaust and the Disabled by Suzanne E. Evans

And this is the book that has been overshadowing my mind for the last few days. I don’t even know what the most horrific part of this ‘programme’ was. I don’t even want to list the options, as it makes me feel sick to describe these disgusting ‘doctors’ who lost any vestige of humanity in their disregard for non-‘useful’ people and their leadership of the kind of ‘mercy’ killings such as starvation, gassing, botched sterilisations, experimentation and far more.

It’s not as if I didn’t know that anyone outside Aryan ideals was in severe danger in Nazi Germany/occupied Europe, but I hadn’t realised the extent of the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands of disabled people. Nor had I realised that the infamous experimenting and eugenic-obsessed ‘doctors’ like Mengele weren’t (apparently) rare aberrations, but a very significant proportion of influential medical leaders of the time and place.

So I’m sickened, and overnight I need to get back my joy in Purim and remember its message, that those who persecute will be overthrown, and in the end those of us considered lesser and worthy of extermination will survive and outlast our persecutors and their cultures. The Divine orchestration may be incomprehensible to us, but it will be worked out.

Destruction and Beauty

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I felt the need to finish the Library of the Holocaust books, but to do so sooner rather than later, and then to read something completely different, so that’s what I did. The series, or rather the topic, brings me down, despite its importance, and I normally don’t read so much about it all at once. I prefer to focus and reflect on the personal stories, as more approachable, normally, but occasionally it’s worth reminding myself of the scale of this scar on humanity.

78. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Origins of the Holocaust by David Downing

This one discusses not just the 1920s and 1930s and Germany, but the ingrained Anti-Semitism across Europe and beyond over centuries and millennia.

79. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Fighting Back by David Downing

About the wide spectrum of resistance, from those keeping diaries and archives in secret to provide documentary evidence, going on with education and life beyond survival, through both Gentiles and Jews helping each other to survive, to the physical armed fighting back of the Ghetto uprisings and Resistance groups.

80. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Aftermath and Remembrance by David Downing

The ongoing impacts.

81. The Essential Rene Lalique by William Warmus

And this was my relief, showing beautiful jewellery and glasswork in the context of the time and Lalique‘s art and career. I had heard Lalique’s name, and that he had something to do with art glass manufacture, but I have now learnt a lot more, and did I have the time and money I think I would look into collecting some of his pieces. Although I don’t have the display space either! (I’ve discussed that before.) (Beware music on the company website.)

History’s Bigger Picture

Monday, 17 March 2008

73. England: An Aerial View by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn
74. England: The Mini-Book of Aerial Views by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn

These two books contain nearly all the same photographs, in a very similar order, but not precisely, and the pictures sometimes have different proportions or other final editing. The first book is a large (and heavy!) coffee table book, with very good historical overviews of the regions of England, with good captions next to each large photograph.

The Mini-Book has similar (but abbreviated) overviews and without the detailed captions, just the briefest few words giving the name and rough location of each. The photography in each are beautiful, and there are a few pictures that literally took my breath away (at least in the larger size). (NB I dithered over counting these as one read, but they aren’t precisely the same and I did read both.)

There is a Britain version of this pair of books, which I look forward to reasonably soon.

75. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Toward Genocide by David Downing
76. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: The Nazi Death Camps by David Downing
77. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Persecution and Emigration by David Downing

I’m going to summarise the review of the three of these together as well, as reading them had me in tears, and I don’t want to go into the detail again right away. This is a very well put together series however (we have three more I haven’t got to yet), that gives plenty of sources (plenty for the purposes of teenagers and personal readers, at least) showing some of the major trends and effects of the Holocaust. It’s for a general audience, and ‘explains’ what happened briefly, explaining how much the individuals actually knew at the time, as well as what we know with hindsight. It’s clearly written, and allows for people dipping in and out of the book, although each of them reads well straight through. It quotes personal testimony, but doesn’t tell individual stories, as most of the Holocaust literature I’ve read does.

I amn’t looking forward to reading the rest of these, but I think it’ll be worthwhile.