Month: <span>August 2016</span>

1200x630bfFebruary 25, 1986-Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda, relinquish power and flee into exile in fear of prosecution for embezzlement and election fraud.  The former first couple were airlifted from the presidential palace due to growing crowds of demonstrators intent on the removal of the despotic couple.  Their reign of power is still one of the most infamous in modern history and the effects of their tyrannical and avaricious administration are still being felt today in the Philippines as the country still struggles with the remnants the Marcos’ rule.  Myles A. Garcia, a native of the Philippines who relocated to the United States revisits the rule of the couple and the staggering amount of corruption that occurred under their rule.

I remember as a child when the two fled as it was all over the prime time news.  Even today, jokes are still told about the mind-boggling amount of shoes that Imelda Marcos once possessed.  But as we see in Garcia’s expose, shoes were just the tip of the iceberg. A direct path to the coffers of the Philippine government allowed the duo to amass a fortune that was both absurd and criminal. And while all of the financial details of their dealings may never be fully known, the details that Garcia does provide are mind-blowing.  Lavish jewelry,  designer clothing, trips around the world to shop and real estate holdings in multiple cities and countries are just some of the many material assets consumed by the power-hungry duo.   But as we also learn as we make our way through the book, they had help and plenty of it.

No ruler last without those under him willing to help him control and expand his empire. In Marcos’ case, there was no shortage of people willing to get their proverbial piece of the pie. All of the major players involved with the Marcos administration are examined in the book revealing their complicity in the theft of millions of dollars from the people of the Philippines. Their unwavering loyalty and willingness to defraud the general public raises awareness to the deep level of corruption that prevailed throughout the country.   The money was spent high and wide stretching all the way to the shores of the United States.   In fact, it stretched so far that some of it may never be located.   Numerous cases were brought against the two after they flex in exile, in the Philippines and even Hawaii.  Multiple judgments are still pending but to date, the overwhelming majority of them have never been paid.  Almost all of the major players from that era are long gone.  Ferdinand is no longer here to defend himself, having been gone for almost 30 years since his death on September 28, 1989 after a long bout with lupus and kidney issues. But Imelda is still here and still has aspirations to reclaim the throne she once sat upon.  In denial about her past actions, she continues to portray herself as a savior of the Philippines. Her son Bongbong and many others still allied to the notorious regime have a vested interested in Filipino politics.  It is hoped that the new generation of Filipinos have not forgotten a time in the nation’s history where everything was for the taking and a husband and wife used the wealth of the nation for their own personal benefit.   Murder, theft, greed and scandals are all throughout the book showing the real face of an infamous ruling family and the devastating effects of their dictatorial rule.

ISBN-10: 0578175606
ISBN-13: 978-0578175607



bolivian diaryOctober 8, 2017 will mark 50 years since Ernesto “Che” Guevara died in the jungles of Bolivia as he attempted to spread revolutionary ideology throughout Latin America.  The legendary and iconic symbol for revolution around the world became a martyr in the process and to this day, his image can be found on posters, hats, shirts and even coffee mugs.  His final campaign to bring revolution to Bolivia and the tragic fate that awaited him is one of the defining stories of the 20th century.  Guevara, the razor-sharp Argentine intellectual, posed a threat to the dominance of imperialism throughout Latin America and in particular was a deadly threat to the business interests of United States businessmen.  His death brings a sigh of relief to many governments around the world and deals a devastating blow the Castro regime in Cuba.  Che, although no longer legally a citizen of Cuba at that point, is finally returned home 30 years after his death, when he is returned with several other revolutionaries in 1997 and buried in Santa Clara.

Che was known to be meticulous at taking notes and the hundreds of pages of notes he took during the Cuban Revolution and his time in Congo have both been turned into books.  This is the authorized collection of the journal entries he made during this last campaign.  Some of the notes have been withheld by the Bolivian government for unknown reasons but the majority of Che’s notes have survived and are included here.  Introductions by Fidel Castro and Che’s oldest son Camilo are also included, giving the book a more sentimental feeling. In comparison to his prior journals, the notes here are small in number but in them we are able to see the difficulties faced by Che and his entourage as they try to replicated the success in Cuba.  Malaria, edema of the extremities, famine, distrust and various other conditions and ailments plague the group from the start decreasing the chances of success.  But in the face of adversity, Che continues as the master organizer focused on his goal to spread revolution throughout the continent.

Huey P. Newton once said that the first thing a revolutionary must understand is that he is doomed from the start.   Che’s mission in Bolivia bore the markings of one of impending doom, but his commitment to his unwavering goal of eradicating imperialism, compelled him to push forward in spite of dire warnings.  Towards the end of the campaign, he acknowledges the horrendous condition the group is in but we can only speculate as to what thoughts went through his mind as he awaited his fate at the hands of the Bolivian Army and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.   He left behind a former wife, widow and five children.  His widow Aleida, son Camilo and second daughter Aleida Guevara March have carried on his legacy.  His writings and speeches will continue to remain with us as an example of one of the world’s sharpest minds gone far too soon.  But although he is gone, left behind journals such as this that give us a glimpse into the most critical moments of his life.

ISBN-10: 1920888241
ISBN-13: 978-1920888244

Latin America

q1As November slowly approaches this year, the anniversary of one of America’s darkest moments will be upon us once again as we remember the tragic death of the late John F. Kennedy.  His murder continues to stay with us and to this day it is technically an unsolved murder in that his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was never convicted in a court of law.  He had been accused of murdering both President Kennedy and Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, and convicted in the court of public opinion through misstatements and so-called evidence that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.  And as author Gary Fannin points out, for over 50 years, lies, deception and deceit continue to be propagated making the truth of the matter seemingly harder and harder to unravel.

This book is not a smoking gun about the assassination.  Fannin examines the major parts of the story, holding them up to the light so to speak, to be examined thoroughly and in the process sheds light on the many contradictions and shortcomings on the official story.  He does point clearly that he does not believe in any way, that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered anyone on November 22, 1963 or even fired a rifle that day.   Oswald was murdered in cold blood by Jack Ruby before he had a chance to tell his side of the story taking any information he could have offered with him to the grave.   Nevertheless, the U.S. Government stands by the conclusion the Warren Report that Oswald as indeed the long gunman.  But upon closer examination as Fannin shows us, the case against him has serious flaws and there were many suspicious events that took place that were beyond Oswald’s control.

Acting as sort of a public defender of Oswald, Fannin methodically tackles each piece of alleged “evidence” against Oswald and refutes each one by one.  And in the process, Fannin brings to our attention, the many fingerprints on the crime of U.S. Intelligence agencies and he even gives a highly plausible scenario of how the shooting might have been carried out.  Fannin points out that he will probably become and an enemy of the government for the book but published it regardless as he believes the American public is owed more than what we’ve been told all of these years.  The next release date for the remaining records held on the assassination are scheduled to be released in October, 2017.  In those records are thousands of pages of documents on many individuals long suspected by researchers as being complicit in Kennedy’s death.

Anyone who’s read books on this subject will know that they tend to be quite large and the information contained in them can be staggering.  The crime itself  is so complex that just one part of it is enough to fill up a shelf on a bookcase.  Fannin did an excellent job of keeping the book straight to the point and it never loses pace.  The information is exactly the right amount to get the reader to ask questions and do their own research. But at no point, does the book feel as if it’s information overload.  For those just starting to dive into the Kennedy assassination, this is a good place to start. And even for those, who are advanced researchers have read dozens of books on the crime, it’s a welcome addition the ever-growing collection of incredible books on this heinous crime.

ISBN-10: 0692532242
ISBN-13: 978-0692532249


41yjtx-tdml-_sx331_bo1204203200_In modern history, the Holocaust ranks among the worst atrocities committed against a group of people by another.  The systematic segregation and later extermination of over 6 million Jews throughout Europe brought shame, anger and retribution upon Germany.  Today the Holocaust is a distant memory and survivors of the crime are now in their advance years with the number of living survivors declining each year. Recently, Elie Wiesel, the best-selling author of the classic ‘Night’ died  at the age of 87. His story, and that of Kitty Hart-Moxon, the star of the 2015 documentary ‘A Day in Auschwitz‘ are just two of the many stories written and told by survivors of the many concentrations camps erected by the Third Reich.

One of the burning questions has always been, how did the decision to murder the Jews come about?  To this day, debate continues about how much Adolf Hitler either knew about the camps or how much influence he had in their construction and operation.   While no notes have survived to shed light on Hitler’s thoughts or decisions, the notes of some of his underlings did survived shedding light on how the Final Solution became a reality.  At the helm of the plan to eradicate Europe of its Jewish citizenry was a former chicken farmer from Munich, Heinrich Himmler.  The feared former chief of the notorious SS,  is considered by many to be the mastermind behind Hitler’s plan to rid Germany and the conquered territories in Europe of all Jewish people or in Hitler’s words, judenfrei.

In this close look at the development of the Final Solution, Richard Breitman has carefully reconstructed the plans of Hitler and his administration, revealing how and why the Final Solution came to be a reality.  Drawing upon diaries and other correspondence that survived the war, Breitman does a masterful job of exposing Himmler for the psychotic murderer that he truly was.  Blinded by his belief in Aryan supremacy and his devotion to the Führer, the fanatical Himmler takes on the role of a menace in his own right and the ease at which he and other members of the Third Reich causally planned their actions are sure to leave the reader in shock and asking even more questions that can be answered.  In spite of the overwhelming evidence against Himmler, there just isn’t enough credible evidence to prove that Hitler gave the final order for murder as Breitman points out. But the reality is, he didn’t have to.  The evil genius Himmler and his henchmen, most notably Reinhard Heydrich, carried out the wishes of their leader with unquestionable loyalty displaying a devotion that bordered on the insane. 

A chilling aspect of the Holocaust is that while Himmler and the many perpetrators of the crime planned these heinous acts, they were also husbands and fathers.  And this is one of the most disturbing parts of the book.  Murders against men, women and even children occurred with not only the knowledge, but with also the blessing of the supreme architect of murder himself.  And while Himmler himself was far from the image of aryan supremacy he like to project, his devious and cunning ways,  struck fear in his enemies and his closeness to Hitler earned him the protection, encouragement and loyalty of the Führer. And with this trust, he carried out the extermination of millions of innocent men, women and children.  His murderous rampage is unparalleled in modern history and his name continues to live in infamy.  He is without a doubt, the architect of genocide.

ISBN-10: 0874515963
ISBN-13: 978-0874515961

World War II

Dear LeaderOn more than one occasion during my trips abroad,  I came to the realization that I had been blessed to have been born in Brooklyn, New York in the United States of America.  And while my country has its share of issues that plague the nation, I do enjoy a level of freedom many people around the world would die to have.  Because I was born here, it is far to easy to take for granted the rights and privileges that I enjoy as an American citizen both here at home and when I travel outside the country.  I’ve always been fond of personal stories of triumph for they remind me that outside of the borders of the place I call home, many people do not have the luxuries or lifestyle that I do. In fact, in many nations in this world, there is next to nothing for millions of men, women and children.

North Korea, for many years, has been viewed by Americans as a nation cut off from the western world and run by a brutal family dictatorship that has stretched over several generations.  Famine, despair and oppression have caused thousand of citizens, soldiers and high-level officials to defect to South Korea in search of a better life.  The path to defection is highly dangerous and for those that are caught, it is almost certainly, a painful and slow death.   Each survivor that does make it to South Korea has their own story of defection, some so extreme that it will bring tears to the eyes of the listener.  This story by Jang Jin-Sung, a former poet of the United Front Department, is an inside look into the life of a young man working in a high position in the government who along with a friend, makes the ultimate decision to defect, leaving his friends and family behind in North Korea. Even before setting out on their journey, the two realize that their decision will have long-lasting ramifications. In fact, Sung, to this day, is considered an enemy of the State in North Korea.  But what they would experience was beyond anything they could have imagined and makes Sung’s survival and story, all the more surreal.

Determined to seek asylum in South Korea, the duo makes their frantic escape from Pyongyang, but as the reader soon learns,  not every face encountered can be trusted and even those who speak the same language, may be of no help at all.  Harsh climates, blizzards, freezing temperatures and extreme hunger, nearly push the two over the edge as they struggle to maintain their sanity and physical well-being.  Stuck in a foreign land in China, unable to speak the native language, they must seek out fellow defectors and immigrants from their homeland if they wish to survive.   And as we learn, some of these people had hearts of gold, whether they knew it or not, and every move made was a matter of life and death for the two defectors.  The native Chinese citizens also play a part in their story and through them, we are able to see the stark contrast between the two nation and their governments. And as we see through Sung’s eyes, a cloak of deception exists in North Korea,  forcing everyone to buy into the myth of the Dear Leader.

While his story is one of success and triumph, it is not without tragedy and some of the parts of his story are nothing short of heartbreaking.  And it will be unimaginable for those used to living in a western culture, for anyone to live in the manner in which they did in North Korea.  But Sung’s story is a reminder that those of us who were blessed to have been born in other nations that we should never take our liberties and freedom for granted for there are many others out their that are envious and risking death to have the same.  Sung’s memoir is one more attempt to lift the veil off the destructive, brutal and murderous facade of the Dear Leader.

ISBN-10: 1476766568
ISBN-13: 978-1476766560


scarpaThis book is not by any means, an investigative report into Scarpa’s activities.  For the full story on his crimes, relationship with the FBI and its aftermath, the best book that comes to mind is Peter Lance’s ‘Deal With The Devil‘ which chronicles Scarpa’s working relationship with the bureau which spanned several decades.   This is his daughter Linda’s story infused with the recollections a few selected family members and a friend of the family.   The book serves as her journal of what life was like under the roof of the feared mobster whose name sent chills down the spine of many.  Similar to Albert DeMeo, Phil Leonetti and Anthony Colombo,  Linda’s story reveals the ugly and tragic truth of life in a mafia family.   And what we learn through Linda is that no one escapes that life unharmed in some sort of way whether it’s mentally, physically or emotionally.  Prison, murder and other acts of violence become routine occurrences, leaving the surviving family members to grieve for those lost in street wars and deadly encounters of other sorts.

Scarpa, like most other mobsters, did protect his family from the life he led up to a point.  And as we see with Linda, as she ages and learns more about the streets and the life her father has chosen, the stark reality of “the life” hits home awakening her to the bitter truth surrounding the nature of her father’s business.  She is frank with what she knew and what she felt and through her words, we are to see the level of dysfunction plaguing their social circle resulting in a deadly web of violence.  And as the internal struggle for power escalated into an all out war, she is forced to confront even more, the knowledge that her father has murdered men and will murder many more before his own demise from AIDS related complications in June, 1994.

A good portion of the book is narrated by Linda’s mother, “Big” Linda, Scarpa’s widow. And through her recollections, we learn about the true nature of the relationship between Scarpa and the FBI.  A valuable asset during the civil rights era, Scarpa never received pubic credit for his role in breaking those cases, but Linda sets the record straight as she traveled with him on more than one occasion.   And sadly, he was left out of the movie “Mississippi Burning” due to the highly sensitive nature of his working relationship with the bureau.  Former FBI Agent Lin DeVecchio was charged with being complicit in murders carried out by Scarpa, but was acquitted on all charges.  The nature of his relationship with Scarpa came under close scrutiny and in this book, that topic is also discussed freely by both mother and daughter.  It is left up to the reader to decide the level of DeVecchio’s complicity in Scarpa’s activities.

This story by his daughter is moving and filled with all of the elements that could make a modern-day gangster film.  Marriage, divorce, mistresses, money, power and violence all make an appearance throughout the book.  But the one thing that stands out is that nothing is glorified.  There is no glamour or gloating and she is pointedly clear that there are no winners.   What is left are her, her mother and other relatives trying to put their lives back together and even though more than 20 years have passed, their lives continue to be in need of repair.  For some, that healing may never come and others go on trying to live the best life that they can.  Her father is long gone as is her brother Joey, tragically murdered himself on the same Brooklyn streets his father once ran.  For Linda, life will never be the same again and through this, she shares her story to inform others of the risk taken by a life of crime and violence and reminds us that not only do our actions affects us, but they also can affect everyone around us even after we’re long gone from this earth.

ISBN-10: 0786038705
ISBN-13: 978-0786038701


20180603_134919Recently, I re-watched President Kennedy’s peace speech at American University on June 10, 1963.  The speech is considered to be one of Kennedy’s shining moments.  In the speech, he called for a new vision of peace in the face of the escalating conflict in Vietnam and continuing aggression with the Soviet Union and its Cuban ally, Fidel Castro.  Researchers into Kennedy’s administration and his murder have often said that this is the speech that served as the final straw for those surrounding him wishing to have him removed from office.  Tragically, several months later, after this speech, that’s exactly what happened as he was murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Dallas,  Texas.  Two days later, his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was also murdered raising more questions that have yet to be answered to this very day.

Today, the murder of a sitting U.S. President seems inconceivable.  The Secret Service, FBI and local law enforcement agencies are expected to do their part to ensure the President has a safe visit to every destination domestic and abroad.  But what happens when the President goes from being seen as the commander-in-chief to an enemy of the state?  When John F. Kennedy assumed the oval office, he inherited several simmering crisis ready to explode a moment’s notice.  Warned by his predecessor about the military industrial complex, Kennedy found himself in the middle of a circle of fanatical cold war veterans hell-bent on the defeat of the Soviet Union and communism at any cost.   Many years after his death we are now able to look back with this incredible book by James W. Douglass, and reexamine the uphill struggle Kennedy faced as he struggled to contain the push of his own generals for military involvement in Cuba, a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union using nuclear weapons and a full-out ground war in Laos and Vietnam. And what we see is treason of the highest order and a crime that truly is unspeakable.

The official story of the U.S. government is that Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled former Marine decided to squeeze off three shots in six seconds as the motorcade made its way through Dealey Plaza with speeds as low as 10 m.p.h.  But to this day, no investigator or investigative committee has been able to figure out one highly important part of the crime-motive.  No motive has ever been disclosed for Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shooting John F. Kennedy.   But if we do look at motive, there were plenty of others who did have motive and as we make our way through Douglass’ masterpiece, we see that the number of those who bore a grudge against Kennedy was nothing short of staggering.  From the start of his presidency until his final day in Dallas, the resistance and deceptive behavior of subordinates in his cabinet, the military and intelligence communities was beyond belief.  But just who were these people and what exactly was occurring?

Douglass’s exhaustive research efforts shed light on why was opposed to the young leader and why.   Kennedy had averted a nuclear war, begun to seek peace with Cuba,  taken on the steel industry, placed constraints on the  CIA and was wholeheartedly attempting to make a complete withdrawal from Vietnam.   Further, he was pushing forward a platform on civil rights and economic reform and in the process bucking the system in place for decades.  And the result was a hornet’s nest destined to strike.

Following Kennedy’s murder, the investigation into his murder took on a life of its own.  The warning signs had been there in advance, most famously in the story of Rose Cheramie who attempted to warn authorities of the upcoming assassination.  And there’s strong evidence that a man named “Lee” had warned the authorities as well of the events in Dallas but the failed attempt in Chicago several week earlier.   Fake Secret Service agents, two different arrest at the Texas Theater and a night club owner with mafia and CIA ties provides us with a cast of characters complicit in the death of a president. The murder is a web of deceit that becomes more complex as we dive further into the events of that day. But authors such as James Douglass have done a service and made the murder and investigation easier to understand by revealing the cloak of mystery that has shielded Kennedy’s murder for over 50 years.

ISBN-10: 1439193886
ISBN-13: 978-1439193884


clint hillThe 20th Century was filled with some of the most earth-shattering events the world has ever seen.  The home video shot by Abraham Zapruder that recorded the assassination of John F. Kennedy stands as one of the most important pieces of motion picture ever captured.  During that film, as former Firs Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reaches to the trunk of the car to retrieve a portion of JFK’s skull, a secret service agent can be seen leaping on the trunk of the car as the motorcade sped down the Stemmons Freeway en route to Parkland Hospital.  The agent, Clint Hill stands out in the film as only one of two agents to make any major movement to help the fatally wounded Kennedy and Gov. John Connally. Hill would go on to serve three more presidents and today is a best-selling author with several books published about his time working in the United States Secret Service.

Teaming up with Lisa McCubbin, who worked with Hill on his first book, ‘Mrs. Kennedy and Me’ and subsequent memoir ‘Five Days In November’, Hill recounts his experiences during a career that stretched over five administrations, beginning with the legendary Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The secret service of today is far advanced from the days of Eisenhower’s administration and as Hill shows us, the secret service was still developing as the agency tasked with the daily protection of the commander-in-chief.  As Eisenhower’s administration comes to an end, a new president takes office and his administration would change Hill’s life forever.  Primarily assigned to guard Mrs. Kennedy, she and Hill become close friends and as fate would have it, he was included in the motorcade on November 22, 1963.   The murder of JFK and the swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson are still surreal and continue to capture the public’s attention as more books are published about that day.

Moving on to Johnson’s administration, we see the stark contrast between the two presidents.  But Hill allows us to see the private side of LBJ, not often seen or discussed in books or magazines. He would stay with Johnson throughout the remainder of his term until the top office in the land was assumed by Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon’s presidency and the events that followed would shock not only Hill but the entire nation.   The Vietnam War and Watergate scandal permanently marked Nixon’s time in office and his resignation is the only one to have ever occurred by a sitting U.S. President.  The prior resignation of then Vice-President Spiro Agnew began to erode the already crumbling confidence in the U.S. government.  And by the time that Gerald Ford took office, things had reached the point where the nation was threatening to become unhinged.   Regardless of their personal shortcomings or questionable judgment calls, Hill stood by each one and recalls his time with each and remarks fondly and gracefully on the proud career he left behind.

This book is not a “smoking gun” about JFK’s murder nor is it a gossip column.  It is a memoir by a remarkable person who had an even more remarkable career.  His life was and is extraordinary by far and in the book an entire cast of characters make an appearance such as Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra and even Elvis Presley.  Assassinations and attempted assassinations,  infant deaths, racial tension, war and social change are relived as Hill’s memory comes alive.  And as he Hill points out, not many agents have worked in as many details as himself making his story all the more valuable as a piece of history recounting America’s most dangerous moments.

ISBN-10: 1476794138
ISBN-13: 978-1476794136




WestiesIn New York City history, the Italian-American mafia has always captured the public spotlight in regards to organized crime headlines.  The five families, filled with larger than life characters, captivated the American public becoming glorified in films and music.  But at one time in New York City, in a small neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen, the Irish mafia controlled the streets. T.J. English takes us back in time to when Hell’s Kitchen was one of the most dangerous parts of New York City.  Today the area has changed substantially.   The faces have changed and the area once known to harden criminals, has seen a surge in gay and lesbian residents.  The bars are still there but the area has become a focal point for New York City nightlife.  The violence is long gone but some of the remnants from the past will always remain.

As we follow English back in time, we are re-introduced to the many notorious figures of the era and bear witness to the development of the racketeering,  loansharking and homicides that became staples of the neighborhood.  All of the major players are here, including Paddy Dugan, Mickey Spillane and even the Italian gangsters from Brooklyn such as Roy DeMeo, Paul Castellano and Nino Gaggi,   Drugs, money, sex and violence are all here making the novel feel like something Martin Scorsese would have brought to the silver screen.    Similar to ‘The Departed’ and ‘Goodfellas’, the fast life and hard fall for Featherstone, Coonan and company reminds the reader of the stark reality of life on the street where friends become enemies and enemies become acquaintances. The dark and seedy underworld rises to the surface, brought to life by English showing us the gritty scene that once existed in the island of Manhattan.

Similar to the story of Henry Hill, Sammy Gravano and Phil Leonetti, Featherstone also becomes a testifying witness and it is towards the end of the book, that the Vietnam Veteran and former street hustler makes a claim for redemption, helping the authorities to close homicide cases and break the Westies gang permanently. Now a member of the Witness Protection Program, Featherstone cooperated on the book and his participation gives the book an added touch of authenticity.   And as we make our way to the epilogue, we learn the fate of the major figures throughout the book.

Featherstone and Coonan will never again walk the streets of Hell’s Kitchen together as they once did.   Coonan will spend the rest of his life in prison and Featherstone has no desire to return to his old haunts.  Their lives are no longer in NYC, but their past lives remain a permanent part of New York City history and time where there was much more to the name Hell’s Kitchen that most wanted to know.

ISBN-10: 0312362846
ISBN-13: 978-0312362843

Organized Crime

ShadowsThe Holocaust remains one of the most regretful moments in the history of mankind.  The Final Solution, engineered by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government, resulted in the deaths of over six millions Jewish men, women and children.  The many concentration camps became factories of genocide and symbols of the Third Reich’s relentless efforts to remove all Jewish citizens from Germany and the occupied territories of the Reich.  As Hitler made his rise to power, many Jews fled Germany fearing the worst under the rule of the tyrannical dictator from neighboring Austria.  Others were forced to seek refuge in Germany and survive in any way possible.  But still there were other Jews who found help among non-Jewish Germans and were able to hide themselves right in Berlin, under the eyes and ears of the N.S.D.A.P.

This is the story of seven men and women who found refuge and protection in Berlin during the war and how they lived to tell their tales.  They’re now deceased, but before their deaths, Barbara Lovenheim conducted interviews with them, allowing them to recount their incredible stories of fear, survival and eventual happiness  after moving on with life and building lives outside of Germany.   Their stories truly exemplify what it means to hide in plain sight. Through each of them, we are able to see the resiliency of the human spirit and are reminded that even in the worst of times, there will always be those of us who refuse to give in to evil and truly understand what humanism really means.

As we are introduced to the characters, the Nazis begin to step up the effort to remove all Jews from the Fatherland.  Reaching out to friends and acquaintances, the men and women in this book, Erich Arndt, Ruth Arndt, Charlotte Lewinsky, Ellen Lewinsky and Bruno Gumpel, manage to survive the Final Solution through determination, luck and in some cases, superb methods of deception. Faced with starvation, sickness and in most cases, desperation, their will to survive is inspiring and heartbreaking.  But as we make our way through the book, we see trust is also a large factor and underscores every move that each of them make to stay alive.  Enemies appear with smiles and looks are sometimes very deceiving.  And what we learn painfully in the book is that in some cases, not even fellow Jews could be completely trusted making each word spoken and each offer accepted, a matter of life and death.

Their stories are the main objective of the book, but a sub-story also exist in the form of the many non-Jewish Germans who risked their lives and well-being to save their Jewish friends and others threatened with death at a concentration camp.   Oskar Schindler’s story is well-known and he was immortalized by Liam Neeson in the classic ‘Schindler’s List’.  But throughout the war and even in Berlin as we see here, many ordinary German citizens took great strides to protect Jews from extermination at the hands of the Gestapo.  And following the war, the formerly persecuted Jews made it clear to Allied forces that their saviors were to be protected and left alone.  Others we know turned a blind eye to the crimes of the Third Reich and some even turned in Jews to the authorities.  But the efforts of the upstanding citizens serves as an example of the good that humans can do even in the face of overwhelming death, destruction and despair.

There are many stories about the Holocaust from writers such as the late Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel and Rena Kornreich Gelissen.  The stories of these seven survivors stands among the greats as a historical record of a horrific time in world history.  And although more than 70 years have passed since the Allied victory over the Axis powers, the horror and pain of the survivors of the Final Solution stay fresh in our minds as a reminder of why it’s important to never forget our history.

ISBN-13: 9781504039987

World War II