The second world war marked a turning point in world conflict with the introduction of the B-29 bomber. No longer solely relying on ground infantry divisions, the rules of engagement had been changed forever. General Curtis Lemay, the legendary Air Force General and leader of the Strategic Air Command presents this excellent writing of the story behind he development of the B-29 bomber, appropriately named the Superfortress.
Lemay provides a detailed history of air warfare in the United States armed forces paying homage to Billy Mitchell (1879-1956), considered by many to the be the father of the United States Air Force. Dismissed for insubordination, Mitchell would be blackballed for several years until 1941 when the B-25 was named in his honor. Sensing that a major offensive change was needed in the war, development began on new aircraft to turn the tide of the war against the axis powers. Boeing’s production of the B-29 signaled the dawn of a new era and completely changed the face of the allied effort in World War II. This is the great story behind the masterpiece machine and one of the greatest times in aviation history.
Adolf Hitler’s death and the surrender of Germany towards the end of the Second World War was beginning of the final chapter of the saga of mankind’s deadliest conflict. More than seventy years later, the war is still being studied and the Third Reich serves as an example of the dangers of unrestrained power based on extreme ideology. To the majority of the world Hitler is the incarnate of evil and the darkest dictator in world history. To others, he was a misunderstood leader of a nation in ruins and savior to millions of Germans who had no other source of hope and inspiration. His life story is well documented. But what was the young Hitler like? The turning point his life from young aspiring artists to raging anti-Semite is still unknown and surrounded by speculation. The death of his father Alois and mother Klara both occurred before he turned 18. It is to be expected that their deaths must have played some role in his future mental and emotional development. Hitler never revealed much of any friendships he had but as we can see in this interesting book by his friend from Austria, August Kubizek (1888-1956), he did in fact have at least one friend during his youth in Vienna.
Interestingly, although Hitler seized control of Germany, he was Austrian by birth. Born on Eastern Sunday in 1889, in the small village of Spital, he spent most of his early life in Austria before making the move to Germany and joining the Wehrmacht. But years before he became the future Chancellor of Germany and Führer of the Third Reich, he was simply Adolf, a young man with a teenage crush and dreams of being the best artist Germany had ever seen. This is the story of two friends who cross paths at a critical time in their lives and the friendship that ensued.
Affectionately nicknamed “Gustl” by Hitler, Kubizek is the best witness we have to what Hitler was really like as a young man in Linz. Their days are filled with visits to the Opera, discussions about life and Hitler’s endless drawings as he pursued his artistic goals. However, throughout the book there is no trace of the future menace Hitler would become. Adolf is the average teenager trying to find his calling life along with his best and seemingly only friend. I found it hard to reconcile at times that this simple teenager later became the Chancellor who mercilessly persecuted an entire race of people and in brought eternal shame to Germany. But this is in fact the crux and most important part of the book. Kubizek shows nothing that gives any indication of the future Adolf. For those seeking an answer to the megalomania that became a staple of the Reich, you will not find it here because it does not exist. What does exist is the tragic story a young man faced with the deaths of both parents and an uncertain outlook in life.
Following his mother’s death, Hitler remained in Linz before moving on to Vienna and crossing into Germany. He parted ways with Kubizek after Klara died and the two did not reunite until nearly thirty years later. By his own words, Kubizek never joined the Nazi party and remained in Austria where he married and became a father. And while he did have opinions about the events transpiring at the time, he remained neutral to Hitler. The book is neither for or against Hitler, but the remembrance of one friend by another. It was an incredible friendship forged by common interests and mutual understanding. And of all the what if questions that surround Hitler, we can only wonder what if he had followed Kubizek back home instead of moving to Germany? Perhaps there would have never been a second world war. For those looking to learn more about the life of Adolf Hitler, this is a welcome addition to the library.
The stories of those who survived the Holocaust have been read by millions and their words a reminder of one of history’s darkest times. Their will to live and courage in reliving their experiences have given the world invaluable treasures in books that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time. Among them is the story Annelies Marine “Anne” Frank (1929-1945), whose diary kept while hiding from the Third Reich, became one of the most popular books in the world. In June, 2013 while visiting The Netherlands, I paid a visit to the Anne Frank Museum. As I entered the museum and made my way up to the attic, I was overcome by chills at just how small it really is. Pictures and words do not suffice, it is something to be seen in person. And it continues to boggle my mind that several people lived in such a compact space. But their will to survive kept them focused on their surroundings and remaining in the attack for as long as possible. Their hiding place was eventually discovered and for many years it was believed that the family was betrayed. However, historians have never found conclusive proof that the family’s location was given to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in the form of an anonymous phone call as is widely believed. The truth may remain lost to history. Frank was sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp where she died of Typhus in February, 1945, several days after her sister Margot and would have been simply another victim of the Final Solution if not for her father Otto, who survived the war and returned to Amsterdam where he found her diary. Believing his daughter’s words to be important to future generations, he found a publisher willing to put the words in print. And the result is a literary masterpiece that is read each year by growing numbers of young students across the world.
The diary is fascinating and shows the musings of a typical teenage girl living in atypical times. Her account of daily life in the annex and thoughts about her family, war and her feelings towards the other occupants in the annex are interesting and at times humorous. Her sharp wit and analytical observations of those around her, show that she is wise beyond her years. And her ability to maintain a sense of humor even as they are hiding in the attic, is a testament to her character and that of those around her. We the readers know that eventually she falls victim to the Nazis and is sent to the camp where she will die. But as the book moves forward, it is impossible not to become drawn to her through a vivacious personality and blossoming mind. We are even introduced to her paramour, Peter whose family is in hiding with the Franks. Her story really is the diary of a young girl.
When I finished the book, I found it incredibly difficult to come to terms that such a young woman was sent to her death simply because of her religious faith. It forced me to ask myself why humans do the things they do to each other. We have an uncanny ability to cause the destruction of ourselves and those around us. Anne Frank, never finished high school, went to a university, met the love of her life and started a family. During the Second World War, she and the occupants of the hidden attic fell victim to Nazi terror formulated by Nazi ideology. But in death, Frank has become a martyr of the Holocaust and one its brightest voices from beyond this world. Today, more than seventy-three years after her death, this book remains on the shelves of bibliophiles, libraries and teachers throughout the world as new generations of students learn about the Third Reich and the quest of Adolf Hitler to accomplish world domination.
Anne Frank’s story is one that will remain with you long after you have finished the book. Although it is recommended reading to young adults, I find that even older adults can find meaning in this captivating journal recorded by a young woman whose life was changed permanently in the country she called home as the Austrian menace pushed Germany in a world conflict. And until the end of time, people will continue to read and cherish this diary of a young girl.