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Posts Tagged ‘WW II’

All the LightIn Paris before World War II, Marie-Laure is a blind French girl. Her father is a locksmith at a Natural History Museum in Paris. He dotes on her, teaches her to be self-sufficient and buys her hugely expensive Braille books of Jules Verne.

Werner and his younger sister Jutta are German orphan children, living in an orphanage in the Ruhr area of Germany, the industrial and coal mining district of the country. Werner is brilliant with electronics and technology. When the Nazis rise, they notice him and he gets a scholarship for one of the best schools in the country. The Reich invests in its youth.

These two protagonists grow up separately before and during the war, and through a series of plot twists, their paths cross in 1944, just as the Allies land in Normandy and start taking France back.

Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” lasted a total of twelve years. He is single-handedly responsible for tens of millions of deaths in Europe, and for turning Germany and the surrounding countries into wastelands of destruction. Hundreds of millions of people’s lives were turned upside down and very often destroyed as a result of the war. Marie-Laure and Werner are common people caught up in the maelstrom of destruction.

Through their stories we see the pain those times inflicted on the people. After the war was over, we follow a few of their friends and relatives all they way to today’s time, and we witness the scars.

My own parents were born in 1935 and 1936 in Germany, children in the war. They could have been Marie-Laure and Werner. I am fortunate that both of them are still alive. When I talk to them today, and ask about their childhood, their eyes do not remain dry, and the pain and suffering is still trapped within them. Their lives never had a chance to unfold, and their entire adulthood, their middle age and their old age are characterized by coping with what was done to them when they were children.

All the Light we Cannot See tells a timeless story, with deep insight, of a brutal time, and a dark age in history. It’s unlike any World War II book, yet, it’s the World War II book that everyone should read.

C’est la vie.

Rating - Four Stars

Buy the book here.

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Hitler and Göring knew it. See below. George W. Bush and Cheney knew it. See Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Obama knows it too. See Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Naturally the common people don’t want war…. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along…. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Hermann Göring (or Goering), Nazi military leader, Commander of the Luftwaffe, and President of the Reichstag

The quote is taken from an interview G. M. Gilbert had with Göring in the jail cell where Göring was being held during the Nuremberg trials. I cannot, of course, reproduce the entire interview, but here is some context for the quote, beginning with Gilbert’s words:

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare war.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974) 278-9

— From WhoSaidIt

We continue to this day to tell our voters they are in danger of attack from religious fanatics on the other side of the world, so they are willing to send our seemingly infinite supply of young men and women to far-away countries so they can lose their lives, limbs and sanity.

We tell our son that he is a hero, but we don’t tell him that:

…the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece.

— Hermann Göring, Nazi and Master of War

Will we ever learn?

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