Category Archives: Military

Books I Recommend

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I have two books at the top of my list.  One is the extremely emotive World War II novel, Every Man Dies Alone,  based on a true story, by Hans Fallada.  (Aside – he took his pen name from Fallada, the noble horse in the fairy tale.  Do you remember when they cut the horse’s head off and put it on the castle wall?  He would give the Prince advice from there, but much was ignored, a la Cassandra of Troy.  The name fits perfectly when you read the story.)  Even for a military history buff like me, this book taught me so much more of what it felt like to be a German trapped in that society.

Every Man Dies Alone

 

The other is by Stephan Zweig, The World of Yesterday, described here by Amazon:  “Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, The World of Yesterday recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise, and its devastating fall.

Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Stefan Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin, and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction.

This new translation by award-winning Anthea Bell captures the spirit of Zweig’s writing in arguably his most revealing work.”

It was a beautiful book with a superb translation from the German.  Stephan Zweig restarted his life twice – once after World War I, when he had to leave Vienna, and again as a Jew after World War II.  By the time of the Second World War, he was so famous that Hitler could not have him out and out killed, but tortured him in degrees by systematically searching every house over and over while he tried to write. Zweig couldn’t face that second start and walked into the ocean with his wife and committed suicide several years after the War.  Don’t worry, that doesn’t spoil this story or the wonderful descriptions of his life as a child.  As he described the stuffy heater, the smell of old socks and the wriggling of little boys on the bench bored by their old school teachers, I could see it, smell it and feel it.

The World of Yesterday

 

 

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Kathe Kollwitz

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Kathe Kollwitz was the first artist who made me find HER!  I saw some statuary in a World War I cemetery and I had to find the artist.  I knew there was a story.  Here’s what You Baroque My Heart put up about her life.  Some of her expressionist drawings are at the link.  Fascinating!  Look at the body shapes and the faces.  I think these grieving parents look even more tortured from the back.

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the Kollwitz was a German expressionist artist who lived from 1867 – 1945. She is a very well known and respected female printmaker who captured life’s sorrows in her work. She began etching in 1880 and eventually taught at the Berlin School of Women Artists from 1898 to 1903.

I scanned the images above from the book “Käthe Kollwitz: Works in Color.”

In 1891 she married Dr. Karl Kollwitz. The couple moved into their new home in a section of Berlin that was filled with poverty. Witnessing the lower class life, Kollwitz developed her socialist and pacifist beliefs which became obvious in her later work.

Kollwitz outlived most of her family. Her son died in World War I and her grandson in World War II. When speaking about her son’s death, she told a friend, “There is in our lives a wound which will never heal. Nor should it.” These loses greatly affected her beliefs even more. Her art work repeats themes of poverty, hard working people, the lives of women and war.

During World War II the Nazis labeled her work as “degenerate” and forbid her to exhibit any of her art. Other artists had fled the country yet Kollwitz stayed in Berlin, despite the Nazis’ censorship.

As Kollwitz was reaching the end of her life, she knew she was going. In a letter she wrote, “War accompanies me to the end.” She passed away two weeks before the end of World War II.

Kathe Kollwitz s1 Kathe Kollwitz statues

 

 

Wall Street Book Reviews

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Every day, I check the A section of the WSJ for a book review.  Great one for Mark Halperin’s book this week, and that’s on my “to read, perchance to buy”, list.  But this one comes before it –  Into the Fire, A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War by Dakota Meyer.

Check this quote, and if it doesn’t make you want to read more, you have ice water in your veins.  So there!
“Once the ambush was under way, the Americans pinned down in the village were shocked to find headquarters denying their requests for artillery and close air support.  Mr. Meyer had not better luck.  Constrained by restrictive rules of engagement tailored to the perceived needs of COIN, he faced a frustration all too familiar to our soldiers today.  With his team trapped, and supporting forces efffectively unresponsive, Mr. Meyer reached within himself:  “I wasn’t scared or angry.  I was beyond that.  I didn’t think I was going to die; I knew I was dead.  There wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I wasn’t a thinking human being.  I had gone somewhere else.  I wasn’t firing the machine gun; I was the machine gun.  Rod wasn’t driving the truck; Rod was the truck. . . . Rod and I planned to keep driving east until we were obliterated or we found my team.”

Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War