Book Review ~ MY NAME IS SELMA

My Name is Selma: The Remarkable Memoir of a Jewish Resistance Fighter and Ravensbruck Survivor

by Selma van de Perre


Synopsis:
An international bestseller, this powerful memoir by a ninety-eight-year-old Jewish Resistance fighter and Ravensbrück concentration camp survivor “shows us how to find hope in hopelessness and light in the darkness” (Edith Eger, author of The Choice and The Gift).

Selma van de Perre was seventeen when World War II began. She lived with her parents, two older brothers, and a younger sister in Amsterdam, and until then, being Jewish in the Netherlands had not presented much of an issue. But by 1941 it had become a matter of life or death. On several occasions, Selma barely avoided being rounded up by the Nazis. While her father was summoned to a work camp and eventually hospitalized in a Dutch transition camp, her mother and sister went into hiding—until they were betrayed in June 1943 and sent to Auschwitz. In an act of defiance and with nowhere else to turn, Selma took on an assumed identity, dyed her hair blond, and joined the Resistance movement, using the pseudonym Margareta van der Kuit. For two years “Marga” risked it all. Using a fake ID, and passing as non-Jewish, she traveled around the country and even to Nazi headquarters in Paris, sharing information and delivering papers—doing, as she later explained, what “had to be done.”

But in July 1944 her luck ran out. She was transported to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp as a political prisoner. Without knowing the fate of her family—her father died in Auschwitz, and her mother and sister were killed in Sobibor—Selma survived by using her alias, pretending to be someone else. It was only after the war ended that she could reclaim her identity and dared to say once again: My name is Selma.

“We were ordinary people plunged into extraordinary circumstances,” Selma writes. Full of hope and courage, this is her story in her own words.


My thoughts: I feel this book is well written and engaging. It tells the story of Selma van de Perre and her experiences during the 2nd World War living in the Netherlands with her family. When they all end up in different directions, leaving Selma the last one, she has to figure out the best way to avoid being picked up by the Nazis. She changes her name and her look to seem non-Jewish, becoming Margareta van der Kuit, and blonde too.

If you are a reader of this type of book, as I am, you may want to check this one out. This book comes out May 11th. This is my second book about women resistance fighters in the last few months. They sure are some very brave ladies with some harrowing stories to tell. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Selma van de Perre, and the publisher.


My Name is Selma

Publisher: Scribner – 224 pages
Publication: May 11th, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author– Selma van de Perre was a member of the Dutch resistance organization TD Group during World War II. Shortly after the war she moved to London, where she worked for the BBC and met her future husband, the Belgian journalist Hugo van de Perre. For a number of years she also worked as foreign correspondent for a Dutch television station. In 1983 Selma van de Perre received the Dutch Resistance Commemoration Cross. She lives in London and has a son.


Book Review ~ WE SHARE THE SAME SKY

We Share the Same Sky: A Memoir of Memory & Migration

by Rachael Cerrotti


Synopsis:
In 2009, Rachael Cerrotti, a college student pursuing a career in photojournalism, asked her grandmother, Hana, if she could record her story. Rachael knew that her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor and the only one in her family alive at the end of the war. Rachael also knew that she survived because of the kindness of strangers. It wasn’t a secret. Hana spoke about her history publicly and regularly. But, Rachael wanted to document it as only a granddaughter could. So, that’s what they did: Hana talked and Rachael wrote.


Upon Hana’s passing in 2010, Rachael discovered an incredible archive of her life. There were preserved albums and hundreds of photographs dating back to the 1920s. There were letters waiting to be translated, journals, diaries, deportation and immigration papers as well as creative writings from various stages of Hana’s life.


Rachael digitized and organized it all, plucking it from the past and placing it into her present. Then, she began retracing her grandmother’s story, following her through Central Europe, Scandinavia, and across the United States. She tracked down the descendants of those who helped save her grandmother’s life during the war. Rachael went in pursuit of her grandmother’s memory to explore how the retelling of family stories becomes the history itself.


We Share the Same Sky weaves together the stories of these two young women — Hana as a refugee who remains one step ahead of the Nazis at every turn, and Rachael, whose insatiable curiosity to touch the past guides her into the lives of countless strangers, bringing her love and tragic loss. Throughout the course of her twenties, Hana’s history becomes a guidebook for Rachael in how to live a life empowered by grief.


My thoughts: This is a well written story about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who decides to write her grandmother’s story. But she also goes one better and retraces her footsteps by going to Europe and visiting all of the same places her grandmother went during and after the war. It;s such a touching thing to do in her grandmother’s memory, and really makes the whole thing come together. I couldn’t get enough of this book, it shared so much of Hana’s original journey. The author even looked up the families of the people who had helped Hana during the war, to keep her safe and well. I think it’s a wonderful book, very readable. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Rachael Cerrotti, and the publisher.


We Share The Same Sky


Publisher: Blackstone Publishing – 250 pages
Publication: Aug 17th , 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the Author– Rachael Cerrotti is an award-winning photographer, writer, educator and producer whose work has been featured on NPR, PRIs The World, WBUR, WGBH, as well as taught in classrooms worldwide. In 2019, she produced a podcast (also titled We Share the Same Sky) about her grandmother’s war story for USC Shoah Foundation, which was listed as one of the best podcasts of 2019 by HuffPost and as a Show We Love by Apple Podcasts. Rachael is currently based in her hometown of Boston. Learn more at RachaelCerrotti.com and ShareTheSameSky.com


Book Review (ARC) ~ THREE ORDINARY GIRLS

Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Hannie Schaft and the Oversteegen Sisters, Teenaged Saboteurs and Nazi Assassins


by Tim Brady


Synopsis:
An astonishing World War II story of a trio of fearless female resisters whose youth and innocence belied their extraordinary daring in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. It also made them the underground’s most invaluable commodity.


May 10, 1940. The Netherlands was swarming with Third Reich troops. In seven days it’s entirely occupied by Nazi Germany. Joining a small resistance cell in the Dutch city of Haarlem were three teenage girls: Hannie Schaft, and sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen who would soon band together to form a singular female underground squad.
 
Smart, fiercely political, devoted solely to the cause, and “with nothing to lose but their own lives,” Hannie, Truus, and Freddie took terrifying direct action against Nazi targets. That included sheltering fleeing Jews, political dissidents, and Dutch resisters. They sabotaged bridges and railways, and donned disguises to lead children from probable internment in concentration camps to safehouses. They covertly transported weapons and set military facilities ablaze. And they carried out the assassinations of German soldiers and traitors–on public streets and in private traps–with the courage of veteran guerilla fighters and the cunning of seasoned spies.
 
In telling this true story through the lens of a fearlessly unique trio of freedom fighters, Tim Brady offers a never-before-seen perspective of the Dutch resistance during the war. Of lives under threat; of how these courageous young women became involved in the underground; and of how their dedication evolved into dangerous, life-threatening missions on behalf of Dutch patriots–regardless of the consequences.
 
Harrowing, emotional, and unforgettable, Three Ordinary Girls finally moves these three icons of resistance into the deserved forefront of world history.


My thoughts: This book, about three teenaged Dutch girls who fought in the resistance against the Germans in WWII during the occupation of their country, was really the kind of book I can’t get enough of. I stayed up all night reading it because I became so engrossed in it, and it was just so good. Two of them were sisters, but later they all ended up working together. It’s filled with action and danger, and so many close calls, yet the girls keep going back for more. You will meet the sisters, Truus and Freddie, and then there is Jo, who is also known as Hannie, the girl with the red hair. Each of them is special in her own way, and valuable to the resistance. This is an amazing true story of courage, as so many of these types of war books are, and I do recommend it if you like this genre. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Tim Brady, and the publisher.


Three Ordinary Girls

Publisher: Citadel – 336 pages
Publication: Feb 23rd, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS


About the author– Tim Brady is an award-winning history author who’s critically acclaimed books include Twelve Desperate Miles, A Death in San Pietro, His Father’s Son and Three Ordinary Girls. In addition to contributing numerous articles, reviews, essays and short stories for a wide range of magazines, newspapers and journals, he has written and helped develop a number of television documentaries, including the Peabody Award-winning series, Liberty! The American Revolution for PBS. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


BOOK REVIEW ~ “Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself”

“Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself” : The Mass Suicide of Ordinary Germans in 1945


 

Just the title of this book, of course grabs you, but once you fully realize what the subject matter is you prepare to settle down for a serious read. And this is truly a serious story that has needed to be shared for a long time. Maybe it was waiting for the right author, or perhaps the time wasn’t right. That’s kind of hard to believe though, as long as it’s been now. But the stage is set, and its time the world knows about this, or at least the parts that didn’t already.

I personally have read my share of books about WWII and the holocaust, and I’ve never run into any mention of this story before. I’ve never seen it discussed online when discussions were being had about those kinds of books either. So I was blown away to read this well-researched book about the suicides of so many regular German people (non-Nazis). Juxtaposed to that, it also follows along with a few folks who became invested in the whole Hitler message. Some as part of the Hitler Youth programs, and some as adults. They became true believers.

I recommend this book for anyone, history lovers, WWII buffs, those who read holocaust memoirs, It’s just such a compelling story. Advanced electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Florian Huber, and the publisher.


 

SHOOT

 


Publisher: Little, Brown Spark – 304 pages
Expected Publication: Mar 10th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Author-   Florian Huber is a writer and documentary maker. He was born in Nuremberg in 1967. He has written four books about German history of which this is the first to be to be translated. He lives in Hamburg.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Chanel’s Riviera

Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944

 

I’ve always wanted to know more about Coco Chanel the fashion and perfume maven, and this was a good overall look at her life, at least during an important part of it that tells of her and how she did business and lived her life. I enjoyed learning about the various artists and writers that she was friends with and socialized with. It shows the extreme opulence of the party lifestyle along the Riviera of the rich and famous against the backdrop of the rumblings of Germany and Hitler arming up for WWII.

Coco built her main home on the Riviera, La Pausa, and spent most of her summer there with her latest lover. She didn’t care to be tied down or controlled by a husband. It’s also filled with information on lots of other public people like the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali, and many others of the time. I found it fairly enjoyable. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Anne de Courcy, and the publisher.


cover169889-medium


Publisher: St Martin’s Press – 304 pages
Publication: Feb 11th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Anne de Courcy is the author of many widely acclaimed works of social history and biography, including 1939: THE LAST SEASON, MARGOT AT WAR, THE FISHING FLEET, THE VICEROY’S DAUGHTERS and DEBS AT WAR. Her books DIANA MOSLEY and SNOWDON; THE BIOGRAPHY were turned into television documentaries, while THE HUSBAND HUNTERS has been optioned for a feature film. She lives in London and Gloucestershire.


 

Book Review ~ An Englishman Abroad

An Englishman Abroad: SOE agent Dick Mallaby’s Italian missions, 1943-45

 

“Based on 20 years of research, Gianluca Barneschi has uncovered the true story of a real-life James Bond.”

I found this to be one of those fascinating finds that you come across now and then that are a pleasure to read. This one is about Richard ‘Dick’ Mallaby, who was raised in Italy after being born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and tragically losing his mother the following year to complications during her second pregnancy.. His father then moved with him to Italy where he grew up until the outbreak of the war, when they both traveled to England where the younger Mallaby enlisted to fight with the Allies. He figured he could use his ability to speak Italian and a couple of other languages to best effect if he were perhaps used as a spy in Italy.

His suggestion wasn’t taken at first, and he was just doing normal things. But eventually they realized his value and began training him for a bigger role. He was put to work an agent for SOE (Special Operations Executive,) a secret organization whose existence was only officially acknowledged in the 1980s. They carried out a broad range of activities, like sabotage, terrorism, and support for clandestine movements, all prohibited by international conventions, wherever local circumstances would allow. Their life expectancy while on a mission was quantified in terms of weeks, rather than years partly because of the fact that according to international convention, execution was legitimized in event of capture in enemy territory without uniform.

He trained and was set up for a secret mission to be parachuted into Italy behind enemy lines by parachute during the night by plane, the first Briton to do so. He even had some gadgets with him that surprised me for the time. His first mission went all wrong when he landed and was caught right away, with no opportunity to ditch much of his gear.  But later he managed to avoid being executed, and circumstances happen for him to be released and able to play a larger role than just a prisoner. He played a key part in securing Italy’s unconditional surrender.  Mallaby goes on to have another mission with similar astounding results.

I enjoyed this story very much and recommend it for those who like WWII stories, and stories about spying and WWII. It held my interest well. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Gianluca Barneschi, and the publisher.

 

cover164291-medium

 

Publisher: Osprey Publishing – 336 pages
Publication: May 21st, 2019
RATING: 4/5 Stars

 

The Author– Gianluca Barneschi is an author, historian, and attorney in the field of radio and telecommunications Among several newspapers and magazines, his essays have also been published in Nuova Storia Contemporanea and featured in various television documentaries, having gained literary recognition. His debut work, Balvano 1944: The Secrets of an Ignored Railway Disaster, was the winner of the Basilicata Prize 2005 in the historical non-fiction category. In 2013, The Englishman Who Traveled with the King and Badoglio – the Missions of the Special Agent Dick Mallaby, was the recipient of the Cerruglio Prize 2014 for historical essays and has reached its third edition in Italy. Barneschi has spent 20 years researching the story of Richard Mallaby’s missions and lives primarily in Rome with his family.

                                                         ******************

Below are various photos of Richard ‘Dick’ Mallaby, also one of him with his wife, Christine Northcote-Marks, and one with his three children, Richard, Caroline, and Elizabeth. The woman on the Jeep is not identified.

 

Dutch Girl

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

This book is about Hepburn’s early years in Europe during the war. It has a foreword by her youngest son Luca Dotta. She had always been very introverted, a quiet, shy girl. Probably more so after her parents split and her father wasn’t around anymore. but the ballet lessons she loved so much finally helped her become more expressive outwardly. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra was very pro-German before the war began and had met Hitler a couple of times during their many travels. But then Audrey’s father had walked out when she was 6. They were both taking it hard but Audrey was really worried about her mother.

Elle put Audrey in a school and found her some ballet classes in London, but when war became imminent her mother had her brought to the always previously neutral Netherlands to live. It was hard for Audrey because she didn’t speak the language there and so didn’t understand a word of what they were saying at school. The only thing that made it bearable for her was that her mother was able to get her into ballet classes again. She grew up as Adriaantje (little Audrey) Van Heemstra, but after the Germans moved in she became known as the English-sounding Audrey Hepburn-Ruston. Ella is good at organizing events, especially if it will be something that will offer a chance to show her daughter’s talent. But she’s lacking in showing warm feelings to Audrey, who is so needing them. Audrey can’t understand why Ella is still friendly with the Germans, who are being so cruel to their Jewish friends. Though, as time goes on and her mother can no longer ignore what’s going on, she does stop socializing with them, etc. But this will cause problems for Audrey throughout the rest of her life.

About halfway through the book, near the end of the war, it begins speaking from Audrey’s later perspective, done in italics, where she returns to the Netherlands and reminisces about the war, married and a star. This appears off and on through the book. It’s well researched and reads well. This is for those interested in the old star biographies, and WWII. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Robert Matzen, and the publisher for my fair review.

cover151302-medium

Publisher: GoodKnight Books – 400 pages
Published: April 15th, 2019
RATED: 4/5 Stars

The Author- Robert Matzen is the award-winning author of Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, and five other books. He has appeared on national broadcast programs and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal among other publications.

Luca Dotti is the younger son of Audrey Hepburn and New York Times bestselling author of Audrey at Home. He is a former graphic designer and now chairs the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. Created by Audrey’s family in 1994, the Fund helps children in need around the world.

Telling Tales

.

Telling Tales: The Fabulous Lives of Anita Leslie

This is my 2nd book about Anita Leslie, the first being Train to Nowhere, which was written by Leslie herself as a memoir mostly of her time driving an ambulance during WWII, and which I liked well enough. She’s a first cousin once removed of Winston Churchill, and her father is a baronet. Part of this book covers the same territory but there is much more about her family and personal life after the war ended. Anita Leslie married Paul Rodzianko as an act of defiance in April 1937, after he arrived at Glaslough from Ukraine despite her parents’ disapproval and wrote his life story, Tattered Banners (1939) then they collaborated on Modern Horsemanship. He imbued her with a dislike for Jews during their unhappy marriage, but she was less prejudiced once she was finally away from his pushy influence. This book started off a bit slow but got better once she joined the women’s ambulance crew and was trained as both a driver and as a full mechanic, and was sent to four different war zones during WWII in that capacity. Her husband Paul meanwhile took all kinds of jobs training horses or whatever he had to, in order to be able to follow her while she was trying to leave him behind. She finally told him they weren’t getting back together when the war was over. She later married Bill King.

There seems to be a focus on her romantic interests in the book, of which there are many, despite her being married for much of it, or trying to get divorced/annulled. There is much attention given to her beaux, as she puts it. Another interest is her writing career, and trying to buy her family’s land back parcel by parcel for her son. She was able to travel quite a bit, off to spend time with friends or back to the family estate at Glaslough after she was bought her own estate by her mother in Western Ireland in County Galway called Oranmore Castle. A good book for those who like memoirs of the UK, the family of Churchill, with a bit of WWII thrown in.  My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Penny Perrick, and the publisher for my fair review.

Bloomsbury Caravel   288 pages
Pub: Jan 8th,  2019

RATING: 4/5 Stars

The Author—  Penny Perrick, who lived for many years in the west of Ireland, was a fashion editor for Vogue, a columnist on the Sun and The Times and a fiction editor for the Sunday Times. She is also a novelist and the author of Something to Hide, a biography of the poet Sheila Wingfield. Penny lives in London.

THE CRATE: A Story Of War, A Murder, And Justice

A very well told story about a family’s lake cottage in Canada- their peaceful getaway from the workaday world that they’ve made for themselves, after starting over in Canada once surviving the Holocaust. They find their tranquil place has suddenly gone from a precious memory, to everyone’s newest nightmare after a crate is found with the remains of a murdered body hidden in the crawlspace underneath the cottage. . As they struggle to come to terms with it as police investigate, they wonder if violence has followed them from Europe. A fascinating read for those with an interest in the Holocaust, true crime, and justice in this murder case.

My thanks for the advance digital copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Deborah Vadas Levison, and the publisher for my unbiased review.

WildBlue Press
June 19, 2018

Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper Lady Death by Lyudmila Pavlichenko

I found this to be an engaging read for its time, and the timing was perfect coming right after my book about Eleanor Roosevelt because she turns up in this book too. Lyudmila as a good young Soviet took a couple of courses in being a sniper and it was found that she had a talent for it from the first time she picked up a rifle. Later, when she was nearly finished with her advanced schooling, war was declared against Germany. She got her sniper certifications out and went down to join the military, turning her back on her schooling. Her country needed her. Her young son would be taken care of by her family. Her ex-husband, she hadn’t seen in a long time and was of no consequence.

She was known as Stalin’s Sniper, Lady Death and other various names. She was the most successful female sniper in history with 309 kills. In 1942 she and two male soldiers were sent to the United States as part of a delegation to try and gain cooperation in getting the US to join in opening a 2nd front in the war with the Germans. It was there that she met the President and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She and the other soldiers spent time at the White House and a week at their private home, Hyde Park.

Lyudmila was later removed from the front after being wounded 4 times and suffering from shell shock.  She was given a rest and allowed a bit of time to heal, then she was used in training other snipers, but really wanted to return to fighting.  She had to be convinced her skills were better served in training hundreds like her instead.  After the war, having reached the rank of major, Pavlichenko finished her education at the University of Kiev and became a historian.  She also saw First Lady Roosevelt again in 1957 when she was touring Russia, as they had remained in contact with letters as friends.

Lyudmila Mykhailovna Pavlichenko (July 12, 1912 – Oct. 10, 1974)

An advance digital copy was provided by NetGalley,  author Lyudmila Pavlichenko and the publisher for my unbiased review.

Greenhill Books               Publication: May 19, 2018