Monday, October 15, 2012

Ronda's must reads!

This summer I was privileged to attend a summer institute for 24 teachers from all over the country, as well as Belgium, at the Holocaust Memorial Library in New York City.  When our time together was over we spent some time creating a list of books that all Holocaust teachers should read.  The list below is not complete, but these are the titles I added to my Shelfari list.  Since school has started, I have read two of the titles and I want to recommend both The Holocaust by Bullets by Father Patrick Desbois and Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin.  As a Holocaust educator, and a member of the cadre here in Kansas City for almost 10 years, I feel I have a pretty firm grasp on content or to put it differently – there’s not much more you can throw at me about this topic.  WRONG!  Father Desbois is now one of my heroes.  His courage and determination to count the bullets used by the Nazi Einzatzgruppen against the Jews in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe deserves a Nobel prize.  House to house, door to door, mass grave to mass grave, he traveled with his translator and film crew to hear and record the memories of mostly children that saw, heard, and smelled the executions.  He forced me to think about the other victims of the Holocaust, and I’m not talking about the Poles, Russian POWS, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, handicapped, and Roma-Sinti.  No, Desbois speaks to those who were forced to help and watch and in a sense become unwilling corroborators.  Most of these victims were children or young people who lived with their memories for 60 years before someone finally offered them the opportunity to talk openly about their guilt and shame.  They were allowed, unjudged, to tell what they remembered.  Desbois raises the question “Are there fates worse than death?”  For some of these victims you are left wondering how they have existed since their villages were turned into a hell on earth.  The other book I read, in my car, on my way to and from school every day was Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin.  Even though this is about American history, the similarities to “Bullets” was eerie.  Racial cleansing was commonplace in post-Civil War America, up until the Civil Rights movement.  Sadly, towns and counties, in the South, including Missouri, were cleansed of their Black populations a long time ago, but many of these locations remain pure white still today.  One noticeable difference from “Bullets” is in most cases the whites in the racially diverse towns only forcefully removed their black neighbors to other towns.  Whereas the Nazis removed the Jews permanently from the planet.  However, like the Nazis, the whites stole property and lynched and killed those who fought the cleansings.  As an historian and teacher, both of these books would make excellent reading to supplement your knowledge of the Holocaust and Reconstruction Era in America.  My only advice or suggestion is to not read them at the same time like I did. I was truly depressed for the two weeks it took me finish them.  I have In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson waiting for me at the public library right now and plan to start it immediately. 

  • The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews by Father Patrick Desbois
  • Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo
  • Salvaged Pages; Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
  • Bloodlands; Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
  • Fresh Wounds: Early Narratives of Holocaust Survival
  • Alicia, My Story by Alicia Appleman-Jurman
  • Bells in Winter by Czeslaw Milosz
  • Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin

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