Monday, December 07, 2009

68th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt - December 8, 1941

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Father Goose

Cary Grant is in fine form in this hilarious tale of a washed-up college professor turned alcoholic seaman and his troubles with the upstart, infuriatingly beautiful and annoying French teacher, Leslie Caron.

When Mr. Walter Eckland (Grant) "volunteers" to go to a Pacific Island and become a watcher for Japanese planes (Trevor Howard is the British commander who "convinces" Walter Eckland to take the job), he's only in it for the booze. Whenever he reports in a sighting of Japanese planes and the report is confirmed, he will then be able to find one of his beloved bottles of whiskey.

But things turn complicated fast when Walter is sent to rescue French teacher Catherine Freneau, charmingly played by Leslie Caron, and her group of charges - all girls - when their plane crash-lands on another island.

Eckland's world takes a teetering tumble as the girls invade his house and his life. Constantly bumping heads with Ms. Freneau, Walter has more estrogen surrounding him than he can handle and begs the British commander to get the females off his island. Unfortunately, there's no one available who can come make a rescue attempt, so the two wildly-mismatched adults have to learn to get along until help shows up.

Set during World War II in the Pacific, this isn't so much a war movie as a comedy of errors. But there are moments where the war intrudes - when a Japanese ship sends a patrol on the island to look for turtles so the Japanese captain can have "turtle soup" and Eckland and the girls are nearly discovered; when a Japanese plane spots them and tries to take them all out; and the spectacular ending, when Eckland is pursued by a Japanese gunboat.

Father Goose is a fun, rollicking ride with lots of one-liners and zinging dialogue between Grant and Caron, not to mention hilarious situations that show Caron and Grant at their comedic best.

Veterans Day 2009

Remember those who have fallen. Remember those who have served. Remember those who continue to protect our nation and our freedoms.
Thank you, members of our great military. Your deeds and actions will never be forgotten.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews during the Third Reich represented a powerful protest. Those who chose to remain married, despite the overwhelming pressure to divorce, showed strength and courage. Nathan Stoltzfus's book, Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany reveals the stories of those who lived in such relationships during the Third Reich and survived the war due to their tenacity.

on these "in between" German Jews is relatively scarce and thus, this book fills an important void. Stoltzfus devotes much of his text to the years preceding the Rosenstrasse protest, introducing three main couples. Through their interviews, Stoltzfus weaves a tale of courage and individual non-compliance toward the restrictive racial laws of the Third Reich. By focusing largely on the women's perspective, Stoltzfus enlightens us to the world in which they lived and to the sacrifices they made in order to stay married to their Jewish husbands. Indeed, Stolzfus's argument views the protest as a "climactic event in the lives of those who protested and also as part of the complex of events and circumstances that surrounded the climax of World War II" (p. xxv). Stoltzfus remains focused throughout the book, rarely deviating from his thesis.

Beginning with Hitler's
rise to power, Resistance of the Heart chronologically traces the steps taken against the intermarried Jews of Germany. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, played a leading role in the campaign toward the Final Solution. Goebbels frequently wrestled over the problem of intermarried Jews. Ultimately, however, the solution depended largely upon the popularity of the Regime and the public's cooperation.

As Stoltzfus argues, "The fundamental Nazi ideology and in turn the prized Nazi policies cut against
the grain of social traditions the Germans could not part with" (p. 15). Marriage remained one of the binding ties of German society. Intermarried couples directly conflicted with Nazi ideology since racial purity was a main component of Nazism. However, Hitler's popularity curbed the majority of people's dissent until 1944-45. But intermarried couples protested by staying married.

lives of the couples - Charlotte and Julius Israel, Elsa and Rudi Holzer, and Wally and Gunter Grodka, comprise much of the story. All three men were Jewish, except for Rudi Holzer, who was a Mischling. Stoltzfus tells the couples' courtship stories and immediately draws you into the everyday lives of ordinary Germans. From the Israel's living room where music and song kept Nazi terrors at bay for a short while to the intense pressure of the Grodka's denouncement-hungry neighbors, to Elsa Holzer's smuggling of a love note to her husband during the Rosenstrasse protest, Stoltzfus brilliantly reveals the daily problems they faced.

"waffling" of the party leadership on the racial laws is explained through the turbulent life of Werner Goldberg, a Mischling who went thorugh several transitions during his life in the Reich. As the Nazis tried to "work out the conflicts between its racial ideology and practical policies", (p. 85), people lived in a constant state of transition. Rudi Holzer, for example, lived the life of an "Aryan" and remained relatively untouched as a Mischling until new laws came into effect.

also delves into Goebbel's diary to reveal key points in the administration of actions against the Jews. As the war drug on, Goebbels continued to search for ways to expel the intermarried Jews from Germany. Yet popular opinion always held a significant role in the decision-making process. Women's opinions were especially crucial since their dissent during World War I helped cause the breakdown of morale.

, women held great importance in a variety of ways. They constituted an important labor force and their letters to husbands and sons at the front could affect morale. Goebbels even recorded in his diary that "women were 'largely responsible' for 'our [public] sentiments'" (p. 197). In early 1943, the labor conscription of women for the Total War decree failed completely as large numbers of women refused to work. As Stoltzfus points out, " was not only because of their gender that a mass of women might succeed in a limited public protest but because they were civilians who threatened home front morale" (p. 201). Thus, the stage was set for the Rosenstrasse Protest.

the Final Roundup of Berlin Jews, including those in intermarriages, began in late February of 1943, Goebbels thought to rid himself of these "privileged" Jews. But as the tale of Rosenstrasse unfolds, he was wrong. The Jews were taken to a facility located in Rosenstrasse, a street at the center of Berlin. Non-Jewish spouses of the prisoners started to gather outside and demand the release of their loved ones. The individual stories of the women, including Charlotte Israel, Elsa Holzer, and Wally Grodka, reveal the resilience of these wives to rescue their Jewish husbands and children. Even though the Gestapo threatened to shoot time and time again, the women remained. As Elsa Holzer remarked, "We acted from the heart, and look what happened...What one is capable of doing when there is danger can never be repeated" (p. 239).

Goebbels and Hitler eventually ordered the release of the intermarried prisoners in order to dissolve
the protest. Remarkably, all the Jews released from Rosenstrasse survived the war. But Stoltzfus questions whether or not the proest can be termed resistance or dissent.

smooth prose and contemporary photos, Stoltzfus delivers a heartening, yet chilling tale. However, the historical accuracy of his sources may come into question since the interviews were held so many years after the war and time has a way of dimming one's memory. But perhaps Stoltzfus's most compelling question throughout the text is a tantalizing "what if?" Would more protests in Nazi Germany have halted the completion of the Final Solution? It is sobering to contemplate.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Review: Defiance

True stories make some of the best films. That is certainly the case with Defiance.

Daniel Craig (Tuvia), Liev Schreiber (Zusia), and Jamie Bell (Asael) star as the three Jewish Bielski brothers of Belorussia who, after the slaughter of their family in 1941, take refuge in the lush forest near their home and begin an excruciating fight to stay alive.

It's not long before more hunted Jews join them. Staying alive remains their top priority for awhile and foraging for food and shelter becomes paramount. But as the news of more atrocities spread and as more Jews are slaughtered, the Bielski brothers vow to do more against the tyranny of Nazism. Along with others in the camp, they form a resistance group known as the Bielski Otriad.

The group build their own community in the forest and here, there is no room for dissent. Food must be shared equally, and everyone must do their part - even the intellectuals who previously had never picked up a hammer in their lives or fired a gun are expected to learn.

Through deadly winters and the threat of constant discovery, Tuvia has no choice but to rule with an iron fist, even when his brother, Zusia, decides to join the Russian partisans in striking against the Germans.

The theme running through this movie is the importance of family. The bond between the three brothers is stronger than iron, and even though they have their disagreements, their love for one another is deep. This bond winds through the camp itself as the people realize that they, too, are a family, a community, and must work together to survive. It's an incredible testament to the determination of a people to fight back against overwhelming odds, especially at a time when Jews were seen as victims with no will to fight back. Defiance sheds light on those instances where Jews refused to succumb to their fate.

Yet there is another aspect to Defiance that bears further pondering. While watching the DVD extras, which included interviews with the writers and director of the film, this question was asked: Must you become a monster to defeat a monster? The Bielski brothers were ruthless and there are several scenes in the movie which portray this. Tuvia executes those responsible for his family's death - a father and his two sons - in cold blood. Zusia goes out and kills Germans in revenge for the death of his wife and child. When a German soldier is captured and brought back to the camp, the movie portrays a chilling scene of the Jews beating the soldier to death as they let their overwhelming grief and anger at all of those lost at German hands overtake them.

It's a question worth pondering.

Overall, Defiance is an incredible movie, aptly titled, with solid performances by every cast member. It's also an amazing story of beating the odds. The Bielski's saved more than 1,000 Jews and today, those Jews' descendents number in the thousands.

To find out more about the Bielski brothers, visit the Holocaust Research Project or

Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day 65th Anniversary

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest -- until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them -- help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment -- let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Franklin D. Roosevelt - June 6, 1944

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Greatest Generation Society

I'm very excited to announce a new kind of community for those of us deeply interested in World War II. It's called The Greatest Generation Society and is a virtual gathering place for other like-minded individuals.

With an innovative social networking formula, you can add photos, post blog entries and news stories, make friends with others, and honor your family members who served in the war. It's a true interactive site that is a labor of love from founder Scott Lyons who started the site to honor his father, a World War II veteran.

Membership is free and the community is growing. Come be a part of this wonderful group and remember the Greatest Generation!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Propaganda: Your Job in Germany

This U.S. Army film was made after the end of World War II. Soldiers who now occupied Germany had to watch it.

Viewed in the context of 21st century hindsight, we can definitely tell it's propaganda. But viewed through the lens of 1946, when the world had been through two devastating world wars, it looks slightly different.

What do you think when you watch this film?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mrs. Miniver

Made during the height of World War II, Mrs. Miniver is a touching yet gripping film dedicated to arousing the patriotic spirit in America and Great Britain. In this, it does not disappoint.

Kay Miniver is a kind, warm-hearted British woman who loves her family and her life in a small village not far from London, England. She and her husband, Clem (Walter Pidgeon) have three children. When war breaks out, their oldest, Vin (Richard Ney), joins the RAF and becomes a pilot while Clem has duty with the river patrol. Kay must deal with an escaped German parachutist, the marriage of her son to local girl Carol (Teresa Wright), the destruction of her home, and the loss of friends and family. Yet she continues on, encouraging others during this time, whether they be American or British, to continue fighting a just and necessary war.

Widely regarded as a propaganda piece, Mrs. Miniver is also a film full of heart and soul that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1942. Greer Garson also won an Academy Award for her performance.

If you've yet to watch Mrs. Miniver, make haste! You'll not be disappointed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

Paul Schumann, a button man (read: hit man), has just been captured in New York City by the feds. But he's offered an unexpected way out of his tricky situation - he'll get his record swiped clean if he does a job for a special interest group in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, that job puts him right smack in the middle of Nazi Germany during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And the mark is one of Hitler's highest men - Colonel Reinhard Ernst, the chief man for militarizing Germany.

Paul masquerades as a journalist and arrives in Berlin, only to immediately become thrown into a nightmare involving murder, betrayal, and morality. Deaver does an amazing job with the details, deftly incorporating the Olympics into the plot, and delving into the underside of Berlin. The multi-dimensional characters, including appearances by Jesse Owens, Himmler, and Goering, make for a fast-paced, gripping read. But it is Schumann himself who steals the show.

An excellent, well-written novel, Garden of Beasts is Deaver at his finest.