6 September 2009

Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora

Two months after his 19th birthday, Pierre Berg was still a cocky kid – riding his bicycle around Nice and dreaming of owning a beauty shop to support his future as a gigolo – when he was arrested by the Nazis. His “crime” wasn’t being Jewish. It was bad timing – he visited a friend at the same time the SS was searching for, and found a shortwave radio transmitter. Pierre was frisked, handcuffed, pushed into a car, and then put onto a train. Thus began his 18-month ordeal as a political prisoner and slave laborer. Thanks to what Pierre describes as “shithouse luck,” he narrowly escaped becoming another victim of the Nazi death machine.

In Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora, Pierre Berg tells his incredible Holocaust story – with striking immediacy, raw honesty, and twists of wry humor. This memoir is written from the perspective of a very young man fresh from the ex­perience because, in fact, Berg wrote the first draft in 1948, a year after his arrival in the United States and three years after VE Day. When he couldn’t find any takers for his story after the war, Berg put his manuscript in a drawer and left it there for nearly 50 years. Angered by Holocaust deniers, Pierre wanted to tell his story — A French gentile political prisoner, who witnessed, and barely survived, the systematic murder of 11 million people.

The book has its own website which includes extracts, interviews and videos. It is published by Amacom.

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The Box from Braunau

As a child, Jan Elvin thought very little about the tin box her father brought home from World War II. What she would soon learn was that the box had been a gift from an inmate at a German slave labor camp. Her discovery would start her on a long journey to uncover some of the fascinating and horrifying history surrounding the War, as well as a search to understand the man still haunted by its memories.

The Box from Braunau is both a daughter's emotional memoir of the unraveling and healing of a father-daughter relationship damaged by the ghosts of war, and a chronicle of a war veteran whose return to civilian life was marred by nightmares of combat and concentration camps. We follow the lives of journalist Bill Elvin and his daughter through excerpts from the riveting diary he kept during the war and private letters and newspaper articles he wrote as a journalist on his return. We follow him from his first days on the battlefield as a lieutenant in Patton's Army to his days at the Ebensee concentration camp, where he witnessed first-hand the prisoners' sufferings brought about by Nazi atrocities. We gain a new understanding of the War and its effects on the men who fought it.

Featuring exclusive interviews with family members and fellow soldiers, as well as with survivors of the camps, The Box from Braunau is an illuminating look at war through the eyes of one family. It is published by AMACOM.

The book has a detailed website which includes an excerpt and the table to contents.

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Do the Birds Still Sing in Hell?

Horace 'Jim' Greasley was twenty years of age in the spring of 1939 when Adolf Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and latterly Poland. There had been whispers and murmurs of discontent from certain quarters and the British government began to prepare for the inevitable war.
After seven weeks training with the 2nd / 5th Battalion Leicester’s, he found himself facing the might of the German army in a muddy field south of Cherbourg, in Northern France, with just thirty rounds of ammunition in his weapon pouch.

Horace’s war didn’t last long. He was taken prisoner on 25th May 1940 and forced to endure a ten week march across France and Belgium en-route to Holland. Horace survived… barely… food was scarce, he took nourishment from dandelion leaves, small insects and occasionally a secret food package from a sympathetic villager, and drank rain water from ditches. Many of his fellow comrades were not so fortunate. Falling by the side of the road through sheer exhaustion and malnourishment meant a bullet through the back of the head and the corpse left to rot.
After a three day train journey without food and water, Horace found himself incarcerated in a prison camp in Poland.

It was there he embarked on an incredible love affair with a German girl interpreting for his captors. He experienced the sweet taste of freedom each time he escaped to see her, yet incredibly he made his way back into the camp each time, sometimes two, three times every week. Horace broke out of the camp then crept back in again under the cover of darkness after his natural urges were fulfilled. He brought food back to his fellow prisoners to supplement their meagre rations. He broke out of the camp over two hundred times and towards the end of the war even managed to bring radio parts back in. The BBC news would be delivered daily to over 3000 prisoners.

The official website of Do Birds Still Sing in Hell?

Obituary: Horace Greasley (Daily Telegraph 12th February 2010)

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Libros International

Out of the Italian Night - Wellington Bomber Operations 1944-45

During 1944 and 1945 the squadrons of 205 Group were launching air attacks from bases in Italy. In many ways their efforts were the same as those of aircrew attached to Bomber Command in Britain, yet conditions for the men were very different. The men fought their war as much against the weather, as against the enemy. The Wimpy, as the Wellington was affectionately known, had been operational when war was declared and five years on their young crews were still taking them into battle.

Maurice Lihou joined the RAF in 1939, just before the outbreak of war. He trained as a wireless operator to become aircrew, but found himself working in ground stations. He decided to re-muster as a pilot and completed his training in Canada where he was awarded his wings. He soon became captain of an aircraft and ferried a Wellington to North Africa. He was then posted to Italy and joined No 37 Squadron, becoming involved in various operations to harass the retreating German army.

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Pen and Sword