About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Kathy D. and I – A Resistance Dialogue

The paperclip was a symbol of the Norwegian Resistance
partially chosen as it binds things together
Over my last three posts I have reviewed books. on the Danish Resistance and discussed a real life flight which led Ken Follett to write Hornet Flight. I have had previous posts on European Resistance movements during WW II. One post stands out for me as it discusses real life members of the Resistance I have had the chance to meet. The post was about a Dutch teenager and about a Danish farm couple and their inspiring actions. My posts on the Resistance have always drawn comments from regular commenter to my blog, Kathy D. For a post I wrote titled Alan Furst’s Quiet Heroes we exchanged a series of comments I felt fitted with my recent posts on the Danish Resistance. I want to share our exchange with all readers of my blog.

Kathy D. December 10, 2013 at 9:15 PM

So glad to read this review about Alan Furst's books and characters. If I read this genre, and could bear to read about WWII, I would read his series first.

I have given Spies of the Balkans to a friend as a holiday gift, hoping he'd like it. I think I'll give him another book by Furst this holiday.

On resistance in Europe, the more one reads blogs, books and talks to people about the subject, the more one learns about this. The NY Times ran a piece a few years ago about Germans hiding a Jewish musician during the war.

Irene Sandler, with help from others, smuggled 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, to farm families in rural areas. She was arrested, tortured and then released from prison. She won a Nobel Prize for this.

Then there's a book out about a couple, which saved 300 people in the Warsaw Zoo and in their homes. A blogger wrote of an elderly woman living on a French farm who hid three Jewish men in her cellar, wrapping her groceries in newspaper every day so she could bring home the war news to them.

There were many resistance fighters. After I saw the film Defiance about the Bielski brothers who saved 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus,, I looked up more about partisans and Resistance fighters, found more in Belarus, some in Poland (a tough place), and, of course, in Italy. Read The Collini Case for a legal mystery about that.

Greece had a strong partisan movement, as did Yugoslavia. Even Malta; I read about a teenage girl who was shooting a machine gun at the Nazis; unfortunately, she was caught.

And then within Germany itself, reportedly 800,000 political prisoners under Nazis, including students Sophie Stoll and her friends.

Margaretta von Trotta's film Rosenstrasse tells of non-Jewish German women who demonstrated every day in front of the deportation center where their Jewish husbands were held. They stood up to Nazis with machine guns. They won their husbands' release.

And then the famous Warsaw Ghetto uprising happened in 1943; the Resisters had nothing to lose. My grandmother, a Russian/Polish/Jewish immigrant had a friend who wrote a book about other resisters in other Jewish ghettoes.

And then in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, resistance, too. This post reminds me that I know a man who never knew his Dutch uncle. He died at the hands of the Nazis while in the Dutch Resistance movement. And there's the famous burning down of the population records building in Amsterdam. Although most involved were caught and paid the ultimate price, thousands of Jews were saved.

So, if one keeps reading, one finds out a lot more about European resisters.

Kathy D. Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful comment.
As I read your comment I think Mazower was too narrow in his conclusions about lack of resistance in Western Europe. He took resistance to require armed action against the nations. I think your Examples, as with my examples, show resistance took many forms.

When I was in the Lofoten islands north of the Arctic Circle in Norway last year I met people who told me the Nazis had required them to help build fortifications against a potential Allied seaborne assault. Required to carry stones for the project they would stumble when they could so the stones would roll down hills and they would have to go get a new stone to carry.

Kathy D.December 12, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Good you added that.

Another point, which is quite astounding is that women who were rounded up in France in a 240 or so in a women's convoy were at a camp. Even though they were of different religions and political ideology, they all jointly sabotaged the labor in the Germans' work camps. They deliverately sabotaged the machinery, did slowdowns of work and protected the more fragile women who couldn't do hard physical work. This is from my reading of marks by a leading French resister who was imprisoned in a camp. After she got out, she testified at the Nuremberg trials, then told of the women's resistance inside a camp.

I think if more people had weapons in Europe and military training, many more would have fought back physically. When people have no weapons or training and are taken by surprise by the German military with a lot of force and weaponry, what do they do? And what do villages do without guns, ammunition, military training?

In the movie "Defiance," the Bielski brothers and people in their encampment did fight back with whatever weapons they could buy or get via bartering or just finding and seizing.

I left out but should have included the massive resistance in Spain to Franco and fascism; so many sacrificed and died then.

Cara Black who writes the Aimee Ledoc series set in Paris, has written of commemorations to deceased and still living French Resistance fighters, who are highly honored still. And in Greece, I believe the Italian government gave that government two hours to either capitulate or not at the start of the war. The Greek people said NO and valiantly fought back, including Jewish people. Just read at Murder Is Everywhere about the last living Jewish Resistance fighter in Greece, a retired dentist. And so on.

All over the world, people have fought for independence and freedom throughout the centuries. I don't think Jewish people or Polish people or Italians or any other people were more passive than others.

Kathy D.: Thanks for the further comment.

I think the word "resistance" was an appropriate word to describe the response in conquered nations. "Resistance" is not confined to arms. It takes all the forms described by you in your comments.

The peoples of Nazi occupied nations could not have expected as brutal and systemic scheme of murder as carried out by the Nazis. Certainly there have been atrocities and killings by previous occupying powers but they could not have expected the scale of Nazi brutality. Had they realized sooner what was going to happen "resistance" would have been far more.

Agree. If people had known -- and had access to weapons and were trained in how to resist, more resistance would have happened.

And as a further bit of information, as I was reading Rachel Donadio's piece about traveling to Naples in the New York Times Sunday Travel section, I came to this section, which is new to me:

In 1943, when the Nazis began rounding up Neopolitan men, the furious women of Naples fought back, successfully driving the Nazis out of town, albeit on a killing spree, in a rare mass citizens' revolt against the German occupation!

So glad to see this group resistance by women. I do know that women were part of the Resistance Movement in occupied countries and carried out many tasks. In addition to other tasks, women were also often couriers of messages for Resistance forces.
Kathy D.: I was not aware of the battle in Naples.

It is ironic that Allied governments were far more willing to use women in clandestine operations than they were to allow them in regular military forces.

That's interesting; it's true.

But women were in the Resistance movements all over Europe. I've read amazing stories of courage and determination, of great risk-taking. Women were part of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance, and were among French resisters, too.

Although I just can't bring myself to read it, there is a book about the convoy of women rounded up in France and taken to a camp. It was about 240 women. Their stories are told in this book. I think about 49 survived. A friend got the book, but became too sad and also upset at their suffering, so she stopped reading it.

But some wonderful heroes are mentioned, leaders, organizers even within the camp.

There is also the choir at Terezin camp. These Jewish prisoners sang to resist, and they kept on singing even while their numbers were dwindling around them.

There is a terrific documentary about them. Survivors speak of how even if the German soldiers had burst in and threatened their lives, they would have stayed in their places and kept on singing. It's quite a story.

Kathy D.: Have you read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl in wich the author, a pyschologist from Vienna, discusses life in concentration camps and what he learned from the experience. I posted a review on January 18, 2011. The book has influenced me since I was taught about it in 2nd year university 42 years ago. His observation that the inmate who lost “faith in the future – his future – was doomed” is a powerful statement on the importance of hope.

I have not read Frankl's book, but I have read all about it many times. I have gleaned from what I read that one important aspect of survival was the interaction and humanity among the prisoners.

From one anecdote, I learned that on Frankl's birthday, a fellow inmate had given him a pencil stub and matchbook so he could write. What an incredible kindness amidst that horror. 

Kathy D.: I hope you get a chance to read the book. It can change the way you think about life.

I have read a great deal about Frankl's book. I may or may not read it. I try to steer clear of reading about the horrors of WWII, which is why I don't read novels set during the war. I know enough. As a 5-year-old living in New York, my friend's lovely parents had numbers on their arms.
Her mother looked so sad and gaunt. Her eyes looked haunted. I noticed this at that age, and also knew that she was a kind person to her child and her friends.

I asked my parents about the numbers on the adults' arms, and I was told by my Jewish mother enough that I could grasp at that age. By 9, I knew about the Holocaust enough to talk about it.

Sara Paretsky's latest excellent book, "Critical Mass," harks back to 1938-1942 Vienna in the Jewish ghetto, and mentions the deportation of the characters, except the grandchildren who were able to go to London. The adults could not get visas, and we know what happened then.

The book does describe a few horrors, enough for me. What sane people who care about humanity cannot in their wildest dreams think of, the Nazis did.

So, it's not distraction for me or entertainment, what I expect of crime fiction.

Kathy D.: I would not be afraid to read Frankl's book. What happened in the camps was awful. Frankl takes us into the minds of those who were there and challenges us on how to live our current lives and deal with bad times.

I am angry each time I read how the Nazis were so brutal and caused so much suffering and loss. At the same time I admired how Frankl developed a philosophy of life out of those terrible circumstances.

Frankl was in Vienna during the years of 1938 - 1942. The book delves into why he stayed.
Thank you Kathy for your thoughtful and thought provoking comments. You have made my blog better through your comments.


  1. What a very interesting comment exchange. Stories from war can make you despair, but then stories like those you both mention give you back your faith in humanity. I'm so glad you decided to make a blogpost from this, Bill, and thanks to both of you for your thoughtful contributions.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. It was a comment exchange that made me glad to start blogging.

  2. What an interesting exchange. Thankfully there will always be brave inspirational people who fight against the odds in an attempt to preserve human rights.
    Would the scale of the Nazi brutality would have been such a shock to governments and even ordinary citizens?
    It should not have been, Mein Kampf, boycotts of Jewish businesses, the 1933 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws, book burning and Kristallnacht in 1938 surely gave people an idea that Nazism was something very evil. When in 1934 the Nazis murdered Ernst Rohm, Gregor Strasser, General von Schleicher, his wife, and others, their former friends, it was fairly obvious what they would do to those whom they considered enemies and non-Aryan.
    It is good for the soul to read about inspirational behaviour and kindness amidst the horror, but it doesn't change the damage done.

    1. Thanks for the contribution. The early Nazis were brutal but I do not think there was an understanding that they would be mass murderers. I expect most people expected persecution and targeted killings but not genocide.

    2. Bill there had been recent examples of mass killings of civilian populations during the Great War. The Armenians in 1915. And the extreme brutality shown by the Japanese in the Rape of Nanking in 1937. But I agree that many people did not believe the "cultured" nation of Goethe, and Beethoven could lower itself to those depths.

    3. Thanks for the follow up comment. There is also the terrible famine Stalin forced upon the Ukraine in the 1930's in which millions died. It was so little known in the West at that time it had no real public impact.

      On "cultured" Germany I heard a speaker at a Rotary Conference talk about a conversation with a Holocaust survivor who was a teacher in which she was in tears saying there were German teachers involved. She asked how could teachers, educated people, be a part of the Holocaust?

  3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2634832/London-stockbroker-saved-hundreds-children-Nazis-given-highest-honour-Czech-Republic.html

    Sir Nicholas Winton was 105 last week he definitely deserved a long life.

    1. Thank you for mentioning Sir Nicholas. I first heard of him because he is a Rotarian like myself and Sharon. Last year he was inducted into the Rotarian Peace Hall of Fame.

      When I saw the BBC program and realized with Sir Nicholas that everyone in the audience had survived because of Sir Nicholas I shared a tear with him.

      What a fine motto .... "If it's not impossible I will ...."

  4. Bill and Kathy - Thanks for sharing your correspondence. And thank you for reminding us all that there are good people who are willing to take risks to stop evil. Those stories are inspirational. They serve among other things to help us remember how much it is possible to achieve if one chooses to.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I hope the examples inspire us to be better.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I did see the comments at the original post, but this makes it easier to find and remember. This topic is very interesting to me.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed the exchange of comments.

  6. It's good that you posted all of this discussion. I'll have to bookmark it or print it out to remember all of this. And this is what we know; there are hundreds more stories which we do not know, probably thousands, of acts of bravery, risk-taking, kindness all over Europe. And in Asia, too.

    I was reminded of the deaths in Asia when I read a U.S. website about the casualties in WWII. The list mentioned that 20 million died in China, then more in Korea, the Philippines. We in the West often don't include Asia in discussing this topic, but it happened there, too.

    Discussing what happened inside Germany in the 1930s is an enormous topic. There was much opposition to the Nazis, but it wasn't armed resistance then that I have heard about. But there were clues, as the arrests of hundreds of democratically elected parliamentarians after the Reichstag fire. The Nazis aggressively went after those opposed them.

    Anyway, it's important to look at the heroes, known and unknown who stood up and put humanity first and risked their own lives to do the principled thing.

    Now we can all worry about the moving ahead of ultra-right parties in Europe, as is evidenced by the elections there. This is grounds for great concern and action. I hope that Europeans take action and remember the past.

  7. Also, to note that the Wikipedia entry on the Dutch Resistance says that 300,000 people were hidden and fed by tens of thousands of brave people.

    And after the first deportations of Jewish people, a general strike was organized, where workers in factories in seven cities went out on strike. Of course, the murderous Nazis started shooting demonstrators, but this showed people began resisting quickly in 1941.

    That Wikipedia entry also mentions heroes in the Resistance, many unknown names. A few are known to me, including the leader of the operation that burned down the Amsterdam population registration center. Although the participants paid with their lives, many people were saved.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the further comments. I was glad to hear from you.

      Having traveled in Germany on 4 trips and having had a son live there for a year it is a worrisome surprise that this nation of fine, cultured and friendly people could produce the Nazi regime. I have been left wondering if such evil lurks in other nations.

      I recall Leon Jaworski, the Watergate prosecutor, being uneasy about how far America would go because of experiences he had as a lawyer in WW II.

      I must hope the First World democracies would not descend to such savagery yet I feel uneasy when nations start thinking of groups of people as "them". When we stereotype based on colour and ethnicity we are on a dangerous journey.

  8. Well, I could bring up the horrific Vietnam war which killed 58,000 U.S. GIs and 3 million or so Vietnamese, defoliated land by Agent Orange, caused cancers and birth defects, which continue up to today. And along with that was a lot of bigotry here towards Vietnamese and other Asian peoples.

    And we could mention the Iraq war which displaced millions, created untold numbers of orphans and widows, devastated a country, which is still in horrendous shape without services, water, where bombing goes on continually.

    And when that began there was so much anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry whipped up that many Arabs and Muslims and even South Asians in the U.S. were beaten.

    War is not a time for fairness or kindness or fraternal feelings to be encouraged.

  9. Kathy D.: Thank you reminding me of the horrors of contemporary wars involving America.

    I believe both the Vietnam war and the second Iraq war will long be regretted by American citizens.

  10. I hope that's true. And I hope it's not only people who were against those wars and the draft, but that it goes way beyond those numbers and seeps into the consciences of millions of people.

    But now are the drones being sent hither, thither and yon. Innocent people are being killed.