Monthly Archives: April 2010

Holocaust Recollections by American Soldiers

“The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust,” by Michael Hirsh. Bantam Books. 356 pages. $27.00.

The great body of witness testimony to the Holocaust is survivor testimony. It has a relatively long history in print, and it will always be central to our understanding of both the monstrous and the courageous in human nature. It has, quite rightly, been given a privileged position, even while Holocaust deniers somehow manage to construe it as fabrication or delusion. As the generation of those who escaped or survived the Holocaust vanishes, and as their voices are stilled, other kinds of evidence and testimony need to be encouraged and enshrined in collective memory. Michael Hirsh’s “The Liberators” performs an important part of this task by presenting, at a distance of 65 years, the memories of those once-young Americans who liberated the Nazi death camps.

Mr. Hirsh, a Punta Gorda resident, sought out and interviewed over 150 U. S. veterans, including nurses and ambulance drivers, who came upon the immense collection of atrocities during the spring of 1945. His plan is essentially chronological, following U. S. forces through April and early May as they took control of one camp, and then another, and then another – until they had put an end to the Nazi death machine.

The author sketches the early life of each liberator and provides details about each individual’s entrance into military service, unit assignments, and combat experiences (as appropriate) before becoming part of the liberation effort.

The large majority of these liberator-witnesses were not prepared for what they encountered: the astounding piles of human remains, the methodologies and instruments of annihilation, the horrifying sight of barely living survivors – maltreated, malnourished, and almost insanely grateful. Indeed, without the Allied march to victory, the liberation would not have happened, and countless more of those herded together for extinction would have met that fate.

 These young Americans were strongly affected by what they discovered . . . 

To read this review in its entirety, as published in the Naples and Charlotte editions of Florida Weekly for April 22-28, 2010, click here:Florida Weekly – Michael Hirsh. The review also appears in the April 21-27 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly.

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The Moral Compass of Robert Macomber’s Maritime Fiction

“The Darkest Shade of Honor,” by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 416 pages. $21.95.

Making history come alive is Robert N. Macomber’s talent and passion. In this, the eighth title in his “Honor Series,” the action is set in 1886. Mr. Macomber places Commander Peter Wake, assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, in a most intriguing situation. Along with his long-time aide and friend, Boatswain’s Mate Sean Rork, he is asked to investigate rumors of Cuban revolutionary activities within the United States. Set in motion by a mysterious message, a meeting with the young, confident Theodore Roosevelt, and another with visionary journalist-poet José Martí, Wake and Rork find themselves in deadly danger during their clandestine fact-finding mission to Key West and coastal Southwest Florida. “The Darkest Shade of Honor” tests all of Wake’s skills and convictions. 

If there is a movement afoot to free Cuba from Spanish rule, one might expect that Spanish forces are at work to thwart it. And, if rebel supplies are coming from the United States, one might expect Spanish agents to be at work in the U. S. to cut off the supply lines. Wake must collect information secretly, without taking sides, and without doing anything to jeopardize U. S. relations with Spain or embarrassing Spain in any way.  Soon enough, protagonists and readers realize that this is truly a mission impossible, especially when they encounter the diabolical Spanish officer Boreau, who is determined to end Wake’s life.

To read this review in its entirety, see the April 15-21, 2010 issue of the Florida Weekly (Charlotte edition):  Florida Weekly (Charlotte) – Robert Macomber| It also appears in the Naples edition for the same date and the Fort Myers edition for May 5-11.

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Dorothy Mills Throws Strikes in Book on Baseball History

“Chasing Baseball,” by Dorothy Seymour Mills. McFarland. 258 pages. $39.95.

Naples resident Dorothy Mills has had a distinguished career as a writer of children’s books and historical novels. Until recently, her career as a trailblazer in the field of baseball history was relatively unknown. Her biography, “A Woman’s Work: Writing Baseball History with Harold Seymour”(2004), allowed her to step out of the shadows and gain recognition as her first husband’s partner in the momentous three-volume history of baseball published by Oxford University Press.  Her new book, “Chasing Baseball: Our Obsession with Its History, Numbers, People, and Places,” presents not only a wide array of information about the national pastime, but also the author’s views on the relationship between baseball and American values.

“Chasing Baseball” is two books in one. Part One, “A Manly Pursuit,” examines the values of the game as a reflection of national character understood as manly traits. Also in this section, Mrs. Mills details the contrast between what she labels “The Amateur Spirit,” in which participation derives from a true love of the sport, and the business of professional baseball, in which those essential values – over the many decades of growth – have been compromised if not obliterated. When the dollar rules, fair play often does not. For the amateur, the joy of competing is everything, for the professional and certainly for the team owner, the bottom line – winning and its cash rewards – is what it’s all about.

Throughout her discussion, Dorothy Mills draws upon her vast learning and her story-telling skills, allowing readers to see and feel the broader, more abstract issues. Her book is at once friendly and philosophical, colorful and educational. Many myths about baseball are undermined, including the one about it being invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY.

To read this article in its entirety, as it appears in the April 1-7, 2010 issue of the Naples Florida Weekly, click hereFlorida Weekly – Chasing Baseball pdf

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Sanibel Author’s Guide to Paradise

“Living Sanibel: A Nature Guide to Sanibel and Captiva Islands,” by Charles Sobczak. Indigo Press. 498 pages. $26.95.

A lavishly produced coffee table book and an authoritative, user-friendly field guide, Charles Sobczak’s “Living Sanibel” is also a labor of love. Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Sobczak and his wife moved to his treasured island from the Midwest. He explored its soul – its inner nature – with his first title, the novel “Six Mornings on Sanibel” (1999). Now, six titles later, he has explored its body – its outer nature.

Although Mr. Sobczak apologizes for what he has had to leave out, he erred on the side of being utilitarian rather than encyclopedic. Who would want to carry three volumes around to become intimate with the flora and fauna of those delightful islands off the Lee County coast? This single volume manages to cover its subject generously and with passionate attention.

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 31-April 6 2010 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly, click on Florida Weekly – Charles Sobczak. This review appeared four weeks later in the Naples Florida Weekly. 

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