World War II

  Louis Begley, best known for his masterful observations of life in New York City’s upper crust, made his thriller debut with Killer Come Hither.

That book told the story of former Marine Corps officer turned novelist and Yale Alum, Jack Dana. Now Begley continues Jack’s story in the sequel, Kill and Be Killed.

Ruta Sepetys - Salt to the Sea

Mar 21, 2016

At the end of World War II, the worst maritime accident in history took place off the coast of Germany. In the deliberate torpedoing of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff, nine-thousand people perished, leaving only one-thousand survivors - the ship was only built to carry less than 15-hundred passengers.

In her historical novel, Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys takes us to the end of the second world war, and brings us the stories of four refugees from Prussia, Poland, Lithuania and Germany as they flee their homes and families, and begin their long treks to freedom that only becomes more dangerous as they walk on.


  B. A. Shapiro brilliantly captured the world of art-theft and forgery in her critically acclaimed best-selling novel, The Art Forger.

Shapiro’s latest is The Muralist, a story about the birth of abstract-impressionism set against the backdrop of The Great Depression and the eve of World War II.

  In this week's Classical Music According to Yehuda, Alan Chartock and Yehuda Hanani continue their discussion about Igor Stravinsky, hearing his Symphony of Wind Instruments.

  During World War II, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during the war, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called “quiet passage.” Hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City were exchanged for other more ostensibly important Americans—diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, and missionaries—behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.

Jan Jarboe Russell writes about Crystal City in her book, The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II, now out in paperback.

  The devastation of Pearl Harbor and the American victory at Midway were prelude to a greater challenge: rolling back the vast Japanese Pacific Empire, island by island.

Historian Ian Toll’s new book, The Conquering Tide, encompasses the heart of the Pacific War—the period between mid-1942 and mid-1944.

  Julian Rose is only fifteen when he leaves his family and Germany for a new life in 1920s America. Lonely at first, he eventually finds his way—first by joining up with Longy Zwillman and becoming one of the preeminent bootleggers on the East Coast, and later by amassing a fortune in real estate.

Kendall Wakefield is a free-spirited college senior who longs to become a painter. Her mother, the daughter of a slave and founder of an African-American college in South Florida, is determined to find a suitable match for her only daughter.

One evening in 1938, Mrs. Wakefield hosts a dinner that reunites Julian with his parents—who have been rescued from Hitler’s Germany by the college—and brings him together with Kendall for the first time.

  Reeling from the Great Depression, the United States and Germany elected two new leaders of diametrically opposing ideologies. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency and Adolf Hitler became chancellor.

Author and historian David Pietrusza will discuss his new book - 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR–Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal, and Unlikely Destiny.

Listener Essay - Legacy

Dec 8, 2015

  Carole Owens is an author and historian. 

Legacy

Sunday morning, “December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.”

My grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. Sometime between 7:53 and 9:55 a.m., he was hit by shrapnel – nasty chunks of metal packed into bombs.

  

  At the Water’s Edge is a love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.

In the new novel from the author of the bestselling Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen demonstrates her talent for creating period pieces.

  London in April, 1940, was a place of great fear and conflict. Everyone was on edge; civilization itself seemed imperiled. The Germans are marching. They have taken Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, and Czechoslovakia. They now menace Britain. Should Britain negotiate with Germany?

The members of the War Cabinet bicker, yell, lose their control, and are divided. Churchill, leading the faction to fight, and Lord Halifax, cautioning that prudence is the way to survive, attempt to usurp one another by any means possible. Their country is on the line. And, in historian John Kelly’s new book: Never Surrender: Winston Churchill and Britain's Decision to Fight Nazi Germany in the Fateful Summer of 1940, he brings us alongside these complex and imperfect men, determining the fate of the British Empire.

John Kelly specializes in narrative history. He is the author of several books including: The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People.

  Michael “Misha” Gruenbaum enjoyed a carefree childhood playing games and taking walks through Prague with his beloved father. All of that changed forever when the Nazis invaded Prague. The Gruenbaum family was forced to move into the Jewish Ghetto in Prague. Then, after a devastating loss, Michael, his mother and sister were deported to the Terezín concentration camp.

At Terezin, Misha roomed with forty other boys who became like brothers to him. Life in Terezín was a bizarre, surreal balance—some days were filled with friendship and soccer matches, while others brought mortal terror as the boys waited to hear the names on each new list of who was being sent “to the East.”

Those trains were going to Auschwitz. When the day came that his family’s name appeared on a transport list, their survival called for a miracle—one that tied Michael’s fate to a carefully sewn teddy bear, and to his mother’s unshakeable determination to keep her children safe.

  Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania Law Professor and Theodore Roosevelt’s Great Great Grandson, combines the momentum of a top-notch legal thriller with a thoughtful examination of one of the worst civil rights violations in US history in Allegiance: A Novel.

The Roosevelt Library and Museum will present an author talk and book signing with Kermit Roosevelt at 7 o'clock tonight in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home.

  Alex Kershaw is an acclaimed WWII and best-selling historian.

His latest book - Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris - recounts the story of one family’s heroic efforts to defeat the evil in their midst.

  Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s Festival of Books, the annual extravaganza of all things literary, takes place over Labor Day weekend, September 4 through 7, 2015. The Festival features a giant used book sale, two days of readings and book signings by nationally known and local authors, and a children’s program.

One of this year's participating authors is Alex Kershaw. His new book (also featured on WAMC's The Book Show this week) Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris - recounts the story of one family’s heroic efforts to defeat the evil in their midst.

He will participate in the discussion "Heroes and Spies, Real and Imagined" at the Festival of Books on Saturday afternoon at 1:30.

  In 1944, hundreds of Allied soldiers were trapped in prisoner-of-war camps in occupied France, fighting brutal conditions and unsympathetic captors. The odds of their survival were long. The odds of escaping, even longer.

But one man had the courage to fight the odds. In Behind Nazi Lines: My Father’s Heroic Quest To Save 149 World War II Pow’s, Andrew Hodges tells the true story of his father’s brave mission behind enemy lines to negotiate the safety of prisoners.

Dr. Andrew Hodges Jr. is the firstborn son of World War II hero Andrew Gerow Hodges. He is a psychiatrist in private practice and has served as assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. Dr. Hodges has helped pioneer a breakthrough to the brilliant unconscious mind, which he explained in his groundbreaking book, The Deeper Intelligence.

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The remains of a World War II fighter pilot identified 70 years after he died in the Pacific have arrived in upstate New York for burial.

  In his new book, Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Internment in World War II, bestselling author Richard Reeves provides an authoritative account of the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese aliens during World War II.

Listener Essay - Elisabeth And The Three Or More Bears

Jul 10, 2015

  Elisabeth Grace is a semi-retired Clinical Social Worker, writer, birder and gardener who has lived in the United States since 1972, but who has deep roots in England and Scotland. She now shares her home in Columbia County with Molly, a polite, blue-eyed cat.

  Historian Jonathan Schneer joins us to talk about his new book on Winston Churchill and the politics of the Second World War, Ministers at War.

Schneer says while Churchill’s most notable contribution was to rally his embattled country behind the war effort, he highlights yet another major achievement: the putting together and managing of the domestic coalition that allowed Britain to mobilize all of its resources for war.

The team he put together was extremely talented, but they were also ambitious, self-confident, and opinionated.

    On June 14, 1940, German tanks entered a silent and nearly deserted Paris. Eight days later, France accepted a humiliating defeat and foreign occupation. Subsequently, an eerie sense of normalcy settled over the City of Light. Many Parisians keenly adapted themselves to the situation-even allied themselves with their Nazi overlords. At the same time, amidst this darkening gloom of German ruthlessness, shortages, and curfews, a resistance arose. Parisians of all stripes-Jews, immigrants, adolescents, communists, rightists, cultural icons such as Colette, de Beauvoir, Camus and Sartre, as well as police officers, teachers, students, and store owners-rallied around a little known French military officer, Charles de Gaulle.

Ronald C. Rosbottom writes about this time in his new book, When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944.

  The play, Life in a Jar tells the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker, who assisted in hiding over 2,000 Jewish children who had been living in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

While the play dramatizes Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto during the war; it relays, as importantly, the heroic story of the 'righteous gentiles' who put their lives and that of their families at grave risk to save others by forging documents and hiding and placing Jewish children in convents and Polish homes

The impact of the Irena Sendler Project are many, including the book - Life in a Jar by Jack Mayer who will be attending two performances at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs and will take part in the Q and A following the play.

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  This month, the Toledo Museum of Art debuts the first exhibition that focuses solely on the wondrous artist books and works on paper by renowned German-born artist Werner Pfeiffer. Nearly 200 one-of-a-kind and limited edition artist books, dimensional prints, collages and experimental works will be shown in Drawn, Cut & Layered: The Art of Werner Pfeiffer. Some of the works will be seen publicly for the first time.

  Why are we mentioning an exhibition at a museum in Ohio, you ask? Because Werner Pfeiffer is a resident of Red Hook and we couldn’t let those Toledo-ans have all the fun.

Pfeiffer's interest in paper and books was born of his early years in Germany during and after World War II, when paper was limited and books were censored. The artist joins us to talk about his work and career.

  In Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history, a book about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified.

In his new book, Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and The Second World War, he achieves something larger and even more remarkable, giving us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.

    When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war.

Molly Guptill Manning joins us to talk about her book, When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II.

    The film, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie opened last week. It is based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand. We spoke with her about the book and its subject, World War II hero, Louis Zamperini, when the book came out in 2010.

    In August 1939, curators at the Louvre nestled the world's most famous painting into a special red-velvet-lined case and spirited her away to the Loire Valley. Thus began the biggest evacuation of art and antiquities in history. As the Germans neared Paris in 1940, the French raced to move the masterpieces still further south, then again and again during the war, crisscrossing the southwest of France. At times Mona Lisa slept at the bedside of curators who were painfully aware of their heavy responsibility.

    When Lions Roar begins in the mid-1930s at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country estate, with new revelations surrounding a secret business deal orchestrated by Joseph P. Kennedy, the soon-to-be American ambassador to Great Britain and the father of future American president John F. Kennedy. From London to America, these two powerful families shared an ever-widening circle of friends, lovers, and political associates – soon shattered by World War II, spying, sexual infidelity, and the tragic deaths of JFK's sister Kathleen and his older brother Joe Jr. By the 1960s and JFK's presidency, the Churchills and the Kennedys had overcome their bitter differences and helped to define the “greatness” in each other.

Acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier tells this dynastic saga through fathers and their sons – and the remarkable women in their lives – providing keen insight into the Churchill and Kennedy families and the profound forces of duty, loyalty, courage and ambition that shaped them.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

As they did in many cities across the region, people lined the streets of New York's capital today for the 59th annual Veterans Day Parade.  Albany's parade stepped off at the corner of Central Avenue and Partridge Street at 11 a.m. Marchers proceeded down Central Avenue past a reviewing stand on the steps of the old NYS Education Building.    

Listener Essay - And Also Our Thanks

Nov 11, 2014

  And Also Our Thanks

One Sunday in Paris with my friends Garry and Martine, we searched for the remains of the old Bastille. What’s left of this fortress today is a few foundation stones, forming an outline of the building in Paris’s cobbled streets. Despite connotations of revolution and war, the Bastille really isn’t all that big.

In no time we had rounded the block to find ourselves in front of a pharmacy. I quickly went in to buy something. I walked out to find my friends talking with an older gentleman on his way to the market. As I was introduced, he asked if I was an American.

“Je suis Américain” I replied in my cobbled-together French.

Then he thanked me for saving France.

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