Book Review: Les Parisiennes — by Anne Sebba

Les Parisiennes —– by Anne Sebba (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, UK/St. Martin’s Press, NY, 2016) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]

What is it that Rick (played by Humphrey Bogart) says in the movie Casablanca when Ilsa (played by Ingrid Bergman) asks if he remembers Paris?

Rick says, “I remember every detail. You wore blue; the Germans wore grey.”

Those lines were spoken in a movie about a memorable time in the history of Paris, the City of Light, which was very much a city of women during 1940—1944, when Paris was occupied by the German army.

Anne Sebba has written a remarkable book, Les Parisiennes, describing Paris and the lives of its women during that dark period, les Années Noires.

So many Frenchmen had been captured or were fighting overseas or were forced to work in factories, far from home. To a large part, it was left to the women to face the conquerors. Increasingly desperate for food, the women of Paris, whether wealthy or poor, became engaged in the everyday struggle to survive.

Sensitive as well as thorough, Les Parisiennes records the details of the world of women in wartime Paris, from Elizabeth Arden’s paint-on stockings to the cost of a packet of cigarettes, from French traitors to heroines, such as Odette, and let’s not forget the German women of Paris, the Blitzweiben—so-called ‘little Grey Mice’—who were posted to the city and saw Paris from the eyes of the foreign tourist. Neither does Anne Sebba forget the brave Frenchwomen who perished, nor those who were deported and endured the hell of concentration camps, like Ravensbrück.

Posted in Book review | Tagged , | Comments Off on Book Review: Les Parisiennes — by Anne Sebba

Book Review: March Violets — by Philip Kerr

March Violets (A Bernie Gunther book) — by Philip Kerr (Penguin, 1989) [Photograph by Edith-Mary Smith]

After the success of the Nazis in the election of 5 March 1933, swarms of Germans scrambled to jump onto the bandwagon by joining the Nazi Party. Such latecomers were termed ‘March Violets’ by the old-time Nazis.

March Violets is the title of the first book in the trilogy Berlin Noir, written by British author Philip Kerr. The trilogy represents the beginning of a long series of novels featuring Kerr’s famous protagonist, Bernie Gunther.

The chances are that you already know Bernie very well. If not, you are in for a treat.

Bernie is a some-time private eye and a some-time detective on the Berlin police force. In March Violets, the year is 1936 and Bernie is hired by a wealthy German industrialist to investigate his daughter’s death: shot in her bed with her husband; her diamonds have disappeared.

Posted in Book review | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Book Review: March Violets — by Philip Kerr

This week in the War, 27 Aug–2 Sept 1945: Japan signs the instrument of surrender

Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signs the instrument of surrender on board the USS Missouri, 2 September 1945 [Public domain, wiki]

This week in the war, on 2 September 1945, Japanese foreign minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signed the instrument of surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay.

General Douglas MacArthur signed on behalf of the Allies. Representatives of many Allied nations attended, including General Philippe Leclerc of France and General Arthur Percival of Britain, the latter having only recently been released from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

Also anchored in Tokyo Bay was the British destroyer, HMS Whelp. Its first Lieutenant was Prince Philip of Greece who, in 1947, would marry Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen of England.

Posted in World War II | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on This week in the War, 27 Aug–2 Sept 1945: Japan signs the instrument of surrender

This week in the War, 20–26 August 1945: Ho Chi Minh stays in charge

Ho Chi Minh, standing between two American OSS officers, 1945 [Public domain, wiki]

This week in the war, 20 August 1945: As agreed at the Potsdam Conference, the Chinese forces of Chiang Kai-shek crossed into northern Vietnam (Indochina) to accept the surrender of the Japanese.

The Chinese left local control in the hands of the Vietnamese provisional government which was headquartered in Hanoi and led by Vietnamese nationalist, Ho Chi Minh.

The Potsdam Conference had assigned the southern part of the country to Allied Southeast Asia command and the British arrived in Saigon with the French, who moved to reestablish their control.

Thus Vietnam became divided.

Posted in World War II | Comments Off on This week in the War, 20–26 August 1945: Ho Chi Minh stays in charge

This week in the War, 13–19 August 1945: Hirohito broadcasts to the nation

The Japanese Imperial Family, 7 December 1941 [Public domain]

This week in the war, on 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito broadcast on the radio to the Japanese nation. His broadcast announced Japan’s acceptance of unconditional surrender to the Allies.

It was the first time that the Japanese People had heard the voice of their Emperor.

Late on the night before the broadcast, over a thousand troops attacked the Imperial Palace, hoping to prevent the transmission from taking place. They were eventually driven off and the recording of the Emperor’s speech was transmitted as intended.

Posted in World War II | Tagged | Comments Off on This week in the War, 13–19 August 1945: Hirohito broadcasts to the nation

This week in the War, 6–12 August 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

A schoolgirl rings the Hiroshima Peace Bell [Surgeonsmate, GNU Free Documentation License 1.2/wiki]

This week in the war, on 6 August and on 9 August 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The necessity of using the atomic bomb is still debated today.

Posted in World War II | Tagged , , | Comments Off on This week in the War, 6–12 August 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

This week in the War, 30 July–5 August 1945: King George and President Truman meet at Plymouth

President Harry S. Truman meets with King George VI aboard the USS Augusta off the coast of Plymouth, England, 2 August 1945 [Public domain]

This week in the war, off the coast of Plymouth, England, President Harry S. Truman, en route home from the Potsdam Conference aboard the USS Augusta, met with King George VI, who was on board the British battlecruiser HMS Renown.

The atomic bomb was a focus of discussion. At least one of Truman’s party, Admiral William Leahy, was sure that the power of the bomb had been exaggerated and remarked that it sounded like a ‘professor’s dream.’

Later, after he had become fully aware of the bomb’s destructive power, Leahy condemned the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as barbaric.

 

Posted in World War II | Tagged , , | Comments Off on This week in the War, 30 July–5 August 1945: King George and President Truman meet at Plymouth