Tag Archives: Hitler

Marton’s Story is Love With Paris

NOTE:  I am aware that I have done a very poor job with these posts, especially concerning my views about advances in technology.  Those posts were highly misaligned with the books we have presented about technology, so I will not write about that subject anymore.  However, I will share some thoughts about some of the books that I have read recently in order to inspire some of you to consider reading them.

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Kati Marton

Kati Marton is a veteran ABC and NPR news correspondent.  She has written seven books, and I have two of them.  In this post, I will call your attention to her newest best-seller that I read over the holidays entitled Paris:  A Love Story (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2012).  Before all of you guys reading this think that book must be too “mushy,” it is actually less about loving people, and more about loving her experiences in the wonderful Parisian context.

You may remember the feelings that I expressed about David McCullough’s work in the same setting.  In 2011, he published The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2011), in which he shared experiences from politicians, artists, and other entrepreneurial Americans who visited, lived, and worked in Paris at the turn of the century.  The experiences were spellbinding, and he wrote the book so well that you wanted to jump out of your chair, get on an airplane, and wind back the clock to join them.  

Paris A Love Story Cover

There is something magical about Paris.  I was there once, but only for 36 hours, and as a member of a whirlwind tour party.  That is not how to see Paris.  In fact, that is not how to see anything.

But, Marton’s Paris is special, because it documents experiences with her two famous late husbands.  The first was Peter Jennings, ABC’s news anchor, who divorced her in 1993, and died in 2005.  The second was Richard Holbrooke, a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, and who at the time of his death, still married to Marton, was the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Holbrooke died in 2010.

Paris was an important place for both of these relationships, and in her book, you see it as both foreground and background to important events in her life, the lives of both men, and the troubles of America and the world.  While she loved both her husbands, the book also includes brutal honesty about her extramarital affairs while in both relationships.

Paris became Marton’s refuge.  After settling all the affairs of the estate, she writes, “I need to get away.  Paris seems the right place.  It is where Richard and I started our lives together and lived our happiest times.  But, well before that, it is where I became who I am.  In a life of multiple uprootings, Paris has been my one fixed point.  Once before I found happiness and beauty in Paris.  I was a young girl then, the child of political refugees who settled in America….Paris is the place where good things seem to happen to me.  In a way, every story with Paris at its heart is a love story.  So is mine.  It is where I fell in love, first with the city, then with the man who became the father of my children.  Then, in middle age, I found lasting love in Paris with Richard.  So, in Paris, I will relearn how to live” (pp. 32-33).

And, thus, the story ends with Marton celebrating Christmas with her family in Paris.  The final photo caption in the book reads, “the start of a new life, alone, in Paris.”

This book was so well done that I ordered a book she wrote in 2006, entitled The Great Escape:  Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World (New York:  Simon & Schuster).   The book is out of print, so I had to order a copy from a used book service.  The context is Budapest, Hungary.  The story has deep familial roots for Marton, as both her parents were Hungarian journalists for AP and UPI, and who were imprisoned during the war.  I have not yet finished this one.  I am reading it slowly to fully absorb the context and bravery that  jumps off every page.  When I finish, I want to share some insights that I am gaining from that book.

 

The Question We Should Never Forget to Ask

Perhaps rightfully so, we will never escape the horrible images created by the Nazi Holocaust.  We should not forget.

My favorite book about the subject was a chiller – Hitler’s Willing Executioners:  Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah (Vintage, 1996).   You can read my comments about that book on this site from a previous blog.

So, here comes another one for your list.  Late last year, Daniel Blatman wrote The Death Marches:  The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide (Harvard Press, 2010).   You can read an objective editorial review of this book entitled “Death Along the Way” by Timothy Snyder in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, January 8-9, 2011 (p. C6).

Somehow, I think we get comfortable with the idea that the Holocaust is simply history.  We believe it will never happen again.  We hope it, or anything like it, will never happen again.  That is true of other historical maladies, such as the Great Depression and the polio epedemic.

Snyder’s review posits a more important question that he gains from reading this book.  Toward the end of the war, the concentration camps were not killing facilities.  They were overwhelmed with prisoners evacuated from many sites, and those evacuations are classified as “death marches,” in which 250,000 people died during their marches, or upon reaching their destination.  Snyder says this:  “because the death marches do not fit our presumptions about genocide, his [Blatman’s] important book opens again the crucial question of the 20th century:  why we kill.” 

That remains a question many people have asked many times, and fewer people have tried to answer fewer times.  It is easier to ask than to seek an answer.  But until we answer, books like this make sure we never forget to ask:  why?

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it.

When Books Burned – A Lost Value

There is no doubt that your very presence in our blog qualifies you as a person who values books.  Perhaps that is doubly so for those who attend our First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas each month.  While some attend to network, some to eat, and some for a combination of reasons, I would guess that to learn the essence of best-selling books tops the list.

That being said, it is sobering to remember the events that took place on May 10, 1933, when representatives of the Nazi movement publicly burned books in a variety of locations.  In an attempt to crush the spirit of its opponents, many thousands of books found their fate in flames.   You can see a brief video and read some accounts of this at the web site sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Some historians note the event as largely symbolic, for there was little burned that was not available in other places.   And, these were primarily students, not soldiers, who activated the process.

I believe that this event was significant foreshadowing of events to come.  Remember that seasoned soldiers did not populate nor perpetuate the holocaust.  Rather, plain German citizens, some of whom were these book-burning students, kept it going.  For information about this, read the best-seller Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

And, if they burned books, really how far behind were cultures, treasures, and bodies? 

Quite a sad story!  Let’s talk about it.