Category Archives: History

Review: Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

Born SurvivorsI don’t remember how or where I first learned about BORN SURVIVORS, but I knew I had to read it. Though I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, the Holocaust is something that draws me. Perhaps because of my Jewish heritage, perhaps because I have Jewish great-uncles who fought in WWII, perhaps it’s because I’ve been to Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory in Krakow, Poland, and toured the Holocaust memorial now housed on that site, and more recently toured the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Florida. Perhaps it’s simply because – despite my cynicism – I’m a compassionate human being, who, like so many others, is horrifically fascinated by the evil things humans can do to one another out of fear and ignorance. Perhaps it’s to learn the lessons of the past and do what I can to be sure they’re not repeated in my own lifetime.

Whatever the reason, I was happy to see several ARCs being offered in a Goodreads Giveaway, and gratified to read the email a few weeks later notifying me that I was one of the winners. The moment the ARC arrived in my mailbox, I devoured it. It took me only 3 days to read this book. And it touched me deeply.

The grace and compassion with which Wendy Holden tells the individual stories of these three young, expectant mothers, strangers to one another, interweaving them when they – unknowingly – come to be held in the same camp – is heart-wrenching and emotional. From their lives prior to the war, through the early days of their marriages, to discovering their pregnancies at almost the same time they’re taken from their respective Ghettos to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, and forced to suffer the terrifying scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele – each praying he won’t discover her pregnancy – then being sent to the same German slave-labor camp where they struggle to conceal their condition while being almost worked to death and half-starved. Their hellish journey culminating in a 17-day train ride with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.

Reading about the endurance of these women, all who lived with the hope they would see their beloved husbands again, and give birth to the longed-for children who nestled secretly in their wombs – one marvels anew at the strength of the human will, and the courage and kindness of strangers, which helped save these women and their children.

Sixty-five years after their rescue along with their mothers, the three children – Mark, Hana, and Eva – born from the debris of their mothers’ broken bodies and shattered lives, met at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the American liberation. In BORN SURVIVORS, Wendy Holden brings these three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the end of the war. Forever will Rachel, Priska and Anka be memorialized within the pages of this book.

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Filed under Book Review, History, Life, Literature, Survivors, Writing

99 Cent Book Blast

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One, Two, Buckle My Shoe…

I’m a boot snob.
I love boots. Warm weather, cold weather, or any temperature in between, I’m all about boots. BUT. I don’t like them to have zippers. I own one pair of over-the-knee boots that have zippers. I blame my sister-in-law; she complimented the way they looked when I tried them on at her urging. So I gave in to peer pressure and bought them. I do wear them, but not very often. All the rest of my dozen or so pairs of boots are either lace or pull-on. Yes, even the calf-high and knee-high pairs.
See, here’s the thing: zippers have been in existence for less than 200 years, and boots have been around for millennia (yes, I did my research 😉 ). So how were boots worn BEFORE the zipper was invented? They were either buckled, laced, or hook-and-eyed (also a more “modern” invention, but still older than the zipper), or simply pull-on with no closure (such as traditional riding boots). Wearing zippered boots is a bit like cheating, in my opinion.
My preference might have something to do with the fact that I love ancient/medieval/Renaissance/etc. history more than I do modern history. Buckles, laces and pull-on boots fit into just about any period. Zippers will instantly pull you back into late 19th century, at the earliest. And yes, I also prefer clothing without zippers – some of those things are sewn into the most inconvenient places; my arm neither reaches all the way up my back underhanded, nor all the way down my back overhanded. And God forbid the zipper get stuck halfway up or down your back!
Where was I?
Oh, yes.

All the pretty buckles! Image from

While I enjoy the convenience of a zipper in some types/styles of clothing, I prefer my boots to be “old-school.” Using a zipper to close your boots is just lazy. And zippers break/jam/pinch your skin far more often than do buckles or laces. Then where does THAT leave you? With a pair of boots you might’ve paid good money for that you can no longer wear because the zipper is no longer functional. Of course, you can have the zipper replaced or repaired, but that also costs money. Laces can be replaced rather inexpensively, and buckles are much more durable than zippers.
Buckles and laces can be decorative as well as functional. Don’t know as I’ve ever seen a decorative zipper. Have you? And laces can be switched out at will; anything from traditional leather to actual lace, in most any color and style. Buttons can also be eye-catching fasteners, especially if they’re hook-and-eye. I know, I know, buckles, laces, and hook-and-eye take much more time to fasten than do zippers. Which leads to my next question: Why do you wear boots? For functionality, for style, for comfort? Why can’t it be for all these reasons? For myself, it’s all of the above. And NONE of those reasons includes the need for zippers.

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Filed under Blogging, Boots, Footwear, History, Musings, Research, Stuff