Another Saturday at the Friends of the Library

Another glorious day in Southern California, just perfect for a trip to the Friends of the Library bookstore at our friendly neighborhood public library. Little did we know that a local history buff had recently unloaded his heavily laden shelves of near perfect tomes on WW2 and related issues. We really outdid ourselves today, and have laden our own shelves with the following gems:

"Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943" by Antony Beevor

"The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912" by Thomas Pakenham

"The Pity of War: Explaining World War I" by Niall Ferguson

"Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

"The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War" by Martin Gilbert

"Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew" by Richard Breitman

"The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War" by William Manchester

This is heavy stuff indeed, but (after we plow through the many other unopened books sitting on our shelves) we are anxious to dig in. Last year, we read "Les Bienveillantes" by Jonathan Littell. It is a book written in French by an American, recounting WWII from the perspective of one man on the "inside". It is probably the first book written in French by an American to win the prestigious "Grand Prix du Roman" of the Académie Française. In it, Jonathan Littell lets us relive the horrors of the Second World War from the point of view of an SS officer: the epic of a man propelled by the struggle within himself and by events beyond his control. Among the challenges he faces is the Russian Front in winter 1942-1943, struggling to survive and to come to terms with his conscience.

The same period is the subject of "Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943". The jacket cover gives us a glimpse of what awaits us inside:

"On August 23, 1942, Hitler's 16th Panzer Division halted on the banks of the Volga. To their [sic] right, the city of Stalingrad blazed from the first of General von Richthofen's air raids, which ultimately killed 40,000 civilians. Many German soldiers thought the war against Russia was won. But in Stalin's namesake city on the Volga, Hitler had chosen the wrong target. The battle of Stalingrad would be the most pitiless, and perhaps the most important, battle in history. When the fighting was over, the world would begin to believe for the first time that Hitler could be defeated. The story of Stalingrad is extraordinary in every way. Hitler had told General Paulus that with his Sixth Army, the most powerful in the Wehrmacht, he could 'storm the heavens.' But then, in a sudden encirclement, over a quarter of a million of Paulus's men were trapped. Far from home, the attackers were subjected to a terrible siege in a cruel Russian winter, as Goering's boasts that the Luftwaffe could maintain supplies proved empty. Hitler, unable to face the truth of his own disaster, refused his starved and frozen army permission to surrender. Goebbels ordered that their last letters home be destroyed".

We have many pages to go before can begin cracking these, but have much to look forward to. Much to which to look forward? Argghh!


Gosh - we forgot we also picked up "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang (Author), Jon Halliday in hardcover. We're reading "Monsieur Le Consul" by Lucien Bodard right now. It is a fictionalized account of the author's actual youth in China, as the son of the French Consul General to China in the early 20th Century, before the Cultural Revolution. The China depicted is filthy, violent, almost feudal, with warring factions led by "Seigneurs de la Guerre" (war lords) abusing their power for personal and political gain. Our interest has been so piqued by Bodard's stories, that we are feeling pulled in the direction of reading "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang (Author), Jon Halliday before we jump back into Europe. Merveilleux!

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