Monthly Archives: July 2010

World War II Books

With each passing year interest in World War II continues to grow and so do the number of books published on that subject.  2010 and 2011 are no exceptions.  We’ve compiled a list of some of the more interesting books (recently published and forthcoming).  More to follow . . .


Sheila Isenberg, Muriel’s War:  An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance (Palgrave Macmillan, Dec. 2010)

Patrician K. O’Donnell, They Dared Return:  The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany (Da Capo, paperback, Nov. 2010)

Greg Robinson, A Tragedy of Democracy:  Japanese Confinement in North America (Columbia UP, Nov. 2010)

Roger Moorhouse, Berlin at War (Basic, Oct. 2010)

David Faber, Munich, 1938:  Appeasement and World War II (Simon and Schuster, Sept 2010)

John W. Dower, Cultures of War:  Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/ 9-11/ Iraq (W.W. Norton, Sept. 2010)

Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War:  The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (Basic, August 2010)

Peter Schrijvers, Bloody Pacific:  American Soldiers at War With Japan(Palgrave Macmillan, August 2010, 2nd edition)

Catherine Epstein, Model Nazi:  Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland (Oxford UP, July 2010)

Frans Coetzee & Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee, The World in Flames:  A World War II Sourcebook (Oxford UP, March 2010)


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Winston Churchill’s Dentures Auctioned Off

That’s right.  Sir Winston’s false teeth were sold at auction for more than $23,000. It seems that any kind of Churchillabilia has a buyer. Here’s the full story from CNN, July 29, 2010, by Simon Hooper:

A pair of false teeth worn by Winston Churchill have sold at auction for more than $23,000 — on the same day that plans were announced to put the British wartime leader’s archive papers online for the first time.

Churchill, famous for his rousing speeches during World War II, had several sets of the partial upper dentures specially constructed to hide his natural lisp and accentuate his signature slurred diction.

According to documents held by the Royal College of Surgeons, the former prime minister “lived in fear of losing his false teeth” and would always have a spare set to hand, entrusted to his private secretary, Andrew Bullock of Keys auction house in Aylsham, eastern England, told CNN.

The set which sold for £15,200 ($23,700) on Thursday — more than three times its expected price — was put up for sale by Nigel Cudlipp, the son of the dental technician who made them, Derek Cudlipp.

“According to Nigel Cudlipp, his father said he could always tell how the war was going from the distance Winston hurled the teeth,” said Bullock. “They were prone to breaking, especially when Churchill got a bit angry.”

Bullock said Churchill suffered from poor teeth and gums from childhood and had complicated dentistry requirements. He later nominated his dentist for a knighthood.

The auction of memorabilia took place as details of plans to make one million pages of Churchill-themed archive material — described by Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert as an “Aladdin’s Cave of historical riches” — available on the Web for the first time from 2012.

The Churchill Archives Centre, at Churchill College, Cambridge, is open to the public, but archive director Allen Packwood said the online resource — a collaboration between Bloomsbury Publishing, the Sir Winston Churchill Archive Trust and Churchill Heritage Ltd. — would take the collection into homes and classrooms.

Appropriately, Packwood told CNN, the collection includes letters from Churchill to his dentist, Eric Fish, including one written in 1936 complaining that his ill-fitting dentures were affecting his sense of taste.

“It is just amazing,” Packwood said of the auction. “It does just show the huge continued interest in the man, and the great thing about what we are doing is that once this material is online it will be available to everyone to search through.”

The collection also includes correspondence between Churchill and three American presidents; Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower; and state papers, private letters and photos dating from his 19th-century school days until his death in 1965.

“What this archive does is strip away layers of hindsight and it actually reveals how little the people of the time knew about what was going on around them,” said Packwood.

“One very good example is a wonderful letter from President Truman to Churchill within a couple of years of the end of the Second World War.

“Truman says to Churchill, ‘I’m having trouble with our Russian friends. Then I remember Hitler. He had no heart at all. I believe Joe Stalin has one but the Politburo won’t let him use it.’ It shows you how little the American president or even Winston Churchill really understood about what was going on in Russia at the time.”

Publisher Frances Pinter, of Bloomsbury Academic, said putting the archive online was a “fantastic opportunity.” She said access to the archive would be modestly priced to attract the widest possible readership.

“It will have an impact on education, research and our understanding of 20th century history for a long time to come,” Pinter told CNN.

“The thing that we are looking forward to is all the things that people haven’t thought of doing with the archive yet. For example, you can see school children in America or England doing collaborative research projects or having competitions to see what they can find, which wouldn’t have been conceivable before.”

Meanwhile, auctioneer Bullock said the market for Churchill memorabilia showed no sign of exhaustion. In the last two years, Keys has sold a silver butter dish used by Churchill as an ashtray and a half-smoked cigar for more than $6,200 each.

“We have sold a lot of Churchill items recently,” he said. “But I have never, or ever will, handle something which has had so much interest or publicity. It’s been absolutely incredible.”

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Previously Private FDR Letters Unveiled at National Archive

Story from the Washington Post, July 29, 2010, written by Michael Ruane

The letter is marked “personal and private” and is addressed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary, Grace Tully, who was with the ailing chief executive in Warm Springs, Ga., that Thursday in 1945.

The writer was Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, who decades before had been FDR’s mistress and who now was making arrangements for what would be their last fateful meeting at the president’s rural retreat.

Elegantly handwritten, the letter never mentions Roosevelt by name — her love letters to him had been their undoing a quarter-century earlier. He is just “the subject,” or “the ‘B,’ ” for boss. But the arrangements worked out, and a week later the two former lovers were together again on the day he died.

The letter is part of a newly acquired trove of 5,000 pages of Roosevelt documents that the National Archives said Wednesday should be a feast for historians of the president who led the nation through the Depression and most of World War II. AYouTube video by the National Archives details some of the letters and the story behind the acquisition of the trove.

The 12 boxes of material had been in private hands and never available to scholars or the general public, said Bob Clark, supervisory archivist at the National Archives’ Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

They were saved from the auction block by special federal legislation this year that cleared the way for their donation to the National Archives, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, the New York Democrats who co-sponsored the measure.

Archivists hope to have the collection publicly available by November and online by January.

“Wow,” said historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of “No Ordinary Time,” a chronicle of the Roosevelts during the war. “This stuff sounds like it’s going to be very exciting. You very rarely get a whole new trove of material. . . . It’s pretty great.”

The documents come from FDR’s intimate professional inner circle: his two chief secretaries, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand and her successor, Grace Tully. Both women were virtually part of his family, Goodwin said.

And judging by the sample of nine documents unveiled at the National Archives on Wednesday, the material has a smoky, behind-the-scenes feel as if fresh from the president’s desk.

Clark said they include the private papers of Tully and LeHand as well as many of Roosevelt’s papers, which Tully took with her when she left the White House after FDR suffered a massive stroke in Warm Springs and died April 12, 1945.

LeHand, who historians think may have been secretly in love with FDR, worked for Roosevelt from 1920 until 1941.

Tully took the president’s dictation for his famous Pearl Harbor speech. “Miss Tully had been with Roosevelt since his days as governor of New York,” said David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States. “And many of his most sensitive letters, instructions, notes and even scribblings passed through her hands.”

“Roosevelt did not keep a diary, did not sit for extensive interviews with historians, and did not live to write his memoirs,” Ferriero added.

Much of his story is revealed in the kind of day-to-day interactions recorded in the papers of Tully and LeHand — a chatty letter to Tully in Roosevelt’s handwriting from a wartime conference in Cairo; a memo urging the promotion of then-Army Col. George C. Marshall to general; a cordial, handwritten note in English from the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Among the most interesting items is the April 5, 1945, letter by Rutherfurd. She and Roosevelt had a brief affair after she was hired as his wife’s social secretary in 1914, scholars think. The affair was discovered in 1918 when Eleanor Roosevelt found a bundle of Rutherfurd’s love letters in her husband’s steamer trunk.

The relationship ended. Rutherfurd married, and she and the president seldom saw each other over the next 25 years, scholars say. But by the 1940s, the affair had secretly been rekindled. Rutherfurd apparently began visiting the White House, under the code name Mrs. Paul Johnson, Goodwin has written.

In April 1945, Rutherfurd arranged for herself and an artist friend to visit FDR in Warm Springs, where the artist would paint the president’s portrait. In the letter to Tully, Rutherfurd explains the details, asking, “will you ask the ‘B’ if that meets with his approval?”

“If you change your mind and think it would be better for me not to come — call me up,” Rutherfurd wrote. “I really am terribly worried — as I imagine you all are.”

Roosevelt, though only 63, was in extremely poor health, appearing gaunt and exhausted in photographs at the time.

Rutherfurd’s concern was not misplaced. Seven days later, as the president chatted with her and the artist worked on his portrait, he collapsed. Rutherfurd quickly departed. FDR died about three hours later. And the story of their romance stayed largely a secret until a former aide’s memoir in 1966.

The letter sheds another bit of light on the episode, Ferriero said.

“What we’re really excited about is being able to open these materials to historians for the first time since they were created 75 years ago or more,” said Clark, of the Roosevelt library. “And allow them to . . . see whether or not it impacts the modern view of FDR and his presidency.”

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WWII Warsaw Ghetto Photos

On October 12, 1940, the Nazi authorities of occupied Warsaw, Poland, forced the Jews to live in a specific area of Warsaw that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto.  A wall ten feet high was erected to prevent the Jews from leaving the 1.3 square mile area and having contact with any non-Jews. Living in squalid conditions with little to eat and little hope of escaping, a group of Jews within the ghetto’s walls planned an uprising. From April 1943 until May 1943 Jews offered armed resistance.  Unfortunately, they were no match for the overwhelming military superiority of the German forces.  On May 16, 1943, their resistance ended.  For a more thorough history of the uprising, please see:

Today, rare photos were released of the devastated Warsaw Ghetto.  Those can be found at  along with the complete story.

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WWII Warsaw Ghetto Destruction Photos

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Nazi Death Camp Guard Arrested

Kirsten Grieshaber, “Nazi suspect indicted in Germany” July 28, 2010

A suspected former Nazi death camp guard has been charged with participating in the murder of 430,000 Jews and other crimes during the Third Reich, German prosecutors said Wednesday.

Samuel Kunz, 88, was informed last week of his indictment on charges including participation in the murder of 430,000 Jews at the Belzec death camp in occupied Poland, where he allegedly served as a guard from January 1942 to July 1943, prosecutor Christoph Goeke in Dortmund said.

Kunz is also charged with murder over “personal excesses” in which he allegedly shot a total of 10 Jews in two other incidents, Goeke told The Associated Press.

Kunz, who is No. 3 on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi suspects, lives near the western German city of Bonn. When reached by phone, he said he did not want to talk about the allegations and hung up.

Kunz was not detained because officials who interviewed him think that he will not try to flee the country, a person familiar with the case said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal details of the investigation

Goeke said the case has been sent to the state court in Bonn, where officials were considering whether and when to hold a trial — a standard procedural step in Germany.

Bonn court spokesman Matthias Nordmeyer said the court did not want to comment now on the case.

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Kunz participated in the so-called Operation Reinhard to eliminate Polish Jewry.

“The indictment of Samuel Kunz is a very positive development,” Zuroff told AP from Jerusalem. “It reflects recent changes in the German prosecution policy, which have significantly enlarged the number of suspects who will be brought to justice.”

Zuroff said Kunz had never previously been on trial over his alleged Nazi-era past and that his name first came up in investigations connected to the trial of John Demjanjuk.

Demjanjuk, 90, is currently on trial in Munich on charges of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies he was ever a camp guard.

Prosecutors allege that both Kunz and the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker who was deported to Germany from the U.S. last year, trained as guards at the Trawniki SS camp.

Kunz, an ethnic German, was born in August 1921 on Russia’s Volga River.

During World War II, as a soldier with the Soviet Red Army, he was captured by the Germans and given the choice of either staying at the Chelm prisoner of war camp or cooperating with the Nazis, said Klaus Hillenbrand, a German expert who has written several books on the Nazi period.

Kunz agreed to work with the Nazis and, after he was trained at Trawniki, was transferred to Belzec where he served as a camp guard, Hillenbrand said.

After the war, he moved to Bonn, worked for many years at a federal ministry and was granted German citizenship. In the 1960s he gave testimony as a witness about his time at the death camp in a different trial.

Authorities recently stumbled over Kunz’ case when they studied old documents from German post-wars trial about Trawniki in connection with the Demjanjuk trial. After several German media then reported about Kunz’ alleged Nazi past, the Dortmund prosecutor’s office started an investigation into the allegations, Hillenbrand said.

“During the 1960s, prosecutors were not interested in charging low-ranking guards,” Hillenbrand said.

“That changed in the last ten years, when a new generation of prosecutors took over and there’s a new way of thinking among them — the law itself was not changed, just the interpretation of the law.”

Despite a recent push by prosecutors to track down Nazi suspects, their efforts often come too late.

According to media reports, former Nazi SS officer Erich Steidtmann, who had been suspected but never convicted of involvement in World War II massacres, died on Saturday.

Steidtmann was a captain in the Nazi’s elite SS force who led several battalions which allegedly carried out the mass murder of Jews, and he was long sought by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He was investigated several times for his alleged involvement in killings at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 and two massacres in the Polish city of Lublin.

Adolf Storms, a 90-year-old former SS sergeant who was No. 4 on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi war crimes suspects, died earlier this month before he could be brought to trial.

Prosecutors were investigating Storms in connection with 58 counts of murder for his alleged involvement in a massacre of Jewish forced laborers in a forest near the Austrian village of Deutsch Schuetzen.

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Japanese Man Comes to Terms with His Grandfather’s WWII Past

Here’s an article about the grandson of the Japanese Imperial Army commander, Lt. General Mitsuru Ushijima, who refused to surrender to advancing American forces in southern Okinawa during the American invasion in June 1945.  Preferring ‘honorable death’ to being captured alive by his enemies, Ushijima committed suicide.  Ushijima had been considered by his friends and associates as a humane individual who discouraged violence within the army’s ranks.

Article by Michiko Yoshida from The Asahi Shimbun, June 23, 2010

Sadamitsu Ushijima was told his paternal grandfather was a gentle man. How, then, could his grandfather have ordered his troops to fight to the last man during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945?

Hoping to find an answer to that question, Ushijima, 56, an elementary school teacher in Tokyo, has repeatedly visited the southern island prefecture since 1994.

His grandfather was Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, the Japanese Imperial Army commander of forces on Okinawa, the site of the bloodiest ground battle of the Pacific War.

Ushijima committed suicide at Mabuni, on the southern tip of Okinawa’s main island where the last fierce battle was fought, on June 23, 65 years ago. He was 57.

Okinawa now marks June 23, when organized Japanese resistance to the U.S. forces ended, as a day to remember the battle’s more than 200,000 victims.

As a teacher, Ushijima long focused his efforts on integrated education that encourages children with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers.

But he stayed away from Okinawa as a subject.

He hated his name, which includes the same Chinese character as his grandfather’s. He was afraid he would be asked about the late commander.

His first visit to Okinawa in 1994, at the urging of colleagues, changed all that.

Ushijima visited a peace memorial museum in Mabuni to find his grandfather’s fight-to-the-last order on exhibit at the entrance.

The explanation said that because of that order, “more than 100,000 noncombatant civilians were left behind in the hail of shells and bullets.”

Ushijima stood petrified. But he soon realized the only way forward was to squarely face the past.

He talked to people who knew the grandfather he had never met. He entered the Mabuni cave where his grandfather killed himself. He read his death poems again and again.

“Mitsuru gave priority to defending the mainland, where the emperor resided. After all, he looked only to the emperor,” he thought at the time.

Discovering an answer of his own, Ushijima saw his mission as a teacher. He started a peace education class to pass along history to children.

He has given classes in Okinawa, as well as at his schools in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.

On June 18, he again visited an elementary school in Okinawa, the seventh year he has given his class in the prefecture.

He talked about his grandfather, the war and Okinawa, and then concluded: “Armed forces do not defend civilians. That’s what we learned from the Battle of Okinawa.”

Ushijima has long hated his name. But he now understands how his own fate is tied to the name.

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