Previous   Next

What are you reading?

Asked at Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont on September 4, 2011

Browse the archives

Photo of Stephanie Ann Barrows

“‘Jumping Through Fires’ by David Nasser. It’s about an Iranian refugee’s experience in the United States growing up as a child.”

Photo of Mary Boucher

“Steven Havill. He writes books about New Mexico. It’s a Posadas County sheriff and he talks about all these places and he describes them so beautifully you can just feel yourself there.”

Photo of Clarissa Murray

“I like Stephen King books. I like all of them. It’s the way he writes and I love that it’s scary.”

Photo of Frank Mosier

“‘John Lennon: The Life’ by Philip Norman. I’m really into The Beatles. It’s all about the man. It focuses on his solo stuff and his life.”

Photo of Lee Schlife

“‘In the Garden of Beasts’ by Erik Larson. It’s about how Hitler got away with what he did, written in story form. It’s going to try to explain how things could get that wild and horrible with nobody stopping Hitler.”


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

Lee Schlife, 'In the Garden of Beasts', by Erik Larson sounds like an incredible book! I'm definitely going to have to read it too. I've never heard of it. For many reasons, I had a fascination with how that could have ever happened. I literally read out two small town libraries of all of their books covering WW 2.

One of many photos that are etched in my memory of that time era is one of an ordinary shopkeeper in Germany, sitting in front of his ruined store. He had put up a great big sign that read: "Wie war es möglich?", (How was it possible?).

I thought that one of the best books that covered WW 2 was Winston Churchill's autobiography, but I am biased because autobiographies are my favorite literary form. It covers his lesser role in the British government in WW 1, and goes into greater detail for WW 2, I suppose because at that time he was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. I've read that some historians claim that his autobiography is not quite historically accurate, but I believe that very autobiographies are.

I even found an inaccuracy in one of the history books! I don't remember the exact year claimed now, because it's been years. The inaccuracy was that the history book stated that "Mein Kampf" was only translated into English in some year, something like 1944. And right there on the same library shelf was the proof that date was wrong - the library had a copy in English, and it it was printed right there: The copyright was two years before the history book claimed!

I started to read that copy of "Mein Kampf", but I didn't get very far because the claims made were ridiculous. Who could believe the claims made in a book like that?

But people will believe what they chose to believe, and unfortunately too many people believed Adolf Hitler. Or, did not put up enough significant resistance.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

As an aside, I have a small tidbit of history that I am absolutely sure you will never find in any history book, because I know the man involved and he never talked about it until I believe the 1980s. He didn't talk about the war at all for decades, totally refused to discuss it, and the only thing he ever said until the 1980s was that he was never going to go back to Germany, ever. But in the 1980s, he finally talked, and told his son in law, who was my brother, something that had happened, and my brother thought it to be father funny in a tragic way.

Mr. B., who is still living, was an American soldier fighting in Europe. It was terrifically unusual that he was there because he was an ethnic German, and very few ethic Germans, were sent to fight in Europe, most of them were in the Pacific theater.

Even to this day Mr. B. speaks German better than he speaks English. He certainly speaks English with a very heavy German accent!

Mr. B. was on a reconnaissance mission, and he and only a few crossed the Rhine on a very small boat in the middle of the night to scout out German positions.

The group scattered, to see if they could discover any German positions. Mr. B. was making his way through some brushes in a wooded area, when every reconnaissance man's worst nightmare happened.

Very loudly, he heard a very loud shout: "Wer ist dort?"!!! (Who is there?)

A German patrol consisting of a few German solders was passing by, and one of them had heard something suspicious moving in the bushes.

Very loudly, he shouted back in extremely fluent German "I'm, das eine Scheiße nimmt!" (I'm taking a ****!)

"Heil!" was shouted back, and the German patrol kept on patrolling, looking for Allied spies to shoot.

The only reason he survived was because of his very fluent German. In German, he has no accent at all.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

I should qualify the above. I do not know with authority what colloquialisms were used in the German patrol's shout of inquiry or of Mr. B.'s colloquial response that he was having a bowel movement.

Now that I've thought about a bit, I think that Mr. B.'s response more likely would have begun with "Ich bin". But I am absolutely sure he knew the exact colloquialism to use.

Under no circumstances am I willing to contact Mr. B. with an inquiry about the exact German words spoken at the time. He has made it very clear repeatedly for many decades that he does not ever want to ever discuss his experiences there, for reasons that are good to him. It's very likely that some of the members of the reconnaissance team of that very mission did not make it back alive.

The only reason I know of the event was that in a moment of candor with his son in law, it slipped out. It was one of only a few times he has ever talked about any of his experiences in Europe during World War Two, and I am sure those times can be counted on one hand.

With the exception that he may have emphatically pointed out to many that everything had been totally ruined, and then with finality end the discussion, as he once did with me.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

I need an editor. There's two missing words and an extra comma.

Fossick 6 years, 9 months ago

Seven books on the Weimar hyperinflation of 1923. And no, it's not as exciting as it sounds.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 9 months ago

When I was quite young, my grandmother told me, "Honestly Ronnie, it took a wheelbarrow full of money to buy a loaf of bread."

Ronda Miller 6 years, 9 months ago

Ron, that's a terrific story. I wonder how many other soldiers or spies lives were saved because of their fluency in a specific language. Interesting!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.