Archives For WWII

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

Z

 

Ever wonder what happened to the animals in the zoos during WWII? We hear a lot about the artwork that was stolen, but paintings and sculptures weren’t the only items being plundered and sent to Nazi Germany.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story tells the story of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, managers of the Zoo in Warsaw, Poland. Warsaw was the city that was taken over at the start of the war in 1939, and then, after local revolts, was almost completely razed to the ground near the end of the war, in 1944. Between these bookends were unspeakable tragedies, mixed with local heroism.

As you can imagine, food was harder to come by as much of it was gathered and sent back to Germany, yet the Zabinskis were determined to keep the animals alive. However, their best animals were also gathered up and sent to Germany. Some animals were shot. And some animals made their way into the house for safekeeping.

In addition to taking care of the animals, the Zabinski’s were able to deliver food and supplies to the people in the Jewish ghetto, as well as hide three hundred refugees on the Zoo property for various lengths of time, despite the property also being used for storage by the German military.

Here is how Antonina describes a newly arriving family:

“I looked at them with tears in my eyes. Poor chicks with big eyes full of fear and sadness looked back at me.”

Regina’s eyes, especially, disturbed her, because they were “the leaden eyes of a young mother doomed to death.”

Antonina wrote that she felt a wrenching inside, a tug-of-war between compassion and self-interest, and a kind of embarrassment that she could do so little for them without endangering herself and her own family. – p. 216, The Zookeeper’s Wife

These are only some of the highlights of what the Zabinskis did. You’ll have to read the book for the details! UPDATE: The Zookeeper’s Wife is to be made into a movie, 2016

A new museum has been opened up at the Warsaw Zoo where you can tour the Zabinski’s house, the only building on the property to survive the war.

Listen to what author Diane Ackerman has to say about the Zabinskis:

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

X
Okay, I may be stretching the boundaries on the X-word today, but I’m picturing a file folder with a big X Top Secret splashed across it. One of the most interesting aspects of the war were the secret activities of everyday people.

The book Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) is a wonderful introduction to the subject. It tells the stories of 26 women who risked their lives to undermine the local occupying forces. For example, the teen Stephania Podgorska who rescued thirteen Jews. While only a teenager, she was living with and working for a Jewish family who were forced into the ghetto. When they left, she stayed in their apartment until one day, one of the boys shows up, having jumped from a train headed to a concentration camp. He is her first secret guest. In all, she harbored thirteen Jews in a home, that for a time was across from a German Hospital . She was even forced to billet German nurses, but the Jews living in the attic were never found. They all survived.

Or Pearl Worthington who, after escaping Nazi occupied France, went back to help with the resistance. She joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She posed as a cosmetics rep so she could be a courier of information and money.
Another, more famous example is Corrie ten Boom of The Hiding Place. This book had been on my TBR pile for  a while, and I finally read it. I shouldn’t have waited so long.

Here is another story in the book:

And I thought this modern video was interesting, showing Corrie ten Boom’s house. It starts around the 4:30 mark, and then at the 7:30 mark you can see the false wall and the space behind it where people hid.

W is for Window Dressers

April 27, 2015

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

W

 

World War II opened up numerous opportunities for women in the work force. Even jobs that I didn’t know were once male-dominated, for example: department store window dressing.


Jan Whitaker in her book Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class writes:

“Until the personnel shortage of World War II, department store window display staff were all male.”

I had never heard of this before, and it brought up all kinds of images in my mind. Why were display staff all male? When I was a teenager, I got to help put in window displays and it was a lot of fun. (My gut told me there was a story there…hence my 1940’s YA novel Cinderella’s Dress where my main character wants to be a window dresser!)


The reasons I found for the lack of women in department store window dressing: the job was physically demanding, it took place over night, and in cramped spaces shared with men, and, at least in New York during the early 40s, women could only work until 10:00pm.)

“Display work was primarily a nocturnal and thus all-male activity. Not by choice. It was then a common belief that window trimming was too physically demanding for women, and according to a New York State law of that period, females were not permitted to work past ten o’clock at night. I had only three women on my staff, and they had to depart long before the window-dressing hours arrived.” -Gene Moore, My Time at Tiffany’s


Earlier in the A to Z challenge I wrote about Gene Moore, a window display artist. He writes about women gaining a foothold in this field during the war years, starting with the big department stores. He also talks about the lighting restrictions such as no spotlights allowed, and the windows had to be covered with blackout curtains. They often included bond drives and Red Cross appeals in their windows.

Another interesting fact I learned was that in France, store windows were kept up even thought the stores themselves might be nearly empty. A way for the occupying forces to keep up appearances as it were.

I haven’t found a good video about window dressing in the 1940’s yet, but I thought this one was interesting. Around the three minute mark starts the footage of shop-keeping during the Blitz.

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

V


Helen Keller is not a name I’ve ever associated with WWII. But her books were on the list of banned books to be burned in Nazi Germany. After the news of the great book bonfires, she wrote an open letter to the students in Germany who started the book burnings:

“History has taught you nothing, if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them….You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds.”  New York Times, May 10, 1933  When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning.

Just over five years later, WWII officially began.

With the flood of new servicemen, there came a great need for morale boosting. Even those on active duty could have long stretches of downtime and were grateful for a book to read, not only to pass the time, but to escape from the horrors of war. Libraries across the country had started book drives, but the need was so great, a unified, national drive was formed in 1941: the National Defense Book Campaign, referred to as the Victory Book Campaign (VBC). They culled the donations, weeding out the rare books that could be resold, inappropriate books, such as those that were falling apart or were considered too juvenile,  or potentially harmful books such as those containing maps or plans that could help the enemy.

I’ve had a video every day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, but could not find one on the Victory Book Campaign. So here is another V word for today: Victory Garden:

One way that everyone could participate in the war effort was through growing their own food. Although vegetables weren’t rationed, they could come in short supply around the country due to disruptions in other areas, like the rationing of gas and tires.

Here are some tips from Britain’s “old gardners” on how to set up a garden.

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

U

 


The United States Committee for the Care of European Children (USCOM) was an early effort in the war (before the United States was directly involved) to evacuate children from Europe. The efforts, headed up by Eleanor Roosevelt, began in 1940 with British children during the Battle of Britain. Only 800 children were rescued before US politics kicked in and efforts were suspended. After much more politicking and the United States entering the fighting, in 1943 and 1944 several hundred Jewish children from Western Europe managed to make it past the red tape and on to New York.

Excerpts from the book Over Here!: New York City During World War II  (I highly recommend this book, by the way.)

Times Square was “just as it is in the films,” said one boy.

One seven-year-old particularly liked New York because he saw so many airplanes and none were dropping bombs”

And an interesting observation from British-born actress Angela Lansbury, who, though not part of this refugee group as she came over with her mother and brother, had this to say about what she thought as a fourteen-year-old:

“We were very worried about U-boats on the way over. It was hairy. Our ship was actually sunk on its way back to England….New York was incredible. The taxis had glass roofs. You could sail down the streets and look up at the skyscrapers. I always remember that Coca-Cola tasted so wonderful.”

See also O is for Oswego Emergency Refugee Shelter for more info about the few refugees allowed into the USA during WWII

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.
R

 

Since I choose President Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer for my “P” day, I thought it would be interesting to hear from his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. She wrote a daily newspaper column called My Day, which was essentially a diary of her public life. The D-Day prayer went out on June 6, 1944, but in her “My Day” column that day, she spoke of events which had occurred the previous day. So, I pulled up the next posting, on June 7th, 1944. This is what she wrote:

June 7, 1944

WASHINGTON, Tuesday—So at last we have come to D-Day, or rather, the news of it reached us over the radio in the early hours of the morning on June the 6th. The first people I saw seemed very much excited. Curiously enough, I have no sense of excitement whatsoever. It seems as though we have been waiting for this day for weeks, and dreading it, and now all emotion is drained away.

All the preparation that has gone on, the endless photographing, the endless air raids, the constant practice of the men in landing, or in whatever their specialty may be—this is now ended. The fact that boys you know have been waiting with an almost desperate feeling for this day, when all their training would be tested, made you dread it and yet hope for it.

The time is here, and in this country, we live in safety and comfort and wait for victory. It is difficult to make life seem real. It is hard to believe that the beaches of France, which we once knew, are now places from which, in days to come, boys in hospitals over here will tell us that they have returned. They may never go beyond the water or the beach, but all their lives, perhaps, they will bear the marks of this day. At that, they will be fortunate, for many others won’t return.

This is the beginning of a long, hard fight, a fight for ports where heavy materials of war must be landed, a fight for airfields in the countries in which we must operate. Day by day, miles of country may be taken, lost and retaken. That is what we have to face, what the boys who are over there have been preparing for and what must be done before the day of victory. That day is coming surely. It will be a happy and glorious day. How can we hasten it?

The best way in which we can help is by doing our jobs here better than ever before, no matter what these jobs may be. Every unauthorized and unwarranted strike is an added danger to the boys over there, and a man or woman leaving a war plant today adds to some soldier’s load. But on the other hand, we should remember that every employer who forces his employees into a position from which they see no way out except to strike is as guilty as the strikers. I have seen so many condemnations of strikers, but I have seen little recognition that there are always two sides to any dispute. Therefore the responsibility for whatever happens today which slows up production, which we need so desperately in every theater of the war, does not lie with one group alone.

E. R.
(COPYRIGHT 1944 BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.)

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

Q

 

The RMS Queen Mary was an ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. First setting sail in May 1936, she was the flagship for the Cunard line. And she was fancy! Built in the 1930’s the interior was heavily influenced by the popular Art Deco style of the day. It had swimming pools, tennis courts, and nurseries for the children in addition to the first class dining room, and a music hall. She was the ship celebrities preferred for travel back and forth to Europe.

One of the features I like the most about the Queen Mary is the mural in the first class dining hall that features a map with a crystal ship that moved as the real ship made it’s way across the Atlantic.

During WWII she became a troop transport ship. The finer things were moved out, the ship was painted grey, and bunks were moved in. She was a fast ship and earned the name “Grey Ghost.” After the war, she was again fitted for passengers and resumed her reign on the sea. (And she may just make an appearance in my 1940’s novel Cinderella’s Shoes, releasing in October.)

Today, you can tour the Queen Mary, which is now being used as a hotel in Long Beach, CA.

There are so many good videos, it’s hard to pick just one. So here are three:

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot

P

June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt got on the radio for a solemn announcement. The night before, he’d told of the fall of Rome, but now he was announcing a massive, secret operation was well underway and it was time for the nation to pray. With an estimated audience of 100 million listeners, this is what he prayed (text is below the video):

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot

O

 

 

During most of WWII the United States barred large groups of refugees from entering the country. It wasn’t until the summer of 1944 when the war was nearing the end, that a “Safe Haven” was allowed at Fort Ontario in Oswago, New York. Only about a thousand refugees were chosen in Italy, most of them of Jewish descent, to make the special trip over. So few, when so many were in need.


They were housed at the empty fort, kept behind a barb-wire topped fence. Their status was a strange one–guests without Visas, not allowed to work or leave the area. At the end of the war, many of them were finally allowed to apply for immigrant status. Of those who stayed, many left their mark on America in amazing ways. You can read more about them in the book Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America by Ruth Gruber. She was the one tasked with the job of sailing with the refugees and helping them make the transition to the shelter. Fascinating piece of history.

N is for Nylon Stockings

April 15, 2015

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

N

 

This once staple of women’s fashion has an interesting history, particularly through the 1940’s. Invented in a lab at DuPont, nylon, the first synthetic fiber, filled a void in the silk stocking market when imports from Japan became problematic due to the war (at first boycotted, and then later the imports ceased). Nylon stockings first went on sale in Wilmington, Del in October 1939, nationally in May 1940 and were an instant hit. Unfortunately, as the war continued on, nylon use, like so many other products, was diverted to the war effort. In this case, for parachutes.

Source: Time Magazine: The War that Shaped Women’s Legs

So what was a girl to do? Why, fake it. Here is a quote from an interview with Marjorie Hart, the author of Summer at Tiffany (the book I’m giving away to one of my subscribers this month…check the sidebar!)

As for the lack of nylons, the girls made do with rayon stockings (“The minute you sat down, they were baggy,”) or they painted their legs with a product called Stocking Stick. “If you weren’t tan, it made your legs look tan. If you wanted to go farther, you took an eyebrow pencil and made a seam.” But Stocking Stick wasn’t without its issues. “When we went to the beach, we laughed so hard because we saw this gal go into the water in her bathing suit, but the Stocking Stick only went up to right above the knees.” And the girls learned to avoid Stocking Stick if they would be dancing with a guy dressed in Navy whites, as there was a danger of transfer. “They did not appreciate that,” she remembers.USD Magazine
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M is for Monuments Men

April 14, 2015

For the A to Z blogging challenge I’ve decided to blog about the 1940′s. And in the spirit of the 1940′s, at the end of the month, I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of one of my favorite books, Summer at Tiffany, to one of my newsletter subscribers (sign-up on the sidebar if you are so inclined.) It’s a light-hearted memoir of two college girls let loose in New York City for a summer. What a hoot.

M

 

I learned of the work of the Monuments Men about a year before I first heard about the movie starring George Clooney. The Monuments Men were those men and women whose job it was to protect the art, significant monuments, and architecture in Europe during WWII. They were few workers for such a large task. After the war, their jobs turned into recovery and restoration as they searched for all the stolen artwork hidden in treasure troves around Europe.

The Monuments Men story was instantly captivating to my imagination. You can read descriptions of how the art was stolen and hidden and then recovered, but the photos are really what you want to see. Amazing. Here are some books, and of course, a video that shows many of these archival photos. The second book, Rescuing Da Vinci, is the one with the most pictures.