Monday, January 2, 2012

January 2012 Newsletter

Next Lecture: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
On Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7 PM Steve Karger, a history teacher in the public schools of Irvington will present a lecture on the book, The Devil's Doctor, written by John H Waller. The story is about Dr. Felix Kersten, who treated the notorious Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was chief of the German police, Minister of the Interior, and head of the Gestapo during the Nazi reign of terror in Germany. From 1939-1945, Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and one of the persons most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

Steve Karger's lecture draws on Waller's book and relates the remarkable story of the relationship of Himmler, and his close advisor, Dr. Felix Kersten, and how Kersten, at great risk to his own life and that of his family, persuaded Himmler to free thousands of Jews from the Concentration Camps where they were consigned to death. Himmler, like many of the leaders of the Nazis, profoundly sick in mind and soul, was wracked with physical as well as mental and spiritual disorders. In Himmler's case he suffered excruciating stomach pains which, if untreated, threatened to end his career. Himmler heard of Dr. Kersten's "magic hands" which could relieve his pain by their remarkably effective massages. Himmler forced Kersten into service as his personal physician and medical advisor and throughout the entire war compelled Dr. Kersten to be at his side constantly to relieve his chronic pain. Kersten, while administering to Himmler was able to convince Himmler to aid large numbers of Jews.

What is in intriguing is the interesting story of how our lecturer, Steve Karger, comes to be involved in this narrative. It appears that Karger's great uncle Norbert Masur, a prominent official in the World Jewish Congress, managed in the early days of 1944 to make contact with Dr. Kersten and persuaded him to introduce him to Himmler. At enormous risk he entered Germany to meet with Himmler. The plan was twofold: [1] to give Himmler, who was well aware of how the war was soon to end, a way to, perhaps, save himself, and [2] more importantly, induce Himmler to save the lives of countless Jews who would otherwise have surely gone to their death in one of the many Concentration Camps. The plan was remarkably effective, but little was known of it until recent years.In 2003 Emanuel Amara, a French film maker decided to produce a documentary about Dr. Kersten. Masur, of course, would play a prominent role in the film. In the process of making the documentary, Amara learned that Steve Karger had been lecturing about his famous great uncle at Brookdale College and was related to Masur, and Masur invited Karger to Germany to participate in the documentary. Steve Karger possesses one of the few copies of the documentary and it will be shown during the lecture.
Don't miss this exciting lecture.

Future Programs
  • February 21: Carol Vento will talk about her book, The Hidden Legacy of World War II: A Daughter's Journey. She tells the story of her famous paratrooper father Dutch Schultz, famously portrayed in the movie "The Longest Day".
  • March 20: Andrew Nagorski, the first speaker at the commencement of the Book Cub almost 3 years ago will give a lecture on his most recent book titled Hitlerland, American Eyewitness to the Nazi Rise to Power. General Wedemeyer is among the many Americans he writes about during this critical period of the Nazi era.
  • April 17: Leila Levinson will talk about her new book Gated Grief, the story of her father, an army surgeon who landed at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944 along with the first wave of American soldiers. He tended to hundreds of wounded, but was not prepared for what he experienced, when among the first group of Americans who liberated Nordhausen, the infamous Nazi Concentration Camp, he saw what had happened to tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners who had perished. Dr. Levinson, along with other army doctors, ministered to many of the survivors, and the experience profoundly affected his life. The memory was so terrible that he largely suppressed it. His family knew little of the story until Ms. Levinson, after her father's death, came upon a trunk of her father's containing many photos and other documentation relating to the horror. She knew she had to tell the story. By speaking to many other veterans who had liberated Concentration Camps she has constructed a compelling story of how the experience affected the lives of those who liberated these camps. Most importantly she tells us that this is a story that must be told.
The books by Carol Vento and Leila Levinson bring to mind other books which focus on the impact of war on veterans and how it relates to their life after their discharge. Anyone interested in this subject is referred to two other recent books. The first is What It Is Like To Go To War by Carl Marlantes. The second is War by Sebastian Junger. Each of these books gives insight into the real truths of combat: the fear, the honor, and the trust of the men which is the single most important ingredient in explaining how these men survive the stress of combat. Most important is how these two authors described the stress of re- entry into civilian life after combat.

Andrew Roberts, the author of Masters And Commanders, a multiple award-winning book has just written a new and fascinating one volume history of World War II, The Storm of War, which has also received critical reviews. Andrew has agreed to come to the Book Cub and discuss his new book, and we are working on a date sometime in the spring or fall of 2012. We will keep you posted on this event.

View Previous Lectures on the Web
Links to speaker videos are on the right.

Dues for 2012
Membership dues for the year 2012 are now payable. A Single membership is $25.00 and a family membership is $30.00. Make checks payable to World War II Book Club and mail to John McLaughlin at address on this News Letter.

Book Discussion
Unbroken, the New York Times Best Seller will be the topic of a Book Discussion at the Millburn Public Library Monday February 6, 2012 at 12:30. John McLaughlin will lead the discussion. All are welcome.

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