John B. Simon joins us to discuss his new book Strangers in a Strange Land.
What did it feel like to be an openly Jewish soldier fighting alongside German troops in WWII? Could a Jewish nurse work safely in a field hospital operating theater under the supervision of German army doctors? Several hundred members of Finland’s tiny Jewish community found themselves in absurd situations like this, yet not a single one was harmed by the Germans or deported to concentration or extermination camps. In fact, Finland was the only European country fighting on either side in WWII that lost not a single Jewish citizen to the Nazi’s “Final Solution.”
Strangers in a Stranger Land explores the unique dilemma of Finland’s Jews in the form of a meticulously researched novel. Where did these immigrant Jews—the last in Europe to achieve citizenship status—come from? What was life like from their arrival in Finland in the early nineteenth century to the time when their grandchildren perversely found themselves on “the wrong side” of WWII? And how could young lovers plan for the future when not only their enemies but also their country’s allies threatened their very existence?
Seven years researching Finland’s National Archives plus numerous in-depth interviews with surviving Finnish Jewish war veterans provide the background for a narrative exploration of love, friendship, and commitment but also uncertainty and terror under circumstances that were unique in the annals of “The Good War.” The novel’s protagonists—Benjamin, David and Rachel—adopt varying survival strategies as they struggle with involvement in a brutal conflict and questions posed by their dual loyalty as Finnish citizens and Zionists committed to the creation of a Jewish homeland. Tensions mount as the three young adults painfully work through a relationship love triangle and try to fulfill their commitments as both Jews and Finns while their country desperately seeks to extricate itself from an unwinnable war.
Experience Arlington National Cemetery through a lens of Jewish history! Discover the Jewish stories embedded in monuments such as the Challenger and Columbia memorials, and learn about some of the many Jewish leaders and military heroes buried in this historic cemetery. Includes 2 miles of walking, some uphill.
Tour starts and ends at the Welcome Center.
In partnership with the Capital Jewish Museum and the Jewish War Veterans of the USA.
Honor veterans on Veterans Day at the museum on Monday, November 11th. Join us at the museum between to put together care packages for hospitalized veterans.
What to bring:
Can’t bring anything? Just bring yourself to make cards, thank you notes, and put the materials we already have together into packages.
Eric Lichtblau joins us to discuss his new book Return to the Reich, the remarkable story of Fred Mayer, a German-born Jew who escaped Nazi Germany only to return as an American commando on a secret mission behind enemy lines.
Growing up in Germany, Freddy Mayer witnessed the Nazis' rise to power. When he was sixteen, his family made the decision to flee to the United States—they were among the last German Jews to escape, in 1938.
In America, Freddy tried enlisting the day after Pearl Harbor, only to be rejected as an “enemy alien” because he was German. He was soon recruited to the OSS, the country’s first spy outfit before the CIA. Freddy, joined by Dutch Jewish refugee Hans Wynberg and Nazi defector Franz Weber, parachuted into Austria as the leader of Operation Greenup, meant to deter Hitler’s last stand. He posed as a Nazi officer and a French POW for months, dispatching reports to the OSS via Hans, holed up with a radio in a nearby attic. The reports contained a goldmine of information, provided key intelligence about the Battle of the Bulge, and allowed the Allies to bomb twenty Nazi trains. On the verge of the Allied victory, Freddy was captured by the Gestapo and tortured and waterboarded for days. Remarkably, he persuaded the Nazi commander for the region to surrender, completing one of the most successful OSS missions of the war.
Based on years of research and interviews with Mayer himself, whom the author was able to meet only months before his death at the age of ninety-four, Return to the Reich is an eye-opening, unforgettable narrative of World War II heroism.
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