Skip to main content

tv   Author Discussion on Women Heroes of World War II  CSPAN  April 25, 2021 3:37pm-4:46pm EDT

3:37 pm
>> well, i certainly recommend "the governor and the colonel." it is a largely unknown story about two remarkable people, and i depend you on -- i commend you on "flash of light, wall of fire," also depicting a relatively unknown story which very much needed to be told. and if you and the briscoe center told it singularly. thanks so much for your time today, and thank you all for attending this session. >> well, thank you, mark. >> hi, everyone. thank you so much for joining us today for our panel, nevertheless, she persisted. i'm sylvia foster, i'm cultural reporter at "the washington post," and here we have two esteemed authors. first, we have judy battalion, born and raised in montreal. she's been featured in several
3:38 pm
publication, new york times, washington post, vogue and has written a previous book about family relationships in general called "white walls," she's here to talk about to us about her latest book, "the light of day," which i think was inspired in 2007 when she came across an old yiddish book that focused on women in the get coes. ghettos. we also have rebecca -- [inaudible] she is the comedienne on this panel and was recently -- for a fulbright award. biography at the city university of new york. she's the author of two other books, burnout: a graphic novel, and -- [inaudible] and her third novel from -- [inaudible] expected to be published this summer. so, first of all, thank you so much for being with us today and for being a part of this
3:39 pm
conversation. we really appreciate it. >> oh, yeah. >> yeah. finish so first i just wanted to ask both of you, you both choose to write books that are very personal to your heritage, your family heritage. so i'm wondering, like, how you came about writing them, what inspired you to write about something that hits so close to home. either one of you can go first. [laughter] [inaudible conversations] >> we're going to be polite here. [inaudible conversations] >> okay. i'm so excited to be here. thank you so much for having me, and i'm really excited for this conversation. this project -- [audio difficulty] began in 2007. that is correct. fourteen years in the making. this has been an odyssey. and this book started completely
3:40 pm
by accident. i never intended to write this. i was living in london at the time. it was, again, in 2007. and i was interested in exploring my jewish identity. i am the granddaughter of holocaust survivors and especially at the time i was very interested in what i was calling the emotional legacy of the holocaust. so really that trauma passes over generations. and in my own life, i was kind of exploring the issue of danger. how i perceived danger, how i reacted to danger. and i felt that my holocaust heritage really shaped that. and at the time i was doing a lot of performance. i was actually in a lot of comedy performance, and i decided to write a performance piece about this issue. and i wanted it to have some historical connection about jewish women who confronted danger, so i was listening to research at the british library,
3:41 pm
and i happened to come across this book. it was an old, dusty unusual book with a blue fabric cover, and it was also in yiddish, and it was called -- [speaking in native tongue] women in the ghetto. even more unusual than the book is the fact that i speak yiddish. so i started flipping through this artifact expecting a sort of, obviously, sad, difficult story. and instead i find this book that is dozens and dozens of young jewish women who fought the nazis in the polish ghetto with chapter titles like weapons, munition, partisan combat. there was even an ode to guns. and this was like nothing i had ever heard of. it was so different from the holocaust narrative that i'd grown up with in my family and in my community too. and that's how it all began.
3:42 pm
i never knew it was going to turn out to be this book, but that's where it began serendipitously. >> well, thank you. gee, i'm so excited to talk with you. this is a phenomenal opportunity after spending so many years in our studies and doing research, to finally get an opportunity to engage in discussion is really delightful. [inaudible] a comparative nonfiction, and i, it's about -- and the resistance group she was at the center of. she was my great aunt, and by all available accounts, the only american in the leadership of the german resistance during the nazi regime. in one sense, the book --
3:43 pm
[inaudible] one memorable day i visited my great grandmother in chevy chase, and she wanted to talk my height, so she pushed me up against the wall and -- [inaudible] i sit back and look at the mark, and then i saw all the other marks of the other family members, and some were really saint. and i said who's that? and she said, well, that's mildred. and -- [inaudible] they were multicolored and all sorts of different shapes and circular -- [inaudible] and i asked if i could take it home, and she said yes.
3:44 pm
i put it on a shelf in my bedroom, and i would gaze at at it every now and then and wonder if one of those buttons had been mildred's. the mystery remains with me for many years. and then -- [inaudible] picture of my grandfather, -- mildred's letters, and she said, he knew i wanted to be a writer, and she said you must write this book. and she told me more about the story, and she told me how mil dread had translated a group of poetry right before she was executed. it was mugginged out by -- smuggled out by a chaplain who was secretly in the resistance -- [inaudible] is the title of this book. i could say a lot more about the research, and i think we're going to cover that a little bit later, but just in a few broad
3:45 pm
strokes, then after my second novel was published, i began researching this book in earnest. i went to -- [inaudible] and i gained access to hundreds of archival documents about mildred and her co-conspirators. and then a number of years later i was thinking about -- [inaudible] a spy in world war ii, and i was wondering about the logistics of this, and i track thed down her -- tracked down her -- [inaudible] who was 11 years old at the time, and he was 89 when i tracked him down. and he may have been the last person alive who knew about mil dread's espionage during the second world war. i knew it was a big, epic story
3:46 pm
that involved archives in england and germany and -- [inaudible] and also across the united states, and i was eager to take it on because i felt we have an urgent need for stories about courageous political engagement and also the story of -- [inaudible] judy's book, i think, remind us off the choices that we can -- [inaudible] and raises hope and questions about the questions of moral courage. >> you know, could you talk a little bit about these women? you know, these are real people that have an extraordinary amount of bravery and also endured an extraordinary amount of pain and suffering. i'm just wondering if you can tell people who are listening now who these women were, maybe judy, who -- [inaudible] was and, rebecca, obviously, who mildred was and why did you
3:47 pm
choose to focus on those two women in particular. >> i'll start. so i can say that the women -- is so my book has a number of characters, and i try to expose really the story of jewish women in organized resistance in poland in the ghettos. and these girls take, you know, they span the gamut from running soup kitchens, running underground schools, medical care -- which was all illegal -- to blowing up nazi trains, shooting gestapo men in the head, being ghetto fighters flinging molotov cocktails and throwing bombs on nazi tanks. and then there was a particular girl i focused quite a bit a bit on which is my central character, danielle, which was a courier girl. and what these women did, these were young women often in their
3:48 pm
late teens, she was 18 in the story, up through their early 20s. and they did underground work outside the ghetto. to leave the ghetto, you couldn't be outside the ghetto if you were jewish, you'd be killed. so they had to pretend to be young catholic women who were out on the town, out for a day. so one of these yourier or girls -- courier girls, they were the ones that brought the information. jews were not allowed to have radios, they weren't allowed to have newspapers. they didn't know what was happening. they didn't know what the nasty genocidal plan was. young jury women who were lecturing, who were sneaking in and out of the -- [inaudible] again as the movement became underground militias, these women were smuggling weapons and munitions and people.
3:49 pm
they were helping them find hiding spots. so my central character, central figure was a courier girl who was helping to arm the underground, and she went back and forth between warsaw and this town with money in her garter belt, guns strapped to her torso and often other people with her who she was trying to find safe spots for in warsaw. >> [inaudible] >> so what were all the strategies that she used, and what kind of was her main mission? >> well, she was sent on missions to gather information, to get guns from arms dealers, to send money, to bring information how to build
3:50 pm
underground bunkers, how -- she organized buses to come and try help bring refugees out of ghettos. so it was, she was part of an organized resistance movement. my book really tries to articulate that this was a large movement in poland. and the strategy -- [inaudible conversations] >> no, go ahead. >> well, many of these women the main part of their work was performance. they had to pretend to be, as i said, catholic women. and women were better able to do this than men. i can talk about that now, i can save it. i don't want to -- >> go for it. go for it. >> okay. [laughter] jewish women were, it was easier for them to pass than it was for men for a few different reasons. is so one of them was they were not circumcised. men had a physical marker on their body of their jewishness,
3:51 pm
and this was a thing if you were suspected of being a jew, if a man was suspected of being a jew on the aryan side, he would literally be, at gunpoint, told to drop his pants. the women didn't have to fear that. women also in 1930 poland which is a period i became very fascinated with in doing this research because that's where these women grew up in the 1930s -- [inaudible] was mandatory for women, for everyone. finish very progressive elements to that culture. that really surprised me. but with girls, often in jewish families they would send their sons to private jewish schools, but they sent their daughters to public polish school. and because of that, women were more acculture rated. they understood catholics' mannerisms. actually, that was the thing -- [inaudible] considered very jewish, and one
3:52 pm
woman writes about -- [inaudible] but they were aware of these habits. they were aware of, again, of catholic prayer. they understood the culture, and they learned to peek polish, and they talked about this all the time, like a pole. not like a jew with a creepy yiddish accent. and because of all these things it was -- as well as general sort of training as a woman to listen to others' cues and to be aware of your surroundings which is great for undercover work. it was easier for women to do this kind of work outside the ghettos. >> that's fascinating. wow. so, yeah, rebecca, can you tell us about milled red and how she was the only american in leadership in the german resistance? how did she get involved with that, and what was her role? >> yes.
3:53 pm
well, it's interesting because, of course, she never conceived of it as something that she would become involved with. in fact, she never thought that she would go to germany in the first place. she was born and raised in milwaukee. she had a somewhat impoverished childhood. she was the daughter of william -- [inaudible] who was an unemployed salesman/horse trader and georgina who was a self-taught -- [inaudible] and again, mildred decided she wanted to go to the university of wisconsin. so she applied. it was open to women and men. she got her b.a. there. she went on for her master's degree and there she met a german exchange student, and they got married.
3:54 pm
and then in the -- she ended up -- [inaudible] in germany in 1929 hoping to get her ph.d.. and while she was enrolled in the ph.d. program, she she lectured about american literature at the university of berlin and also at a night school for impoverished germans. ofof course -- [inaudible] when this meteoric rise of the nazi party, so she was so appalled, both she and arvin were, so they started inviting people into the apartment to form a constitution group, a discussion circle is what they called it. initially, they shortened the name to the circle. she invited her students and then they invited their friends, and by 1940 it had become the largest underground group in berlin. the group was diverse. members were jewish, catholic,
3:55 pm
property entrant, atheist, they were factory workers, office workers, english professors, journalists, artists and approximately 30% were women. so at first in the early 30s the group began to create leaflets, these anti-nazi leaflets -- [inaudible] these leaflets would directly call for revolution, and they'd slip the leaflets into mailboxes and leave them in piles in factories for people to discover. it was calling for a revolution, as i said, but -- [inaudible] that leaflets were a core method against hitler and the nazi regime. a number of them were arrested and hauled off to concentration
3:56 pm
camps. so in 1935 they decided that the best way to defeat the nazi regime was some resistance networks that extended across, so so they needed to make a pact with other countries. at the same time, they would -- [inaudible] from within. so -- [inaudible] of economics which gave him access to documents about hitler's operation strategies -- [inaudible] participated in passing this classified information to the allies during the second world war. i should also meant that mildred -- one of the countries that they passed information to, the soviet union. and -- [inaudible] which they, again, privately called the circle came to be known as the red orchestra. they didn't call themselves this. the name has its origin in the jargon of german intelligence
3:57 pm
with. the officers used the word orchestra as describing any enenemy espionage network, and they sent their information -- [inaudible] and their operators were pianists. and so when the authors discovered in 1941 that they were sending messages to moscow, they called -- [inaudible] and this was picked up by intelligence agents in the united states and britain. so the red orchestra -- [inaudible] and the underground resistance had never -- [inaudible] and as i said, mil trend also passed on information to the united states hoping that they would use this information to defeat hitler. so she used an 11-year-old boy who was the son of a diplomat to
3:58 pm
pass this informing. he would come ostensibly for tutoring lessons, and at the end she would then -- [inaudible] to his mother who would then pass it on to her husband who would then pass it on to -- [inaudible] and one of the most wonderful discoveries that i made when i was doing my research is that the there were 12 trunks of documents that the family had given me permission to view. and in those trunks were -- [inaudible] basically substantiate much of this information in her own date books and in her own -- [inaudible] many people don't know who mildred is. there's a public school -- [inaudible] and in 2019 the city of madison
3:59 pm
erected aen monument to commemorate her as a world war ii woman. but she still remains ab on secure figure. -- obscure figure. >> yeah, so i wanted to draw on that point there, and judy had a line in her book that says silence is a means of swaying perception and shifting power, but it's also a neck -- technique for living. why do you think that these stories have been so kind of violent in the history books? and what did it mean to you when you stumbled upon them to bring them out? >> okay. my turn. so i, the question of -- this question of why i hadn't known this story was, it was almost the question to all my research. so on the one hand, i was trying to figure out what happened in poland, what is the story of the
4:00 pm
jewish underground and women's incredible role in the jewish underground? what is the story but also what happens to the story? how could i have not known this? and i came up with many reasons that are in the book, and i won't go through them all, but some of these reasons are political and have to do with how the story of the hold was shaped by specific political forces particularly in poland and in israel. some of the reasons are zeitgeist, and i think we've been interested in different elements of the holocaust at different times. but many of these reasons are perm. personal. for many of the women who survived -- most who did not -- the book focuses on what happens
4:01 pm
to them after the war and how they survived. many of them did not tell their story. they either would not believe, they were often accused of having fled their families to fight instead of taking care of relatives. they were accused of sleeping their way to safety there was kind of a feeling that the pure souls, pure jewish souls perished in the holocaust, but if you survived, you were a collaborator. so so women felt very kind of haunt by that perception and kept their stories quiet. many of the women i write about suffered from terrible, terrible survivor's guilt. ..
4:02 pm
for their rising. he started a group of anti-nasty germans, put them in touch with the red army in the forest and was gunned between anti-nazis to the partisans in the forest. the espionage missions for the red army. the story is incredible. she felt that compared to her survivor peers who they had been at odds with, she did not have it that bad. she almost felt like she did not have the right to tell her story. she had not suffered enough. that came up a lot, too, and, finally, as we read in the sentence you read, better than i could, it was a way of coping. the people i write about my story, they were 18, 19, 22 when the war was over. they had their entire lives ahead of them.
4:03 pm
no nationality. they were living in new countries. like many refugees, they wanted to start over. they needed to start fresh. also writing about women. many of them felt a cosmic duty to repopulate the jewish people that have children. they wanted their children to grow up in environments that were normal, that were happy. because of that, they silenced these stories for a long time. does that answer the question? [laughter] >> that was perfect. rebecca, what about for mildred. >> well, i heard -- the theme of silencing also working through
4:04 pm
-- [inaudible] she was at a prison in berlin. when news of her execution reach the united states, her family was devastated. she ordered the family to burn all of mildred's letters. she did not want to be reminded of this sad episode. i have a letter where she said the sooner we can move on, the better. unbeknownst to her, her own mother had actually stashed a bundle of letters in the attic before she died. that is a reason we have the letters that we deal. tremendous pain.
4:05 pm
the destruction of evidence. a central problem for anybody that wanted to write about this group was the documentary evidence. of course, basically, until the fall of the berlin wall, we did not really see documents. giving us more understanding of this group. several years later, peaking at some intelligence files. 1998, nazi war crimes. the cia and fbi offered as top secret. is something that continues to this day. the understanding of the underground resistance in germany, but inaccuracies still persist.
4:06 pm
details about mildred are frequently inaccurate. there is an article in the new york times and it has lots of errors. mildred was decapitated on hitler's order as an american woman. those kinds of inaccuracies have happened over the decades. it's also important to understand that most history downplays marginalized for women participation. the resistance group that some of the may be familiar with as the leader. his sister is not typically referred to as a leader. she is his sister or a participant.
4:07 pm
both founders. historians writing about mildred which, again, a bunch of different names. calling at the red orchestra. basically referring to to her as -- wife. many other historians who stated that women played a prominent role in the red orchestra. notably mildred and then said nothing more. we don't know any more information. that is another reason why i felt like it was important for me to write this book. the information has not gotten out to leaders as much as it should. there have been things published about her.
4:08 pm
books that have been published about the red orchestra. i have so much more information and research that i have done and going to find records and espionage file. i wrote to the embassy. the russian embassy and told them that i was mildred great niece and i was sent a snippet of her files. [inaudible] i found these notes that were passed when they were incarcerated. these are women trying to communicate with each other in any way possible. they were facing a trial. they all faced execution.
4:09 pm
the women were all decapitated and the men were largely either hanged or shot. so, this is another way that they were silenced. they were headed in the hems of their garments. they stuck them in the fixtures and cracks in the present. this was a way that they were able to communicate with each other before they were indeed silenced. >> yes, i wanted to ask you both about your research process. there is probably a lot of gray area -- like the ones you have in the book. they were primary documents and secondary documents. they were called that in extremely chaotic time. i am just wondering what your
4:10 pm
process was and if there were any ethical questions that came up during that process. >> i basically constructed a history out of memoirs. i read well over 100, maybe even in the hundreds of testimonies and memoirs of written by these women. some of them were published. some of them were published in the 40s and then got lost. much later in the '90s when these women finally tell their stories. they often when their grandchildren ask them. they themselves realize. if they were going to leave their story, it was time. the war in the 40s and some from the '90s and early 2000's. different types of memoirs and
4:11 pm
testimonies as well. the original one, you are saying, rebecca, captain prison. one with a diary written by a jewish leader of the underground. a gestapo prison. he had gotten a bunch of other jewish women, they were political prisoners. they would surround her and she would write it in pencil on toilet paper. triangular bits of toilet paper. they had men smuggling pencils into the cell. her hands would be so tired and so injured from torture that she went through that someone else would inscribe it for her. kind of stand around so no one else in the prison could see what was happening. by the way, this beautifully written, it's called justine as
4:12 pm
narrative, the book itself was published a number of years ago by an academic press, a psychological portrait. it's intense and insightful. many of these women were extremely educated and very good writers which was to my advantage. in different parts of the present cell, they wrote five copies knowing they had men like garbage workers smuggle out a few and one copy was found after the war. yes, amazing sources. another diary written by the leader of the resistance and she was given the job to chronicle the story. when the underground found her hiding spot, they found her a nicer hiding spot because it was her job to write a diary. also, a diary that is filled
4:13 pm
with fury and passion and anger, not sadness. anger. so much anger. it was an amazing resource for me. mmr public then hebrew in 1945. that is why she became my central character. her writing was very narrative. she was with t. she was 19-20 when she wrote this. it was right after. she survived. in a crazy, and a crazy, incredible escape. i had these kind of diaries, but she does not even named people except for initials because she is writing about covert
4:14 pm
underground operations so i have to decode. they don't want to give people away. i have to work with coding her writing. yes, they were emotional. they had so many inconsistencies things that historians knew there was no way that happened in november. so, as a historian and a writer, i had to make certain judgment calls around what i felt was human error. in the '90s and later on you have a writing or a testimony, sometimes it is an oral or video testimony. a book written academic. it is also different on the story. these women have heard from
4:15 pm
others over the decades with current concerns with more reflection and some of those are incredibly beautiful because they have that reflection, but different emotional quality to them. i have to work with these, with very different types of memoirs and create an overall type of history of the resistance movement through these personal stories. yes, there were inconsistencies. that is why my book has 65 pages of end notes. many of them are me explaining why i chose the version that i did and why i think the version i chose is the most historically accurate and makes the most sense. other people of course have taken different takes on different situations. many times they talk about the
4:16 pm
same day, the same event even if their details around it were different. someone who -- i felt like these people were my friends. it was very exciting for me. they are talking about that thing that happened on tuesday. oh, this thing happens. that tuesday in march from all of these voices telling me about it. >> wow. rebecca, was that your experience, too? >> i am envious judy had access to track down so many diaries. i had a diary but she burned it at some point at the gestapo. but, what i did have, the
4:17 pm
letters that her own mother had stashed in an attic. it was really interesting, i had to do similar type of decoding. these letters covered this time frame. her mother died before the war began. still continuing to write to various family members. they tell a story. they certainly tell a story. in 1933, to just the beginning of 1933, explaining to her mother who did not have an education beyond date grade, sharing these very complex ideas, she has very frank about her hatred for the nazi party.
4:18 pm
she describes walking down and seeing a demonstration with social democrats and they are being beaten by local police and she describes all of this in detail. this is when germany was still a parliamentary democracy. it was not a fascist dictatorship. very aware that there was, a sense of revolution and certainly in 1933 as i became chancellor, i talk a lot about the rise of that. i think it's important to understand how it happened. 1928, less than 3% voting for the nazi party. and then i 1932, 7% suddenly
4:19 pm
just skyrockets. writing all about this to her mother. however, she starts to censor herself, of course. when i had to do some decoding and figure out what she meant when she said this is such a wonderful thing, look at this wonderful of that. she would often say the opposite of what she met and then she would say, mother, i hope you understand. she would give different code names and the family, too, the most well-known figure of the german resistance and his family would communicate and --
4:20 pm
[inaudible] numerous members of those families with that of hitler. they communicated. some of the wives left behind so they communicated in code. they passes writing and script so some of them were committed to sending packages to prison while family members were being interrogated by the gestapo prior to their execution. they would send a jar of beans and tie little scraps of paper with messages. developing a code where they were also allowed to exchange books during this time.
4:21 pm
so forth and looking back and they would pour over this book for hours and basically decode the message. our process, the process really is trying to acknowledge the gaps and fill in the gaps where we find them. i know about her day to day life in prison. one woman was in a cell with her and she wrote a letter, two letters to mildred's mother-in-law after the war and described in detail what they did, what their routines were and she also, she was subsequently transferred to a concentration camp and miraculously survived.
4:22 pm
in her possession was mildred's last letter right before she was executed. a very meaningful letter about how much he felt their sacrifice was worth it and that was important to stand up against the nazi regime. it is in my book, this gorgeous letter. a letter about the importance of political conviction. mildred gave it to gertrude before she was executed and it was transferred and she managed to hide it and survive. she got that back to the family in 1952 along with that description. here is another piece of the puzzle.
4:23 pm
i think, you know, i think it is important to understand we have to water the gaps also. we cannot fill in the gaps and like judy also, the wonderful thing about appendices is you go put a lot of endnotes to clarify and acknowledge what you are saying and what type of judgments. you fill in gaps as a biographer, as a historian. when there is no historical record. when it's been destroyed by a family member or nazi. you allow that to show. that was my aim in this book. >> i think we have time for one more question before we open it up. i am curious, you know, to write this book and it involved a lot
4:24 pm
of time and research and thinking. i am wondering if you learned anything new about your family or your self after thinking about the, you know, a motion and trauma and just life stories of people -- rebecca, your case, more of a direct, i guess just kind of change how you perceive yourself or your family or if he had to struggle really with anything internal when you are processing these stories? >> i mean, i struggle with many internal beast. that is why this took so long. i works on this in dribs and drabs for years. a novel and then an academic book and then it was really my literary agent that yelled at me
4:25 pm
one day. this really happened? jewish women were walking around with guns and fashionable handbags. yes, this really did happen. you have to write it as a nonfiction book. and then it took six months because i still could not commit. these testimonies and memoirs was so difficult. it took for me, when i first found the material, i was 30 years old, i was single, i was working as a performer. the last place i wanted to spend my days was nor saw 1943, but finally i reached a point in my life that enabled me to go there. i am very glad that i did because not only am i hoping to bring these stories of these incredible women to the world, i also am trying to bring a story
4:26 pm
about women, i mean, thought against every single god. they had nothing. they were starving. they risk their life time and time again to go fight the german, to fight the nazis because the fight for freedom and liberty was so important. these small acts and these small ways, when i think about identifying what it is meaningful and they are meaningful to the person doing them, meaningful to those around you and meaningful two generations later. you ask how this changed me or my understanding of my family, understanding your history. i now look back. i think i, too, had subconsciously perceived the holocaust through what they call the myth of jewish passivity.
4:27 pm
my own family survived through an incredible story of fleeing poland but now when i look back at the story, this is a story of resilience and defiance. most people were still killed because they were in massive military force. but they were constantly, constantly rebellious. that is what changed for me. >> what about you, rebecca? >> i am seeing a lot of questions coming in. >> yeah. >> certainly transformed in the writing of this book. as i mentioned earlier, has been with me for many many many years
4:28 pm
basically almost the entirety of my life. i think that it was, when my grandmother gave me her letters and said write a book one day, it felt like a big responsibility. i wrote a short story in college. my first attempt to write something. it was fictional. i thought i am not ready to do this. and then the second book, i am not ready to do this. six years in a novel. you know, it is early. because it is just, it is -- i really do not have words to describe right now how monumental the story is and how
4:29 pm
important for the person that risks their work or life to acknowledge kind of this small responsibility. it is important to honor and celebrate that person. beyond mildred, i felt like it was so important to tell these other stories. once i started realizing i could expand the scope of this book to these other women in the business with her. i followed them through their incarceration. through their decapitation. there are other moments in the book, certainly, but it is not all about that. i think it is important to see the whole trajectory and the costs that they paid. the price that they paid.
4:30 pm
knowing that they would not likely make it, but it was still important for them to resist. ultimately, i felt at some point, the last in 2016, i thought i have to write this book. i really have to start just writing the script myself on the imperative to celebrate these people and tell their story and give them a voice. >> that is really beautiful. thank you both for sharing that. the first question that we have is from marybeth. judy, what camp were your grandparents and? >> my grandparents were never in a camp. they escape from poland before jews were brought to camps or to death camps. they escape the warsaw ghetto and they lead east. my grandfather had a brother who lived in a town on their way to
4:31 pm
russia. his brother was killed and my grandfather had a spot on his neck. it graced him and hit his brother in the heart. my grandparents continued east. kind of patchwork. i never got the whole narrative. they were in a convent, they were in a fruit truck, they were swimming across rivers. they made their way to the russian border. many jews who did that. they were then imprisoned, basically, and siberian gulags throughout the war. of the 300,000 polish jews that survived, 200,000 survived because they went over to russia and many of them were taken to these camps, these work camps which they also never talked about. but that is how they survived.
4:32 pm
>> second question, asking rebecca, did mildred and her husband ever think about emigrating? >> that is an interesting question. you know, in 1937, mildred visited the united states for the first time since she had left for germany. the testimony of people who saw her, family and friends, remark about how odd she seemed and she seemed paranoid and constantly looking over her shoulder, she could not talk about what was going on. she was worried that she was being followed. her own brother thought she looked quite mad at this point. the family urged her to stay. stay here. there is no need to go back.
4:33 pm
she refused. she said, i need to go back. which sort of made them think that there was something wrong with her. some even speculated that she had gone nazi. then she went back and her husband -- at some point when he started seeing it was inequitable that they could possibly risk their lives. he urged her to go back. he actually bought her a one-way ticket which was in her possession, and her purse when she was arrested by the gestapo. her present questionnaire, a very extensive questionnaire. one of the questions was -- that was one of the very few things that was in her purse.
4:34 pm
>> someone asked, as world war ii fades continually into history, what have you noticed about younger people stories in your book? >> well, this is an opportunity to let you know there is a children's version of my book. ten-14. books came out this week. so you can get that. i wrote that with someone who specializes in fiction and nonfiction for middle graders. specific for that age group. i love talking to students. i have talked to a number of high school and middle school students. it is extremely moving for me. for them, they are interested in this history, but my characters,
4:35 pm
they are the same age. they are teenagers. the questions they ask, they look at it as a guide for how they should carry out social action. for how they should resist. they ask me questions about techniques for resistance and how they should fight for freedom and fight for what is right. that is all we want. that is very exciting and moving for me. >> my book is not published yet. it is coming out in august. it will be a hard cover. i have not had a chance to interact with my readers.
4:36 pm
i was unable to speak about the resistance, but i did go out of my way to interview young people did not know anything, not just about her, but the same applies. other studies that are connected you don't know much about this resistance, the holocaust. the study connected to years ago that founded the majority of people that did not really know what this was. >> we have more questions, but
4:37 pm
it looks like we are out of time, unfortunately. thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. just uplifting these incredible stories of women. stories that have been lost in history. i am sure everyone who is listening just really appreciate that. thank you for your work and everyone who was tuning in. >> thank you. thank you to everybody. >> goodbye. >> that wraps up book tvs coverage of the reset virtual san antonio book festival. watch these programs by clicking the fairs and festivals tab at the top of the page. ♪♪
4:38 pm
♪♪ recently actor and healthcare advocate michael j fox spoke about being diagnosed with parkinson's at age 29, living with that disease and his foundation's work a cure. [inaudible] i have an understanding infringing on others. i think i have to hand check it and keep it at bay.
4:39 pm
a tumor on my spine that was threatening me. making my legs weak. i went to a series of doctors. they wanted nothing to do with it. fantastic. it is a horrible tumor. infringing on your spinal cord. who wants to paralyze michael j fox. that is the funniest thing i have ever heard. so he --
4:40 pm
[inaudible] worsening symptoms. the damage had already been done it was an intense experience that i could not watch after those. hard to do this walking exercise you hear people say that. it is true. you had to learn to transfer weight. to your toes. my tendency was my toes and i would fall forward.
4:41 pm
i had in baltimore. [inaudible] i had one of those wonderful chairs and doctors and my family was really supportive and so great. cheering me on. tracy was fantastic.
4:42 pm
i was in martha's vineyard on vacation with my family. i was 13. august 12 i left the vineyard to go back to the city. i was all excited about it. my daughter came back with me from the vineyard. she said let me stay. i said, no, i don't need any help. i am all right. i sent her home. i woke up the next morning and had some breakfast. i.c.e. fell on the tile floor and shattered my left arm. i was just twisted, messed up. i knew that it was bad. so, i crawled over to the wall. i called my daughter.
4:43 pm
it would be cruel to her when she wanted to be with me. as i sat there on the floor, i had taken these people and disrespected it. [inaudible] there is none of that. it is just garbage. i have to be optimistic about this. my -- it is all gone.
4:44 pm
my optimism in my ability to see past a current situation. had i let down all the people that i said, you know, it could happen. i've been lying to them, i had been deceiving them. i had all of these questions. it was big. part of it is obviously life altering. it came up on me. i did not do anything to have it happen.
4:45 pm
it was the same thing. just kind of snuck up on me. but it happens all the time. i had to go back to rehab. it was a lot of pain. [inaudible] i did not know how to sell that. i had taken myself down. >> yeah. >> can't do it anymore. it was a difficult time. it forced me to reinvestigate based on what was missing. >> to watch his entire program visit a


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on