I read a book the other day, called “The Librarian of Auschwitz.” It is a true story about a woman named Dita Polachova , who at the age of 14 years was imprisoned at Auschwitz. I was moved by the sacrifices the people in her network made, as well as the many people I have read about in the past. We, in America, don’t often understand the need to sacrifice our own safety, and many people wouldn’t do it even if it was necessary. Dita was one of those people who would.
She was in charge of eight books that someone had smuggled into Auschwitz, the first sacrifice. It was something that could have cost the smuggler his life, but he saw value in the ability to get the books into the hands of the family camp, and the children’s school at Auschwitz. The family camp, and the coordinated children’s school was unique to Auschwitz. Most camps did not allow families to stay together. In fact, most of the children were killed upon arrival at the camps. The family camp and the children’s school were the brainstorm sacrifice Freddy Hirsch, who was a Jewish athlete, one of the great runners. He was almost impossible to beat. I don’t know if that was what gave him some pull or not, but he made a sacrifice that turned out to be the ultimate sacrifice. Fredy Hirsch would not survive Auschwitz. It wasn’t because the books were found, but rather that the Nazis were taking away the family camp and children’s school. He took his own life. He assumed that the precious books would be lost, but he had underestimated Dita, who managed to get the books back in their hiding place, where they were not found by the Nazis.
Dita outlived the Nazi reign of terror and went on to lead a happy life, despite the memories that would haunt her for the rest of her life. She married Arvid Harnack, an author, who with the writer Adam Kuckhoff and his wife Greta, who with Mildred Fish-Harnack brought together a discussion circle which debated political perspectives on the time after the National Socialists’ expected downfall or overthrow. From these meetings arose what the Gestapo called the Red Orchestra resistance group.
The Red Orchestra, Die Rote Kapelle in German, or the Red Chapel as it was known in Germany, was the name given by the Gestapo to anti-Nazi resistance workers during World War II. The members included friends of Harro Schulze-Boysen and Arvid Harnack in Berlin, as well as groups working independently of these intelligence groups, working in Paris and Brussels, that were built up on behalf of Leopold Trepper on behalf of the Soviet Main Directorate of State Security. The Red Orchestra was neither directed by Soviet communists nor under a single leadership but a network of groups and individuals, often operating independently contrary to legend. About 400 members are known by name at this time. They printed illegal leaflets hoping to incite civil disobedience, helped Jews and opposition escape the regime, documented the crimes of the Nazi regime, and forwarded military intelligence to the Allies. The public perception of the “Red Orchestra” is characterized by the transfigurations of the post-war years and the Cold War.
The network of people willing to risk their own lives during the Holocaust years was extensive. From Jews who risked their lives to make life better in and out of the camps, to non-Jews who risked their lives to fight against the atrocities of the Nazi Regime and the Third Reich. These were brave people who knew that bravery isn’t about being fearless, but rather being brave despite the fear. Their stories deserve to be told. They deserve recognition, because in the face of the worst odds, they took action anyway. That is true bravery, and true sacrifice.
Just imagine living in a place where owning or even borrowing a book could get you, and anyone who gave you a book, killed. During the Holocaust, the Jews and other nationalities and religious groups who didn’t fit in with the Aryan race, were considered non-people, and therefore expendable. They were not allowed to live like normal people. They were considered “expendable.” Their lives were not worth the trouble it took to care for them, even their fiends and neighbors were expected to turn them over to be deported to the ghettos and even killed. They were often powerless to help themselves. Still, most of them never lost hope. When the Nazis began to occupy Czechoslovakia in 1939, the persecution of the Jews began almost immediately. Things were hard for everyone, but the children were often in more peril than anyone else. Many were to young to work and that made them even less “important” to the Nazis. To make matters worse, they were often separated from their parents…everything they knew was stripped from them.
In 1942, when a girl named Dita Polachova was 13 years old, she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt life got even worse than it was before. Later they were sent to Auschwitz, where Dita’s father died. She and her mother were sent to forced labor in Germany and finally to a concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen. Dita’s mother died at Bergen-Belsen. Even in the face of so much sadness in her life, Dita never gave up. She risked her own life to protect a selection of eight books smuggled in by prisoners of Auschwitz. She stored the books in hidden pockets in her smock, and circulated them to the hundreds of children imprisoned in Block 31. Books were forbidden for the prisoners in the camps. The Nazis didn’t want them to have any knowledge of the outside world, or access to any kind of education materials or any books. The Nazis believed that none of these people were going to survive their stay in the camps anyway, so they didn’t need to do anything but work and die.
The prisoners had different ideas. Within the walls, there was a family camp known as BIIb. It was a place where the children could play and sing, but school was prohibited. Nevertheless, the Nazis were not able to enforce their will on the people. In spite of the orders of the Nazis, Fredy Hirsch established a small, yet influential school to house the children while their parents slaved in the camp. The materials were the biggest problem. The books, had to be hidden from the Nazi guards at all costs. Hirsch selected Dita, a brave and independent young woman from Prague to take over as the new Librarian of Auschwitz in January of 1944. Dita was a brave girl, who took her responsibility seriously.
While her parents are trying to stay alive in Auschwitz, Dita was fighting her own battle to preserve the books that bring joy to the children in the camp. The books are one of the few things that allow the children to escape from the walls in which they are surrounded, even if just for a moment. As the war progresses, Dita continues to diligently serve the teachers and children of Block 31. Then, Dita’s situation grew much worse. Her father passed away in the camp due to pneumonia. Dita and her mother are left alone to fight the battle on their own. Dita’s mother is grew weaker with age, and Dita knew she had to assume more responsibility. Dita is aware of the fact that the camp is simply a front to produce Nazi propaganda. She began to fight despair, as she struggles to feel the value in her life. By March 1944, the feeling of hopelessness grows. The Nazis announce that the inmates who arrived in September will be transferred to another division, which is really code for murder. The BIIb continued until they heard that the Nazis are going to liquidate the family camp and separate the fit to work from the rest. Dita’s mother Liesl, was grown old and very weak by now. She was able to sneak into the group that is fit to work along with her daughter, narrowly. They were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Just when Dita gets to the point where she feels this might be the end, the Allied forces liberate the camp, but it is too late for Dita’s mother, who died just after the English arrived. Dita is now free, but it has been at great cost…the kind most of us cannot begin to comprehend. Dita later met and married Otto Kraus, an author, and they settled in Israel where they were both teachers.
My grand-niece, Aurora Hadlock is growing up so fast. She is a girl of many talents. Of course, having a big brother, Ethan, who loves his sister and hangs out with with her, helps Aurora to diversify in her choices of activities. Ethan has taught her to play Minecraft,and they play together. Also,having a big brother who likes football has made Aurora like the game too. So it seemed only logical for her to decide to sign up for Flag Football. I know that she will have a great time with that. She is athletic,and while she has a girly side, there is a little of a tomboy in her too.
Aurora still loves to read and has since the day she learned how. Reading has always been a big part of her life. Her parents and grandparents read to her, as did her big brother. Books have long been a highlight of Aurora’s life. She also likes art…a trait that she gets from her mother, who is very crafty. They love to make beautiful things for their home, and as in her mother’s case, selling them. I don’t think it will be very long before Aurora’s mom can include some of her artwork for sale too.
Something I was not aware of is that Aurora is actually a chip off the old block…or as in her case, two blocks…her dad, Ryan Hadlock and her grandpa, Chris Hadlock. Both of the men play the guitar, and now I have learned that Aurora plays too. She is learning from them, and loves to have jam sessions as a threesome. Really, that is pretty impressive for a 7 year old girl. Of course, when you look back in her genealogical line, she comes from a long line of guitar players, that include her great grandpa, Allen Lewis Spencer, and 2nd great grandpa, Allen Luther Spencer. With all that talent (and maybe more for all I know) in her lineage, it’s no wonder that Aurora is a guitar player at the tender age of 7 years. I think it is sad that her other grandpa’s didn’t get a chance to jam with her too, but maybe they can in Heaven when we all get there.
Aurora is such a sweet little girl who is always smiling. She is getting ready to start 2nd grade this year, and I know she will do very well, because she is a good student who loves to learn new things. She has enjoyed her summer, and has done some great things, including a family vacation to Disneyland, where she met lots of Disney characters, and especially loved the rides…if I know her. But then, the princesses and mermaids were probably highlights too. Aurora has had a great year, and I know the coming year will be even better. Today is Aurora’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Aurora!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Kids follow a typical pattern in the things they do, but that in no way makes kids the same. Some kids are too busy with their own things to take much notice of the aunts and uncles around them, while others, like my grand niece, Audrianna Masterson, always make an effort to come and say hello, followed by a hug, of course. Anna, as she has been nicknamed, is a very gentle soul, with a loving spirit. Whenever I am around her, usually at least twice a week, she just warms my heart with her gentle, loving ways.
Anna loves to read, and is spending much of this summer in a reading contest to see how many books she can read. So far she has won a t-shirt for her efforts, and she was so proud of it, that she had to make sure I saw it. Anna really loves learning in general. During the school year, when I see her, she like to sit with me and do her homework. Then she has me check it for her. I don’t really think it’s the homework help she is after, but rather the time she and I can spend together.
Don’t get me wrong, because Anna love to play too. She doesn’t care if the kids are older, like her cousins, Xander, Zach, and Isaac Spethman, or her brother Matthew Masterson, or her little cousin Aleesia Spethman, who is just three, and even her cousin, Shai Royce, who is twenty. She also likes hanging out with her big sister, Raelynn Masterson, when she has time for her that is. Raelynn is in middle school now, so that is a bit limited, nevertheless, Anna looks up to her big sister.
Anna may not be in the double digit age group yet, but she is coming into her own, nevertheless. I see her personality coming out more and more. Anna is not a drama queen or a princess. That just isn’t her style. She is a good girl who loves to help others, especially her parents. Anna is also a lot like her Great Aunt Caryn in that she is a deep thinker. She reasons things out in her own mind. She concentrates on the task at hand, or just on the thoughts running through her own head. Being a thinker and a concentrator can make people wonder about you. Some might think you are mad or that you are stand offish, when what you really are is deep in your own world of thoughts. Some people may not get that, but I get it, Anna, because you remind me of me…and I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Maybe you will be a writer too, telling others about your own thoughts, memories, and family. Today is Anna’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Before I began writing, I wondered how people…writers, became writers. How did they manage to come up with the material they wrote about? In the years that I have been writing, I have realized that the writers vary as much as the stories they write. Some write from experience, which is partly where I fit in, but I also like to write about events that catch my interest, and about people in my family that I have found something out about. That is very similar to my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren. In her writings, she believed that anyone could become famous, simply by writing about the people and times they lived in. She didn’t specify that they needed any formal training, and I don’t believe she thought they did. She believed that inside every person is a story. She is right, of course.
Laura Ingalls Wilder simply wrote the story of her life, and it became such a popular book that before long it was a television show…all based on the writings of a little girl, who never knew if anyone would care about her stories, or maybe it didn’t matter, because maybe they were her stories, and it didn’t matter to her if anyone was interested or not. Somehow, I can’t believe that to be true. Maybe that is because I know how a writers mind works. Is a writer really a writer, if there are no readers. Writers thrive on readers who become interested in their writings.
My husband’s cousin, Elizabeth “Betty” Noyes is a wonderful writer, and the author of 3 books…the last of which will be out soon. She writes a series called “Imperfect.” Her stories are romantic suspense stories and they are filled with action. Sometimes I think that fiction is a much harder thing to write about, because you don’t have reality to draw on. Of course, when you think about it, most of us do not live the exciting kinds of lives that fictional characters do. Our lives are usually much more mundane, and that is the very reason that excellent books like those written by Elizabeth Noyes are so great to read. They have the ability to take us out of the everyday, into a world filled with action and excitement.
That’s really what it’s all about, you know. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, books take us outside ourselves. My Great Aunt Bertha quoted Charles Lamb, from an 1890 comment which stated, “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.” See, that is really what it is all about. We like to read because it takes us into the mind of the writer. Their way of thinking, their imagination, and their viewpoint, are all different from ours, and the really cool thing is that we can go visit anytime we open the pages of a book. Its out ticket into the world inside a writers mind.
When Hattie Goodman, who is my husband, Bob’s 3rd cousin 4 times removed, wrote her family history book about the Knox family, back in 1905, computers and the internet were far in the future. The Knox family knew that their roots were is Scotland, but during her lifetime, the connection was never made. Having searched, fruitlessly at times, for my own roots, I can relate to the frustration she must have felt at hitting that brick wall. I can’t imagine how slow the process must have been when the only ways to search the records were by mail or a personal visit to the city whose records you were researching…or word of mouth, which can be highly unreliable. Her own search ended with her passing, but since that time, much has changed in the genealogy realm.
While she was unable to link the Knox family to Scotland, that link has since been made. According to John Knox, of the Knox-Laffoon clan, “John Knox, emigrant progenitor, represented by the trunk of our Knox Family Tree, was a native of Scotland, born about the year 1708. The exact locality of his birthplace is not certainly known. Some of the descendants on two different branches have it by tradition that Renfrewshire was his native place. He went from Scotland to Ireland, with other Scotch emigrants, by invitation of the King of England, to constitute a balance of power against the insurgent Irish Catholics. He married an Irish Presbyterian wife, Miss Jean Gracy, whose mother’s name was Jean Sinclair. They emigrated to America (from Coleraine, Ireland) about 1740, in company with his brother-in-law, Patrick Gracy, and others. It is thought that he first settled in Pennsylvania before coming South to Carolina. He was one of the early settlers of Rowan county, N. C. He bought six hundred acres of land on the south side of Third Creek for £37, 10s., which land had been granted by Earl Granville to James Stuart.”
At some point, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg, who had married my mother-in-law, Joann Knox, was given a CD containing much of the history of the Knox family, in the form of Hattie Goodman’s book and many family pictures. I downloaded that to my computer, and have since very much enjoyed reading her writings, and especially enjoyed all the pictures that were included. I have used several of them in previous writings about the Knox family. What a wonderful thing for someone to have transferred all that information to a CD, where it could be shared and enjoyed by so many people. Originally, Reverend James Knox drew a sketch of his family tree, as far back as he knew. During Hattie’s lifetime, she was able to add many people to the original tree, and in the end produced a wonderful heirloom tree with about 2,200 names on it. Many copies were made and given to various family members. I was privileged enough to be able to see one of those copies when Bob and I visited his great grandparents, Edgar and Nellie Knox in September of 1976. It was a magnificent tree, and while I can provide a copy here, it could never be as impressive as the extra large one I got to see.
I suppose that many people might think that today’s ability to research family histories is almost cheating, but I think it is better to be able to find the answers…even if it’s taking the easy way, than never to find the answers at all. These days, the research has gone far beyond pouring over records stored in some dark basement room at city hall. Besides the internet, and the vast amount of records that are shared there every day, there are also DNA connections. I have had my DNA analyzed, and have connected with many family members from that one test. It is amazing how far we have come, and I think that in the future, we may find ourselves even closer to being able to connect to our roots, be they Scottish or one of the many other nationalities.
When it comes to being spacey, kids take the cake. As a child, I remember telling my mom that I couldn’t find something, such as shoes, books, and homework, to name a few. Mom would always say that we needed to go look for it, and “Don’t walk around looking at the ceiling!” Her point was that it obviously wouldn’t be up there, or where ever else we were scanning in such a manner, and it was time to really look. It was really a laziness way to look for something, hoping that if Mom thought we had tried, she would come and really look for it. It seldom worked, and when she found it quickly by really looking, you could bet the next time she helped was a long way off.
One of the funniest things kids do is to look for something that they already have on, or in their hand. We have all done this one…and it is one of the spaciest things to do. It’s like saying, “Where is my cell phone?” only to be told that it is in your hand. Now, that’s embarrassing!! This one happened to my daughter, Amy when she was a little girl. She was getting dressed, and started looking all around for something. I asked her what she was looking for, and she told me her shirt. When I said that she had it on, she was totally surprised, and I laughed for quite a while about that one. It still makes me laugh.
Of course, kids aren’t the only spacey people around. How many times have you seen someone looking for their keys or their glasses only to find that they are carrying the keys in their hand, and their glasses are sitting on top of their head, or hanging on a lanyard around their neck. Of course, when that is pointed out, they are always embarrassed, because that makes them as spacey as the kids. For the adults, I suppose it is just because we have our minds on so many other things, but it still feels like we should be a little more organized. And speaking of organization…don’t get me started. How many times have you put something important in a safe place so it doesn’t get lost…only to find that you can’t remember just where that safe place was. You search and search, and finally find a way to replace it. Then you remember where you put it…of course.
I think that as people get busier they forget things more often, and by the time the retire and aren’t so busy anymore…then for many, the memory isn’t so great, so the whole problem gets worse…my mother-in-law, for example. We had the worst time with her glasses for a while, only to find out that she was giving them away to “help” one of the other residents. It was a nice gesture, but a little pricey. So we had to get her a lanyard, so she couldn’t take them off so easy. It just goes to show you that when it comes to spacey…kids don’t corner the market. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at any time.
One year ago today, we received a new little addition to the Schulenberg family. Little miss Reagan could have arrived on her mommy’s birthday, and in fact maybe she tried, but she wasn’t quite fast enough, and so they each have their own birthday…one day apart. I also, have to think that was probably the last time Reagan was too slow about anything. Babies have a way of growing up way, way too fast, and as they grow, they also get their teeth too fast, crawl too fast, and walk too fast. Before you know it, they are in school, driving, dating and married and having kids of their own. Whew!! It’s enough to make you get winded.
Reagan looks so much like her daddy, that it is like they are twins, but she got her silly personality from her daddy and her mommy. Reagan makes the funniest faces, and has from the time she was just teeny, but lately she has been making some new faces. Things like trying to wink, the “who me, I didn’t make this mess” look, and the “here mommy, you eat it, if it’s so good” look, are just a few of the looks I have noticed. I think that as time goes on, we will be treated to many more of the silly looks that our miss Reagan can make.
Reagan, like many other kids, likes to take the things that are stored in a box out of the box, so she can get in the box. She reminds me of my kids and my grandson, Chris. All of them loved playing in boxes…after the contents have been removed…I mean, who needs the toys or books that were in the box anyway. Reagan is getting to that age where getting into things is what she is all about. And her funny faces still play a part in all that…like, “I’m sure I don’t know what you are talking about!! I wasn’t getting into anything!!” She has a side to her that is very easy to see. I can tell that this little girl will be just as sweet as she can be…with a big helping of mischief on the side. Today is Reagan’s first birthday. Happy birthday Reagan!! Have an extra special day!! We love you!!
When my daughter, Corrie was in first grade, her teacher decided to use Clifford, the Big Red Dog, as a reading helper. Everything they did was based on Clifford. From their first books, to the stickers they received for books read. The students thrived under Miss Tyler’s unusual interest in the big red dog. Corrie tells me that everyone loved Clifford. And not just in the books, because Miss Tyler had a huge stuffed Clifford. He was like a mascot for the class.
In addition to Clifford, Miss Tyler had all of the Clifford books. It was like a big red dog addiction. Everything they did in class included Clifford. He was a great learning aid, because at that time, and possibly still for that age group, Clifford was the coolest thing out there. We never really know what things can help a child learn, but it is well known that children learn better with toys. I have always liked learning toys for my kids, and I could see how well this strategy had worked well for Corrie.
Corrie tells me that the first book she remembers reading was a Clifford book, and that for Christmas, each student receive a Clifford book as a gift from Miss Tyler. Their entire year centered around Clifford. As rewards for good work, or good behavior, students were given the privilege of being in charge of taking care of Clifford. Corrie says that the students loved Clifford, almost as much as Emily, his owner did.
Time marches on, of course, and Clifford went the way of all childhood heros. I doubt if Corrie has thought about him in years. Her children have grown past the Clifford age, and while they did read those books too, they probably haven’t thought about the big red dog in a long time. Still, when I asked her about a picture I had found of a teacher, her students, and Clifford, all the memories came flooding back for her. Memories of school days gone by…about a simpler time, when life was all about making friends at school, and of course, recess. When I asked her about how the class responded to this different method of teaching, she said, “Oh, we loved Clifford!!”
When my grandkids were little, I found a great toy box that would serve a dual purpose. It was a Winnie the Pooh couch/toy box. It decorated our living room for many years. I’m sure many people would have laughed about our unusual decor, but my grandchildren loved it. Their Winnie the Pooh couch was the first place they ran to when they came into my house. It was like a lost treasure chest. Every time they opened it, they knew the toys would be waiting for them.
The seat of the couch slid out, so the toys were kept hidden when the kids weren’t playing with them, but the minute one of the grandkids came in, the seat was quickly removed, and the toys instantly cluttered the entire room. How is it that kids can get toys out so fast? That has always been the way kids were. My girls could take a room from clean to disaster in about 10 seconds. It was like a tornado hit the room. I know all kids are about the same, and I guess they wouldn’t be kids if they weren’t that way.
I wanted to have a toy box at my house for my grandkids, like I’m sure most grandparents do, but I wanted it to be something a little more…stylish. A lot of grandparents just find a box and it becomes a makeshift toy box, but I wanted one where their dreams could be housed. A place where their imaginations could grow and blossom. And a place where they could sit to watch television, or read books. I wanted a little…toy land…just for them. The Winnie the Pooh couch served just that purpose.
That little couch/toy box has long since left my house to move on to other children who would use it more, since my grandchildren are now teenagers. We all know that the toys teenagers play with are definitely not the ones housed in a Winnie the Pooh couch, but the memories of that old couch come to mind every so often, and they always bring a smile to my face. Those little tiny people running into my house and straight to the toy box…the giggling that would soon follow…and the pure joy of the great blessing that grandchildren are.