Here There Is No Why

Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com
Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com

“Here There Is No Why” was the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele’s answer to Roma, the author of one of the most compelling Holocaust memoirs, and to millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Written to fulfill a promise made in the darkest moment of human history, this simple and eloquent story is unique in that it spans the geography of the Nazi’s Final Solution.

Rachel Roth, or “Roma” in Polish, has written perhaps the most compelling, the most powerful Holocaust/World War II memoir I have ever read.  If you only read one, you must consider this before you make your choice.

In part, it is powerful simply because Rachel Roth survived not only the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but also three of the most notorious concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz — and Mengele’s infamous selections. It is also powerful because of the deftness with which she describes the experiences, at times painting terrifically detailed scenes, at times allowing the horrific events to speak for themselves without cloaking them in emotionally charged language. Yet the emotions are there, when they are most telling. One of the ways she survived was to dream of better times, to transport herself — and others, too — away from the camps to better times and places. After sharing one of these stories with those around her, an anonymous prisoner made her promise to write of what happened there. It would be decades before she was ready to do so.

In keeping her promise, she has given us a tremendous gift — and one that cost her a great deal in recalled pain. It is understandable that she needed time to fulfill the promise, though it is also unfortunate that earlier generations were denied the gift she offers here.

The result is a rare first-hand look at life in the Jewish Ghetto until its destruction, as well as life in some of the most notorious concentration camps, and a tale that encompasses love and hate, kindness and cruelty, grace and horror. It deserves a lasting place in the library of anyone interested in history or the Holocaust. Or simply in human nature.

About the author:  Rachel Roth was the teenage daughter of a journalist when Hitler became a topic of conversation in her family’s summer colony. She is an outspoken witness to life in the Warsaw Ghetto and a participant in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  She poignantly relays to audiences the daily events of a schoolgirl under German occupation of Poland. She survived the remainder of the war with her Aunt as they were transported into and out of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She has spoken in English and Hebrew before countless audiences of children and adults, in schools, universities, and synagogues as well as at the U.S. Department of State. Rachel was awarded an honorary diploma from the Ramaz Upper School in New York City in recognition of her studies in the Warsaw Ghetto and her dedication to Holocaust education

Note:  Sis first read this through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  Its impact on her affected many of her friends and fellow readers, who then borrowed or bought copies . . . and one of those friends, realizing that Sis didn’t even own a copy of the book she had so highly recommended, sent her the gift of the ebook for her very own.  It is definitely one she’ll read again.

Kindle Edition, $3.99 list price

Paperback, $14.55

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“In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”


Fatal Decision coverFatal Decision:  Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse
(2nd edition) by Terri Arthur, available in paperback (list price: $19.95) and Kindle ebook (list price:  $9.99).  Audio version also available.  Published by HenschelHaus Publishing, Inc., on 30 November 2015.  Published in Great Britain as Fatal Destiny:  Edith Cavell, WWI Nurse in the fall of 2014.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Terri Arthur brings Edith Cavell back to life in her compelling and generally well-written historical novel, Fatal Decision:  Edith Cavell, WWI Nurse, published by HenschelHaus Publishing Inc.

The book is variously categorized as biography & memoir and literature & fiction, which reflects the depth of research and verifiable facts that laid the foundation for the fictionalized biography.  In reading it, I was reminded of the “biographies” I adored – and devoured – from the shelves of my elementary school’s library, though this was certainly written for adult readers rather than fourth-graders who never wondered how the author “knew” exactly what all those historical figures said and thought, especially long before anyone would have cared to preserve those conversations and thoughts for posterity.

In the same way, Arthur has imagined and described events and scenes that were never recorded while fleshing out the historical novel with facts that were noted and recorded – and does it so well that the reader is tempted to believe she must have been a fly upon the walls of the nursing schools at which Cavell learned, taught and eventually established in Belgium prior to the outbreak of World War I and from which she nursed both German and Allied soldiers during the war until her arrest by the German Army occupying Belgium.

The result is a truly compelling read, larded with photographs and photocopies (as well as a detailed bibliography) that form the novel’s foundation and tell the terrible story of a dedicated nurse who was executed after a trial at which her lawyer was never told the charges against her, nor allowed to interview or meet her, or prepare any sort of defense beforehand, and in spite of the fact that the charge on which she was convicted did not warrant the death penalty.

I knew something of Miss Cavell’s story – essentially, that the cold-blooded execution of the nurse who not only tended wounded German soldiers but also helped Belgian, English and French heal and escape from what had been a neutral country after a charade of a trial had turned her into a martyr for the Allies.  The bullets that brought down her body also helped bring the U.S. out of its isolationism and into the war, while inspiring thousands of her countrymen to enlist and join the fight against the barbaric foe who had executed her.  I learned a great deal more, from her trials as a student nurse to her trials in establishing a school of nursing in Belgium, where nurses were held in low esteem – and did little to earn any higher.

The one weakness, for me, was just a few too many instances of sloppy editing, especially in a second edition.  Here’s one example:

“A day could start out sunny, as it had this morning, and then suddenly change a shift in the wind would overtake the afternoon sun to bring dark clouds and could rain.”

In 99 books out of 100, such sloppiness would pull me right out of the story – and it may prove distracting for the most discriminating readers – yet I was so caught up in this one that I refused to budge.  Long before I came to the end, I felt that I had been well rewarded for my perseverance . . . and I think the majority of readers will, too.

About the author: Terri Arthur lives on Cape Cod where she has held various positions as a nurse over forty years. In addition to her nursing, she holds a BS in education and biology and a MS in health business management. She also manages a continuing education business, Medical Education Systems, and is the Nursing Director of SEAK, a continuing education business that serves health and legal professionals.

Note:  Sis received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review of her own unbiased opinion.  Of course, Sis prizes her integrity far too much to allow anyone to influence her reviews.   featured

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