Posts tagged Churchill

Pittsburgh 2018; London 1942

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On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers killed 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, including a 97 year-old woman, and wounded 6 others, in what the Anti-Defamation League calls the deadliest attack targeting Jews in U.S. history.

On October 29, 1942, almost exactly 76 years earlier, a public meeting was held in London.  In The Second World War, author Martin Gilbert’s encyclopedic history of the war, Gilbert describes this meeting of leading British churchmen and public figures.  The purpose was to protest against the Nazis’ persecution of Jews.

Gilbert adds that Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered this message to the meeting:

“The systematic cruelties to which the Jewish people—men, women and children—have been exposed under the Nazi regime are amongst the most terrible events of history; and place an indelible stain upon all who perpetrate and instigate them.  Free men and women denounce these vile crimes and when this world struggle ends with the enthronement of human rights, racial persecution will be ended.” (my emphasis)

Have we learned nothing in the intervening 76 years?

Dr. Jeffrey K. Cohen is President of Allegheny General Hospital, the facility that treated Bowers following the attack.  Dr. Cohen, as well as the attending emergency room physician, and an emergency room nurse, are all Jewish.  Dr. Cohen has been quoted as saying: “It’s time for leaders to lead.  And the words mean things. And the words are leading to people doing things like this, and I find it appalling.”

Why is Antisemitism suddenly since 2017 on the rise here in America, a country that defeated the Nazis 73 years ago?

Where are our national leaders?

Where is our Churchill?

Where?

Churchill’s Darkest Hour

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Gary Oldman as Churchill

On this day in 1965, Winston Churchill died, age 90.  So perhaps it is only fitting that yesterday the 90th Oscar nominations were announced, and among the leading contenders was “Darkest Hour,” a film that could easily have been titled “Churchill’s Darkest Hour.”  The film received a total of six nominations, ranging from obscure categories like Best Picture and Best Actor, to some highly contested categories (the ones you have to stay up till 11:55 pm to find out the winner), such as Best Makeup and Hairstyling.  I guess making Gary Oldman look convincingly as bald as Churchill is quite a skill. I enjoyed watching the movie thoroughly and highly recommend it.

Winston Spencer Churchill was a very complex man, one whose life spanned the reign of Queen Victoria to the space age, and included important roles in both World War I and World War II.  As with any complex, larger-than-life personality, he has, and will continue to have, his share of supporters and detractors.  But it is hard to conceive that anyone else could have carried Great Britain through when, alone, the country faced the Nazi juggernaut.  Churchill assumed the prime ministership on May 10, 1940.  By then Germany had crushed Poland in thirty days, occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia and Denmark, and overwhelmed Belgium in eighteen days.  France, which had fought for over four years during WWI, and helped defeat Germany, was invaded the same day and capitulated a mere forty-six days later.  (The country which held out the longest was Norway, a nation of less than four million, which took over two months to subdue.)

Churchill and England fought on, alone, with the United States officially neutral and its Congress still deeply isolationist, and with the Soviet Union bound by a nonaggression treaty with Germany itself.  It was not until Hitler committed the twin disasters, within a six-month period, of invading Russia and declaring war on the U.S., that the tide unexpectedly began to turn.

When Churchill assumed this arduous task, one that he would shoulder until the very closing days of the war, he was 65 years old, the age when most of us want nothing more than to retire.  I am 63 and am content to walk my dogs, write a few blogs (like this), make an occasional presentation about Odd Nansen’s fabulous diary, From Day to Day: One Man’s Diary of Survival in Nazi Concentration Camps, and tend my garden, and I consider that a pretty full life.  Whatever the source of Churchill’s energy was, it sustained him through many a dark hour, day, week, month and year before the outcome of World War II was assured.

In sustaining England, Churchill also sustained those who were prisoners of the Nazis.  Odd Nansen mentions Churchill in no less than eight of his diary entries, the first six weeks after his arrest.  By then Churchill had been Prime Minister for almost two years.  Here’s what Nansen writes on Friday, February 20, 1942:

“Churchill made his speech a week ago, explaining the why and how [of the fall of Singapore].  It was plain that all who had heard him were eminently optimistic, though we haven’t got hold of what he actually said.  In all probability he didn’t gild the situation, but no doubt gave expression as usual to his unshaken faith in the future and the final victory.  The certainty he gives our whole world!  The victory of which our whole world is as sure as he is!”

I certainly am going to watch the Oscars this year, and will even stay up to 11:55 pm if I have to.  And in a small way, I hope that the man who said “Never, never, never give up!” will get his due.

PS: The movie “Dunkirk” (which I’ve written about here) received eight Oscar nominations.  Yet another reason to watch the proceedings!

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Book Signings

  • June 25, 2019: Nordic Center, Duluth, MN
  • June 26, 2019: The Colony, Eden Prairie, MN
  • June 26, 2019: The Waters, Edina, MN
  • June 27, 2019: Legends of Cottage Grove, Cottage Grove, MN
  • June 27, 2019: Abiitan, Minneapolis, MN
  • June 27, 2019: Norway House, Minneapolis, MN
  • June 28, 2019: Waters at 50th, Minneapolis, MN
  • June 28, 2019: The Kenwood, Minneapolis, MN
  • September 15, 2019: Center for Holocaust and Minority Studies, Oslo, Norway
  • September 25-28, 2019: Norsk Hostfest, Minot, ND
  • October 14: Sage Avademy for Lifelong Learning, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
  • October 14, 2019: Charlestown Sr. Living, Catonsville, MD
  • October 15, 2019: American Scandinavian Foundation, New York, NY
  • October 17, 2019: 55-Plus Club, Princeton, NJ
  • October 18, 2019: VASA/Lodge Linne, New Providence, NJ
  • October 19, 2019: Stonebridge at Montgomery, Skillman, NJ
  • November 1, 2019: Osher Lifelong Learning, Furman University, Greenville, SC
  • November 14, 2019: Maven’s Club/Temple Emanuel, Winston-Salem, NC
  • January 23, 2020: Shalom Club/Carolina Preserve, Cary, NC
  • January 31, 2020: Osher Life Long Learning, Furman University, Greenville, SC

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"Timothy Boyce captivated a larger than usual, attentive and appreciative audience with his spellbinding presentation of Odd Nansen and his World War II diary. He brilliantly demonstrated Odd Nansen’s will to survive while also helping others. A remarkable tale presented in an informative and fascinating way by a truly engaging speaker."

- Audun Gythfeldt, President
Sons of Norway Nor-Bu Lodge, Rockaway, NJ

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