World War II is a complex subject. Last year, I began to read books and listen to audiobooks about this war. Before that, I had just seen some movies about the conflict. I think it is important to understand why some horrible things happened in the world in past and current times. Maybe some people think it is not important and we have to live in the present, but how can you forget something of that magnitude and just continue like nothing has ever happened ?
In any case, here is a list of the books than I've read and that I recommend :
The good boys :
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965
by William Manchester (Author), Paul Reid (Author)
I listened to the audio book for more than 53 hours, it's topic is about the life of Winston Churchill, from the begining of the war in 1940 until his death in 1965. The book describes the personality of this character, the people around him and the errors he made that cost many many lives. This guy was tough, in some ways was a bastard, but for the situation they needed someone like that. He was responsible for many deaths on his side and the other. The historical context is described in very good detail, sometimes it's funny, sometimes very sad. After finishing the book I was tired, It took like a month and a half to go through it.
Churchill was a very good speaker, like Hitler. We can see that everything is propaganda and that you can convince others to do whaterver you want, even kill others humans beings. These two guys could have been friends, there were almost alike in some aspects. But, that's my opinion. For Churchill the war was like a game: while others were dying, he was drinking, smoking and eating.
Every Man Dies Alone
by Hans Fallada, Michael Hofmann (Translator), Geoff Wilkes (Afterword)
Here we switch sides, this is a novel. In this history, the author describes the lives of the Germans in the time of Hitler. The principal character is fed up with the regime and tries to do something against it. He writes post cards telling people that the regime is unfair and lies to everybody. That the only losers are the people: jews, germans, etc. The guy thinks that everybody was going to distribute the cards and a revolution was going to begin. In reality nobody did nothing, like always, everybody was terrorized, even his captors.
We can see the terror that the Nazi regime had spread about the population. Some characters didn't make it until the end. Many characters took advantage of the situation and others believed that something magical was about to occur and that they could escape. Nothing of the sort happened. The guy is executed, with his wife and daughter. It's not really a happy ending, but it is realistic. In the end, the good guys died and the bad guys live forever happy.
The bad boys :
Eva Braun: Life with Hitler
by Heike B. Gortemaker (Author), Damion Searls (Translator)
This is a documentary about the life of the wife of Hitler. They describe her life, his beginnings and the strange relation with Hitler. The objective of the author is to denounce Eva Braun like an opportunistic and not a victim of the situation. The book describes the life of the intimate circle of Hitler and how Eva and Hitler knew each other.
I am not sure if Eva Braun had any chance to escape the situation. The way that things happened was very weird, his boss presented Eva to Hitler and I think she has not a chance to say no. Her family said nothing either. The relation with Hitler looks right, she was with him until her death, maybe because she loved him, maybe because she had no other door to escape. Any other woman in this situation could do the same, who knows.
The real thing is that she took advantage of her position, like her family and the others guys around Hitter. Power is always realy atractive to people. The other choice was to die. No easy choice.
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe
by David I. Kertzer (Author)
This book describes the relation between Mussolini and the pope Pius XI. The relationship between the catholic church and the dictator was very special. One pushes the other to do things in his favor and like in some marriages things become difficult and finish badly.
The church benefited a lot in that relationship and Mussolini as well. Both wanted to control the population and there is no good guy in this story. The pope realized that something was wrong with the racial laws that diminished the jews and that the situation was out of control, but people around him warned that the church could not afford having bad relations with the regime. The church had too much to loose in that relationship.
In the end, even if the pope tried to do something about the racial laws, he was also responsible for the war and the jewsh persecution. The church had supported and create the argument that the Nazis and Mussolini used to kill the jews and the others that were against the two regimes.
The survivers :
Man's Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl (Author), Harold S. Kushner (Foreword), William J. Winslade (Afterword)
This is a really tough book to read or listen to. Victor Franco was a Jewish psychiatrist that survived the concentration camps. His book describes the suffering and horror that the poor people endured in that hell. He touches the human soul and the human mind. He describes his imprisonment and the psychological state of the victims and the assailants.
This book is something that you have to read, specialy if you are depressed and think that your life is difficult. After ten minutes, most of the people will discover that you're blessed by God and you're a crybaby.
The only thing that allowed the victims to survive the holocaust was that they expected the end of the suffering and they had a purpose to live. That is the teaching of the book, find some purpose that inspires your life and transcend the physical or psychological suffering into something better for you, your family and friends.