Posts Tagged ‘Adolf Hitler’

 

There are people looking at the title of this post and thinking, “What the heck did that crazy author come up with now?”

To answer that question, I just finished writing a short story taking place during the London Blitz. I first had the idea for this story over four years ago, when I went on a study-abroad trip to Europe to follow the Allies’ path through Europe. While our teacher and tour guide (or was it one of the other students giving a report based on the research they did the last semester?) was discussing the London Blitz at Bletchley Park (the site where Alan Turing cracked the Nazi Enigma code), I had this idea for a story taking place during the Blitz, involving some kids encountering something awful while trying to run from the bombs. Over time, the antagonist came to be Adolf Hitler.

Or is it him? You know me, I never write anything simple. In any case, the story reflects something about me that shouldn’t surprise anyone: I’m scared of Hitler and the Nazis. As a Jew, I know how close my people came to annihilation nearly three-quarters of a century ago. If the war had gone differently, I probably wouldn’t be here, let alone talking about my stories and my love of horror with you. This is part of why I studied the Holocaust in college, and why I still study it today (though obviously not as frequently as I did in college). But even though I studied the Holocaust and have a pretty good understanding of what occurred, knowing doesn’t make me any less afraid of the Nazis or their monster of a leader. And with such a resurgence of people saying Hitler was right or worthy of admiration, I made sure to get that fear across in the story. Hopefully I succeeded.

You know, I actually wasn’t intending to write this story. I was planning on getting back to a novelette that I’d started working on in-between drafts of Rose. However, this story started calling to me to write it, and I couldn’t resist the call to listen to it. And yes, stories can demand to be written. At least while they’re in our heads. And I only just figured out why this story wanted me to write it so badly that it grabbed my attention. You see, I went to Washington DC recently for work. It was the first time since I was thirteen or so that I’d been to DC, so obviously I was going to do the tourist thing and check out some places (see my Instagram for photos). One of the places I decided to visit was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, so I could see it after being so much more informed about it than I was as a teen.

The train car at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. There’s such a palpable energy of despair coming from it, you can’t help but be affected by it.

I guess my subconscious had me write this story because I was going to that museum. Maybe it was some form of mental preparation, or maybe I felt somewhere in my mind that it was the right thing to write. In either case, I went to the museum on Saturday, and let me tell you, their main exhibit has a palpable atmosphere. You can’t go in there without coming away affected. Seeing all these artifacts from the past–concentration camp and Nazi uniforms, newsreel footage, photographs, testimonials from survivors, even a train car that might have been used to transport Jews and other “inferior races” to concentration camps–along with the museum’s presentation of them, make you fully aware of the horror that occurred so long ago and how it still affects us today.

After I left the main exhibit, I was so glad I was writing this story. It was as if through the story, I was reminding people there’s still a reason to fear Hitler and his ideology. Especially since it’s showing a resurgence these days, long after its abominable creator committed suicide.

So what’s next for this particular story? Well obviously I’m going to have it looked over and then edited. Afterwards though…we’ll see. It’s a little over sixty-eight hundred words, so it’s not too long. I’ll see about getting it published somewhere. There’s a magazine I’ve been trying on and off to get published in, so maybe they’ll take it. Then again, the Ohio Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, of which I’m a member of, has been talking about putting together an anthology. Perhaps I’ll submit it there.

In any case, I’ll let it lie for a while before working on it again. In the meantime, let’s see if I can finish that novelette before I get the latest draft of Rose back from Castrum.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

So I recently bought my own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, something I’ve been contemplating on doing since I listened to and reviewed Go Set a Watchman last year (more on that later). Reading the book, which I hadn’t read since eighth or ninth grade, I realized two things: one was that a lot of my memories of the Mockingbird book had been clouded and confused with the Mockingbird movie. The other was that this merited discussion. And where better to discuss it than on my blog?

I finished the book on Tuesday and watched the movie that night, but couldn’t really blog about it till now because I only have so much time, and what little I have goes by rather quickly (dammit Time, you’re still a quick bastard, aren’t you?). This article will be part review, part reflective essay, but all about what is obviously one of the best pieces of American literature ever written. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Book. To say the least, I’m glad I reread the book. I’m not sure if I just didn’t absorb the details as well the first time around, or if I just have a worse memory than I thought, but a lot of what made the book so wonderful hit me like it was my first time reading it. The text is beautiful, full of a smart child’s observations about events that an adult might have trouble absorbing, and all with a somewhat poetic innocence and beauty. You find yourself discovering all sorts of ironies and hypocrisies with Scout Finch, and you find yourself also wanting to explain to her these ironies and hypocrisies that, to her, are too confusing and that the adults can’t seem to explain to her very well.

And like I said earlier, I had quite a revelation about how much I confused the book and the movie. For instance, Scout’s a lot girlier in the book than in the movie. Yes, she’s still quite the tomboy in the book, but the movie emphasized that more, even to the point where she says she hates dresses. In the book, Scout doesn’t seem to outright hate dresses, she just prefers overalls. She also wants to be a good housewife when she grows up and take care of her husband, and she dreams of being a baton twirler when she’s in high school, which are something I can’t imagine Mary Badham’s Scout ever wanting to do. Yeah, these aren’t big differences, but they’re differences nonetheless.

What really surprised me though was the difference in Atticus’s character.* I’ve had this image of Atticus being like this perfect being, a giant of a man with the wisdom of Merlin and the morals of Abraham. However, this is only the movie’s version of Atticus. While Atticus is definitely a moral force, he does struggle in the book. You see it, every decision he struggles with. At times, you can feel him trying to figure out what’s the best move, whether it’s raising his children or trying to be a good lawyer and a good citizen. It was quite the surprise, but I like this version of Atticus more. A character who struggles to do the right thing is always easier to identify with and root for than a character who always does the right thing without question, and that makes the story all the more powerful.

Atticus Finch in the movie, as played by Gregory Peck.

Atticus Finch in the movie, as played by Gregory Peck.

The Movie. I love how the movie started with Scout just humming and coloring. It embodies the innocence that Scout somehow manages to maintain throughout the story. The actors all do very well in their roles, though I thought that the actor who played Bob Ewell could have looked a bit more unkempt and hateful, because he looks like just a regular farmer here. The film is smart in how it sticks to the most important points of the story, namely the trial and the children’s relationship with Boo Radley, as well as the family moments that allow the audience to get to know the characters. I would’ve liked to see more of Dill Harris, as his role is really scaled down in the film, and his exit from the movie is abrupt and not commented upon. Still, it is a really wonderful film. I’m glad I watched it again, and I hope it never gets remade (though if Hollywood is desperate enough to do so, cast Zachary Quinto as Atticus. He’s a bit young for the role, but he’s just an amazing actor. He could pull it off).

Overall thoughts. This book is just as relevant today as it was when it came out in 1960. Now I know to some people, that seems like a no-brainer. After all, the book is taught in schools every day, illustrating the racial climate of both the 1930’s and 1960’s. And yes, that is true, but Mockingbird‘s themes can be applied today. Look at the Black Lives Matter movement: it’s a movement that’s fighting against racial injustice in the justice system, trying to keep black men, women, and children alive when many are accused and sometimes even killed for crimes they did not commit. And people who would readily smack down Adolf Hitler have called these protesters thugs, criminals, terrorists for wanting things to change, and to not have to feel fear while walking down the street. Exactly like Mockingbird. And all too often, you hear people make sweeping generalizations about minorities, especially minorities who are “dangerous,” or a threat to social order. This happens in Mockingbird as well, and it’s scary to see something in a novel about the past happening in my present. And it makes you question how far we’ve really come since then.

One of the best lessons from Mockingbird is that you can’t really know someone until you walk in their shoes. I don’t remember if this point was emphasized as much in my classes back in the day (and as students at an all-Jewish school, we’re all-too familiar with what it’s like to be a persecuted people), but it’s something that should be emphasized more in examinations of Mockingbird. Because it’s all too easy to be scared of someone, but it’s difficult as hell to empathize and see things from their point of view.

Whether it’s the book or the movie, really, To Kill a Mockingbird is just a powerful story. It’s beautifully written and told, the characters are timeless, and its lessons are things we can all take to heart, no matter what age it is. I’d be lucky to write something just as earth-shattering someday. Because Mockingbird isn’t just a great example of American literature. It’s an exploration in what it means to be a human being.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. My next post will be at some point Saturday, so keep an eye out for it. Until next time!

*Speaking of Atticus’s character, something I just want to talk about real quick. When Watchman came out last year, there was all this controversy about Atticus being revealed as having racist leanings. Not the best thing to have in a sequel, is it? Well, I didn’t know this when I wrote my review, but apparently Watchman was not a real sequel. In actuality, it was most likely a very early draft of Mockingbird. This makes all sorts of sense to me, especially in light of my rereading Mockingbird. For instance, Watchman spends a lot of time going back and forth between events in Scout’s childhood and in her adulthood, which doesn’t happen at all in Mockingbird. A weird move for a sequel. That, and Atticus isn’t the only character who’s changed a bit: Uncle Jack Finch is portrayed as more eccentric in Watchman than in Mockingbird, which seems unusual as I’m sure Scout would have noticed his uncle’s oddness as a child. Most damning of all, though, is that the trial in Mockingbird is only barely in Watchman, and Boo Radley, who’s so essential to Mockingbird, isn’t even mentioned in Watchman! Very odd, to say the least.

And from a writer’s experience, I can tell you that stories can change dramatically between drafts. Some of my own stories have gone through great transformations from first draft to final publication (I should do an article on that!). That’s why Watchman, an early draft, is so different from Mockingbird, the final product.

So fear not, folks. Atticus isn’t really racist. An early version of him was, but I think the final version, who defended Tom Robinson and who said cheating a black man was ten times worse than a white man, isn’t a racist at all. He’s still a great idea of what we can be. He’s human, he struggles with his decisions, he’s not perfect. But he is a good man without prejudice. And that’s the version we love the most.

And Watchman? Well, it’s a pretty blatant attempt to capitalize on an already-famous book, but it’s good in its own right. Just remember its origin and don’t get too depressed over certain characterizations when you read it. That’s all I can say at this point, friends and neighbors.

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week, but for a number of reasons–including my desire to wait and see how this played out–I’m only just getting around to it. But now that I am, let me start by saying this is a most unusual blog post, even for me. It has only a little to do with anything writing or horror-related, which usually means this would be a political post or about my life in general, but politics is only incidental to this story, and it doesn’t really feel like something affecting my life. It’s just amusing, like watching a cat chase a laser dot around the living room without realizing it’ll never catch that dot.

Okay, back to the beginning. If you’re at all familiar with contemporary American politics, you’ll know that we’re less than a year away from the Presidential election, and already election season is in full-swing. I’ve come out as a Hillary Clinton supporter already, and I follow her on Facebook. On one of her most recent status updates, I left a comment and that was the start of the craziness.

Now I know some people have some really intense opinions on the former Secretary of State. I get that, but I’m going to ask that you hold off on your opinions until this post is finished. Anyway, this was on Tuesday, in the wake of the Paris attacks, and already people in power were talking about limiting refugees based on religion or entirely. Secretary Clinton posted this on Facebook in response:

We’ve seen a lot of hateful rhetoric from the GOP. But the idea that we’d turn away refugees because of religion is a new low. -H

Well, that resonated with me. I’m a supporter of the refugees, and I don’t like the idea of turning them away. So here’s what I wrote as a comment:

America was built by religious refugees, as the GOP loves to point out. Turning away refugees becauseon their religion is hypocritical and goes against what America is supposed to be about.

This was one of the earliest comments on that particular post, which might explain what happened next.

Who knew supporting one candidate could lead to so much craziness?

Within half an hour, that post had over 300 likes and a growing number of comments. Some of them were supportive or in agreement. Others were…angry. Disagreeable. A few were throwing insults at my face. Others were attacking other people. Pretty quickly it degenerated into a debate between various commenters over this or that fact.

Did I say debate? I meant a mess of cobras fighting each other for superiority because they don’t like one another or their political beliefs. I’m pretty sure blood was spilled several times in the course of three or four days.

I won’t quote directly what people said, because some of what was said was just really awful and I like to keep this blog a mostly positive place despite this being the blog of a horror novelist. I will say that a few people called me names, said I knew nothing about the law or what America was about. One guy actually tried to direct message me to tell me I didn’t know anything and call me a dumbass. Thankfully, Facebook allows you to decline messages from people you don’t know, so I deleted that conversation quick as a rabbit.

My favorite insult hurled at me was some guy who had a similar name to a famous American writer’s real name told me I should go and study history. Joke’s on that guy, because one of my majors in college was History!

About an hour into this madness, I decided to comment back, the only comment I left in this crazy den of verbal Hunger Games contestants:

So I posted this comment about an hour ago. It’s got 550+ likes, 50+ comments, and a few people getting angry with one another over differences of opinion. And I’m just sitting here wondering, “Why can’t my sci-fi novel get this sort of attention? Islamaphobia and dealing with it is one of its major themes!”

If I see an opportunity to plug my books, I will. What do you want from me? It’s a hard world for indie authors, and we gotta do what we gotta do to make it in this hard, terrible world. And anyway, I was wondering why Reborn City didn’t get that much attention, especially considering the themes it explores.

In any case, this plug didn’t do me any good. That comment only got three likes, and only one person actually replied to it. They told me it must be because, like me and my original comment, my novel must be stupid because I don’t know anything.

That’s probably the only comment that actually hurt me. I put a lot of work into what I write, to make sure they leave impressions on people. Calling them stupid? I take offense at that.

At least nobody used that comment to seek me out and leave me false reviews just to hurt me. That would’ve been really dickish.

So at final tally, we’ve got 1,383 likes, 243 comments, and a whole rather nasty list of web vitriol. The activity was strong through Tuesday and Wednesday, but dropped off on Thursday, which thankfully I’m glad for. It was just nuts.

And how do I feel about being attacked? Well, I think knowing this was only temporary made it easier for me to just detach from it and not let it get to me. In fact, I felt a little bit good that I managed to stay out of the fire that I somehow managed to cause. I kind of felt like an evil villain with a set of human dominoes, just watching things play out and waiting to see what remains. Yeah, that’s callous, but it’s not as bad as what some of the people were saying in that comment thread. It was enough to make sailors blush.

Still, it was pretty amazing that I could get so many people riled up just with one comment. People really are sensitive when it comes to politics, and that sensitivity can get amplified through the anonymity of the Internet. The worst were the Donald Trump supporters (and they made themselves obvious, believe me). Those guys were the craziest of all

Oh, and people who want to comment some nastiness on this post, be careful. The more you comment, the more my profile is raised. That is all.

The building where Kristallnacht was planned.

The building where Kristallnacht was planned.

I’m telling you, I had quite the day yesterday. Besides spending half the day traveling between my apartment in Wiesbaden and the train station in Munich, I mean. That was just a pain in the butt, as well as a strain on my wallet (I will not be traveling for the next few weeks because of it most likely).

Well, let’s skip over the long, mostly uneventful train rides, and get right into my day in Munich. I got there a bit before noon despite several delays along the way and managed to grab a bite to eat and some extra water before meeting up with Taff Simon, my tour guide. Taff, a Welsh archaeologist who works on WWII-related sites when not in the midst of giving people tours (and whom I highly recommend for a tour if you’re interested in WWII stuff), was the best tour guide. Since we both were well-versed in Nazi history, he didn’t have to spend a lot of time filling me in on basic Nazi history. Instead, he took me to various locations around the city that had Nazi history attached to them.

For example, our very first stop was the place where Kristallnacht was thought up. Yeah, that place still exists, it’s an old, church-like building with two arched tunnels built into it for through-traffic. Kristallnacht was thought up during a dinner party for the fifteenth anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch being held inside. To this day there are memorials in one of the tunnels commemorating what had happened.

The coffee shop where Hitler would come up with his speeches. The Devil's Column is in the back.

The coffee shop where Hitler would come up with his speeches. The Devil’s Column is in the back.

I also got to see the places where the German Worker’s Party, the forerunner of the Nazi Party, met, as well as the meeting place of the Thule Society and the building where the SS was founded. We also visited the spot where the Beer Hall Putsch was stopped by police and an alleyway that was used to avoid the memorial that would later be set up there and became pretty famous consequently. We also visited a few beer gardens that had some history with the Nazis (though no one likes to admit it), including the Hofbraushaus, where Hitler would often give speeches after writing them in a coffeehouse down the street (to this day, the column in that shop he’d sit next to while preparing his speeches is known as The Devil’s Column).

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The Hofbrauhaus, where Hitler gave some of his speeches in Munich.

Really, one of the big things you take away from this tour of Munich is that Nazism really was born here. This was the city where the German Worker’s Party grew and evolved into its more terrifying form that we know so well today, where major events shaping the party took place, where the Thule met and where the SS was born. You even see pieces of that history today, not just in memorials but in buildings and architecture, in pieces of art, and just in the stories told about certain places. It’s quite fascinating.

Taff also took me to the University District of Munich, and brought me to the place where the White Rose, a small resistance group that operated during the early forties, would distribute leaflets hoping to get their fellow students and intelligentsia to resist the Nazis. To this day there are stone copies of their leaflets embedded in the courtyard in front of the medical school and memorials to the group within for their heroism and martyrdom.

He also took me around that area of town, showing me a building where the Nazis used to hold offices and where Hitler signed the 1937 “peace accords”, a square with Greco-Roman buildings set up where rallies were held, the remains of a temple decided to the people who died on the night of the Putsch, and quite a few others. Believe me, when he showed me the building where the Gestapo used to be headquartered, I had a bit of a chill.

One of the stone leaflets in memory of the White Rose.

One of the stone leaflets in memory of the White Rose.

By the end of the tour we ended up back where we started, in the square near the building where Kristallnacht had been planned. As I was hot and nursing a small headache by that time, I thanked Taff for showing me all that I described above and more and asked him to send me information of any future tours he might be doing (including one about some rather gruesome witch hunts and other nastiness that had happened in the city). Taff also directed me to the Hugendubel, a five-floor bookstore that had several books on Nazism and Munich’s history within its walls. I bought a very large tome and headed home after that, feeling like I had definitely made the most of my weekend.

All in all, it was a very exciting and edifying tour. I took somewhere between sixty and seventy-five photos in total, most of which I deemed good enough to send to myself (uploading them to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is going to be a pain in the ass). I also got to see locations I didn’t know existed, let alone were still standing, and I felt like I was getting to step right into history thanks to Taff’s expertise and storytelling. And I got to see the city of Munich, which in itself is just wonderful.

The old headquarters of the Gestapo. Actually took a step back in fear when I found out what it was. You can guess why.

The old headquarters of the Gestapo. Actually took a step back in fear when I found out what it was. You can guess why.

And I even got some help with my writing here. As you can imagine, I’ve got plenty of ideas for stories that involve World War II and the Holocaust, including a book series I plan to write someday that I think could be my Dark Tower series (though probably not as complicated). Going to Munich yesterday certainly helped to give me a sense of what living back then was like and helped flesh out the setting for those stories, and I even had an idea for a new short story based on the info Taff told me.

It was just a wonderful trip and I’m glad I went. I’lm definitely going to try to do another post or two about my day in Munich, one showing some more of the photos I took and one about some of the really cool souvenirs I got from the city (trust me, that’s worth doing another post about).

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to get off the computer and get some other work done. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, my Followers of Fear.

And if any of you are ever in Munich and want to go on a tour like I did, I highly recommend giving Taff Simon a call. He’s a great guy, he knows what he’s talking about, and you’ll definitely come away feeling it was worth the trip.Here’s the link to his website if you’re interested.