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Part of the Family

Part of the Family: Christadelphians, the Kindertransport, and Rescue from the Holocaust5 StarsJason Hensley has taken a very difficult subject, filled with darkness and sorrow and brought forth a glimmer of light. There have been many history books written on the Holocaust from many perspectives, but Hensley has taken a fresh approach to the subject. Anyone studying this period of history knows the horrors that awaited the Jews under Hitler but few history books talk about the children that do survive. Even fewer talk about the people that made it so children of Jewish families could have a chance at life. Hensley’s focus in Part of the Family is on the children that were taken in by the Christadelphians families and their stories. Part of the Family is not your traditional history book filled with facts, rather it gives you a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and than a collection of mini biographies of some of the children. This is also the first book in a collection that Hensley is working on to fill the gap in this area of history.

Part of the Family gives a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and what they believe. It does not go deeply in-depth to make this a history of religion, rather just enough to give the reader an overview of the mindset of the families that foster these Jewish children. It documents the lives of nine children and their experiences with the Kindertransport. The families are not just from Germany, included are also families from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland. The general format of the biographies are: brief overview of the climate that the children were born into for their time/location, the decline of their families situation, the Kindertransport, meeting their new families and their life with them, than after the fact. Hensley tries to give as much information on what happened to the families of these children, in some cases the children are reunited years later, however in most cases, the families do perish at the hands of the Nazis.

In describing the Christadelphians Hensley makes sure to emphasizes that despite their devote and very structured Christian beliefs, none of the families ever forced or pressured the children to convert. They lived with the families as if they were their own children, participating in all the activities, including daily bible readings and attending meetings with the family. However, none were forced to be baptized into the Christadelphians faith. While some did ultimately choose that path, it was of their own choosing when they were near adulthood. For the families that took in the Jewish children, this quote seams to sum up the way they treated the foster children, “Perhaps, then, one of the most important questions to ask ourselves is how our own beliefs affect our actions – and whether these beliefs are truly influencing our actions for good” (Hensley, 2016, p.182). This mentality of showing the children kindness and good in the world despite all the misery they had faced, influenced them all in positive ways. The children in this collection all went on to have fulfilling lives of their own and often kept in touch with their foster families.

This book gives a compassionate overview into this period of history. It shows that there are good people out there that do things simply because it’s the right thing to do. These are not children that went on to be famous or necessarily do great things, they are every day kids that suffered deeply and came out on the other side to make a life for themselves. Overall a great supplement to the standard history texts on the Holocaust and the start of a great project by Hensley to bring these stories to light.

Pages: 442 | ISBN: 1532740530

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Notes from a Very Small Island

Notes From a Very Small Island3 StarsNotes From a Very Small Island by Anthony Stancomb is very literal in the sense of its name. The book is mainly a collection of experiences surrounding the island of Vis. Croatia’s historical events and current culture were brought to the fore as locals looked towards what a future with the European Union (EU) might mean. The book brings to life, the characters, as seen through the eyes of the narrator and primarily focuses on day to day conflicts and situations that arise. Throughout the book, there are comparisons of the fast city life and the relaxed island life and factors that contribute to the differences and similarities.

We are first introduced to Dario, a local Disc Jock/ hardware store worker, who I assumed to be the protagonist of the story, and his wife and son; Sofia and Dino. Dario is from the island of Vis and prefaces most of the chapters in the book through humorous and political banter via his radio show. Over the first few paragraphs we meet Karmela, the housekeeper and Ivana, the narrator’s Croatian wife. We get an idea of who the narrator is by the establishment of his English nationality and his history in broadcasting, however, throughout the chapters, he was never identified by name and for me, this made the rest of the stories somewhat less personable.

The transition from London to the quaint island of Vis was not easy for the narrator and his wife. They left the city, their jobs, friends and two adult children behind, for a more scenic and native lifestyle. It was a move that was compounded by rebuilding, a theme that stood out in the majority of the book. Cricket seemed to be a cultural icebreaker in assisting the Stancombs in settling in.

It was only the mention of Facebook in chapter 13 that gave an idea of the era the narrator spoke from. A sizeable amount of the chapters had many historical references, much of it informed by locals like old Marinko. There were historical and political themes about the island as it related to their current realities and what it meant going forward for the locals and the narrator, should Croatia become a part of the EU.

Both the church and Dario had outspoken views in regards to the EU change. Urbanizing Croatia, adopting foreign lifestyles and fashions were just a few of the things they were concerned would undermine their freedoms or the simple things such as, Zoran’s bar after church service, their food, wine or culture. Attitudes to foreigners were evolving, the Craigs and Duffys, friends of the narrator, would end up testament to that.

Milena and Christopher, the narrator’s children, Milena’s boyfriend; Andrew and Ivanna’s Serbian cousins all exacted specific views from locals. The reason why this was so, was evident in the historical context of various nationals with Croatians. These dynamics are what established the island’s character.

I found the book relatively hard to follow, it fluctuated between the past and present too much, too quickly, with no transitional sentences or forewarning. There were several in text person references that were ineffective as well, as they weren’t general knowledge. The story was anticlimactic but there are surprises to look for. This is a book for a modern historical story enthusiast.Buy Now From Amazon.com

Pages: 312 | ISBN: 1910670456

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