My Love to Director Luke Holland

It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. There were signs all over downtown reminding everyone to wear a mask, the marquee on Fox Theater announced that Malala Yousef was coming to speak in October.

I did not have high expectations for Final Account. I’ve seen every Holocaust movie of the last three decades, including Quentin Tarantino’s. I didn’t read any reviews; I only wanted to get some respite from the glare.

Two things: there were other people in the audience. Perhaps eight other people? I assumed they were seniors. They usually are, at the movies I see. Towards the end, someone to my right clapped. It was after the interview with the man who had been one of 23 SS at the Wannsee Conference (1942) when The Final Solution was decided on. I looked to the right, saw bare feet up on the seat in front (which is a very American thing to do, it’s almost summer hey) and assumed the feet belonged to a young person. Much to my surprise, when the lights went up, it was a tall woman whose grey hair was cut very short, like a boy’s. She was wearing khaki shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops. She walked quickly out of the theater after the movie ended, faster than I’ve seen any person, young or old, move.

The film was a series of interviews with the last surviving members of the SS (identifiable by a small mark, a tattoo), and with others who worked for the Nazis, male and female. It started with those who were inducted into Hitler Youth in the early 1930s, moved all the way up through Kristallnacht (1938) and into the Allied Victory.

The day before the Americans arrived at one of the camps, the guards started stuffing people into the crematoriums, as many as they could. And then they slunk away. One woman told how she successfully hid her fiancee, a prison guard, for nine months. Her companions were surprised. I guess they’d never heard her tell this story? They also sounded a bit incredulous.

(I started the movie eating popcorn, out of habit. Can you imagine?)

The interview with Hans Werk, a member of the Waffen S.S., one of those who sat around a table in Wannsee and discussed The Final Solution, was a true punch to the gut. He was engaging in some sort of open discussion with students seated around a table. Get this: the student’s faces were blurred out, to conceal their identities, when you would think it would be the other way around. After all, what would students have to hide?

One wore a T-shirt that said “La Familia”??? They were all male, and all white. But it was Werk who stared directly into the camera and said, “I belonged to a murderous organization.” At which the students sitting around objected and said, “Must we live with this shame all our lives?” And then I understood why the students’ faces were blurred. They criticized Werk for his “lack of honour.” (!!!???)

Two of the interviews were with ex-SS who were still proud of their membership in this “elite” organization (and why was I not surprised that those two men seemed to have the nicest living rooms). The last interview, however, was in a very humble room, and I thought: “This was why this was selected to be the last interview. He’s going to go all-out about his shame.”

But no! He was with Hitler to the end! He was PROUD of Hitler! I was soooo surprised.

Oh bravo, Luke Holland.

One interviewee said they were “partially complicit.” But at what point does complicity start shading into guilt?

Most were ashamed and most said they “knew nothing.” That was their way of covering up their shame, but it leaked out in their eyes.

What. A. Movie. Five stars.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

In Progress: The Philippines, April 1942

In mid-April, Honorato was sent to the mountains.  He had just turned 18.  Don Geronimo worried because he was tall, because he was good-looking, because he was the eldest and bore the hopes of his parents on his slender shoulders.  Hide, his father told him.  Get as far away from here as you can.

More Writing in a Pandemic

Further in self’s novel about the World War II occupation of the city of Bacolod in the central Philippines (72k words so far):

Don Geronimo entered Honorato’s room just as his eldest son was about to get dressed. It was eight o’clock.

“The Japanese are here,” he said.

Honorato said nothing.

There was a group of them, some in uniform, some in civilian clothing. They had told Don Geronimo they were there to put the Daku Balay under the protection of the Imperial Japanese Army. “We are forbidden to leave the premises without permission. Go through the kitchen. Moses is waiting for you by the side gate.”

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The Daku Balay, Burgos Street, Bacolod City: It was used by the Japanese High Command during World War II. Self’s grandfather sent her uncle to the mountains. Her father, only 12 at the time, stayed home.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Writing In a Pandemic: Self’s Other Novel

So far, 299 pages, set on the island of Negros in the central Philippines, in the opening months of World War II. Self has not looked at it in almost two years. She’s been devoting most of her time to her 16th century novel, Camarote de Marinero:

In mid-April, Honorato was sent to the mountains.  He had just turned 18.  Don Geronimo worried because he was tall, because he was good-looking, because he was the eldest and bore the hopes of his parents on his slender shoulders.  Hide, his father told him.  Get as far away from here as you can.

The boy, Honorato, spends the war wandering in the mountains with his Dad’s enkargado, Moses. Moses has a bolo and a 32 Colt. Honorato can’t even shoot. But he learns a lot. (Meanwhile, self, who hasn’t shot a gun in her entire life, has to do internet research on the mechanics of a 32 Colt. So she’s learning just as much as Honorato)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

World War II Memoirs, Hoover Archives

When Stanford libraries were still open, self used to go there just to read. Her favorite thing was to read World War II memoirs. There were also transcripts from the war trials conducted by the Americans in Los Baños. These memoirs are all in the bowels of Hoover Archives. She once bumped into the writer Karen Tei Yamashita there! We were surprised, to say the least. She was leaving the archives and self was just entering.

General Yamashita was tried, convicted, and hung within three days. Self remembers reading that his young American lawyer was very green and CRIED when the verdict was announced. He apologized to Yamashita for not defending him better. The lawyer attended the hanging, as a sign of respect. That must have been hard.

Self did photocopy a handful of memoirs, from the single copy machine in the Hoover Archive reading room. She stashed them in her closet and had so many adventures, so many travels, that she did not read them again until today.

First memoir: “Sometimes it seems that you just can’t be doing the things that you find yourself continuing to do.”

This from a memoir written by the wife of an American mine executive. Her husband chose to stay with the mine, but he sent his wife away, and she caught passage on a boat headed up the Agusan River, a boat packed with fleeing Filipino families. Never once does she bring up the fear and sadness she must have felt at leaving her husband. But she describes seeing the dawn break, day after day after day, so her insomnia must have been terrible. “Someone else made the coffee . . . ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Being in the British Army (1944)

Brideshead Revisited, p. 14:

  • I slept until my servant called me . . .

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED opens with . . . war?

And here self was expecting a fantastically elegiac escape into the English countryside, but no . . .

When I reached ‘C’ Company lines, which were at the top of the hill, I paused and looked back at the camp, just coming into full view below me through the grey mist of early morning. We were leaving that day. When we marched in, three months before, the place was under snow; now the first leaves of spring were unfolding.

Another surprise was that it’s written in first person. So how is Waugh going to pull off writing erotic when his first person is stuffy English? Something happens, she does know that, lol

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Saturday: Brian Komei Dempster

OVER THE EARTH

— Nanking, 1937

“Over the Earth” by Brian Komei Dempster from Topaz (c) 2013. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.   

I don’t want us
to end here, wondering
who will be first,

our eyes lowered
as the soldiers raise
their blades,

slicing those
ahead of us.
Kneeling by the gutter,

I conjure our home
in fading light.
At the kitchen table

you opened
a bottle of plum wine,
unwrapped paper,

lifted the vein
to filet soft meat.
Now their swords strike

closer, the ground shifts
with each head cut
from its stem,

I hear the thud
of your rolling pin
pounding flour,

the dust rising
like bone smoke.
The edge is near, my love.

Skies darken
into our room,
the clouds a line

of ivory buttons
on the blue silk
of your dress.


Brian Komei Dempster was editor of From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps (Kearney Street Workshop, 2001), which received a 2007 Nissei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and Making Home From War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011)

Looking Back: WIRED, 2010

SERIAL KILLER:

How the AK-47 became “the most deadly — and disruptive — technology of the past century

by C. J. Chivers

From the article:

The AK-47 was created by Stalin’s engineers in 1947. “When the Pentagon finally got its hands on a few of the weapons in the 1950s, officials scoffed.” Its name was the Avtomat Kalashnikova-47, and it “would become one of the most recognizable artifacts of the 20th century . . . It has helped ensure that even the poor, the small-statured, the dim-witted, the illiterate, and the untrained are able to acquire weapons and keep them functioning . . . . Stalin’s rifle became, and remains, the everyman gun, a success — and scourge — that is sure to last well into the 21st century.”

The M1943 cartridge: “In 1943, the Soviets captured an unusual cartridge from Nazi soldiers on Germany’s eastern front. The cartridge, roughly midway in size between traditional rifle and pistol ammo, lacked the power for effective long-range shooting but was more than adequate for most combat. It generated less heat and recoil, which meant that guns built around it could be lighter, cheaper, and easier to fire.”

Stay tuned.

Tuesday Photo Challenge — STONE

Week 179 of the Tuesday Photo Challenge is STONE (“Turn to something a bit more permanent.”)

Self went searching among her recent photos for examples of stone.

First, the fire pit at Manggapuri Villas, Purok Pagdanon, Don Salvador Benedicto, in the Philippine province of Negros Occidental (Dear Departed Dad’s home province). Just beyond, shrouded in mist, the still-active Canlaon Volcano. Don Salvador Benedicto is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Bacolod City:

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Manggapuri Villas: September 2019

Next, a photo of Courthouse Square, just prior to the Annual Redwood City Salsa Festival:

20190921_114336

Courthouse Square Before the Annual Redwood City Salsa Festival, Saturday, 21 September

Finally, a statue of General Douglas MacArthur on the Philippine island of Corregidor (That’s self standing with son and his cousin Georgina, 20 years ago. She found the photo when she was cleaning out the closets recently):

DSCN0376

Georgina, Andrew and Self on the Island of Corregidor, at the Mouth of Manila Bay

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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