Monday, February 25, 2013

Schindler's List, Survival, Struggles, and Surviving

 I recently watched Schindler's List.  If you haven't seen it, you should (but not with children in the room).  There are so many things I want to say, but I'm at a loss.  Oskar Schindler was an amazing man, who did all he could to help as many Jewish people during WWII that he possibly could.

Most of you know I have been writing a historical fiction middle grade novel, SURVIVING OPERATION PIED PIPER.  It is about the struggles of children who were evacuated from London during WWII.  My characters survive the Blitz only to be sent away from their parents, relatives, and friends to live in the countryside with strangers.  I know this was a hardship...but when you put it in perspective to what Jewish families were going through in Europe it is really nothing.  They were alive, taken care (usually), fed, clothed, housed and for the most part, safe.

I've read tons of  history and historical fiction books. I read YELLOW STAR because an agent recommended I read it (after she did a ten page critique for me).  It was one of those hit you in the stomach books. It's very different than THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, which most of us know and value as an important part of history.  YELLOW STAR was about surviving in the Ghetto.  A few children were all that survived until the end of the war.  YELLOW STAR is a powerful book!

The people who survived the concentration camps had such fortitude.  As did the ones who escaped and/or lived in hiding until The War was over.  Can you imagine living through the horrific times that they did?  I don't think I would have made it.

So why am I writing this post?  WWII was so long ago and we don't have these problems today, right?

There is still hatred and prejudice going on in this world, even genocide.  I expect you are asking me what you can do, you are only one person...Oskar Schindler was just one person, too.  He made a difference by trying to correct a wrong as much as he could.  We each have to do what we can to educate ourselves on what is going on around us.  We have to make sure we see what is really going on in our world. We must help one and other to never forget our world's history.

And when you think your life is not going your way and you want to complain about not having the money to buy a new toy (you know what I mean) or to eat out or to get ahead...think about the people in our world who are or have been persecuted; ones that were killed for their beliefs, or their differences, ones that were tortured, taken away from their families (never to see them again), ones that had ALL of their belongings stolen (never to be replaced), ones that hid in fear for their lives, ones that were purposely starved or beaten, confined to certain poor quality lands, AND think how some of those people were miraculously able to move forward when circumstances changed...Yet persecution still goes on today...hatred still is here..

Then ask yourself...Where do you stand?

If you have time to look at the links, I think they are all beneficial...
If you would be willing to share stories from your families history during WWII or any other point in history I would love to hear them.  There are so many times in our history that MUST NOT be forgotten! You can leave them in comments or email me at sharon k mayhew at gmail dot com.

I think I have found a purpose for my writing...I need to share stories of survival...So, as I finish up SOPP, I am thinking about what will come next. Perhaps your families story will be a part of my next one.

(If you didn't enter my contest for one of Janna's beautiful handcrafted necklaces, please hop over and do so.)


  1. You're so right, Sharon. I talk about a lot of this kind of stuff with my students. I'm currently reading Underground to Canada to them for the same reason. History can teach us so much. And we really, really need to learn those lessons!

  2. I'm amazed over people's ability to survive, even under the most inhumane conditions. Thank you for writing this post.

    As you know, my husband's grandmother, uncle, and mother had to flee their village in Poland when Hitler's troops came in to round them up. I thank that one person who got there first to warn them. Their story wasn't easy after that, but they didn't wind up in a concentration camp.

  3. Dear Sharon,

    This posting, poignant and powerful. I know, no matter how tough life may seem to me, the reality is I'm blessed. We are struggling against an oppression in Britain, right now. Somehow, it pales in comparison.

    In peace and hope for a better world.


  4. I'm Jewish and grew up in the 60's so we were taught (almost too much emphasis on this so that all the joyous parts of being Jewish were lost) never to forget the Holocust. I read a lot of books about that time as a kid. And I won't ever forget. I'm sure I must have had distant relatives who went through this or other experiences but luckily my family had already emigrated here.

    My parents and their generation has a complete us vs. them mentality. They only hung out with (and my mom still does) hang out with only Jewish people. I can't be like that. I don't want to forget, but I also want to remember that Jewish people aren't the only ones who have suffered. So many minorities still suffer and have suffered. We have to see that it doesn't continue for anyone.

    So I don't identify as much with being Jewish because there wasn't much joy back then. Thankfully by the time my cousin who is 8 years younger grew up, they embraced the joyous parts of being Jewish as well as remembering. As a result, she's a much stronger Jew than me and is teaching kids about the joyous parts of Judaism as well as teaching not to forget.

    Anyway, that's my experience. It has definitely shaped me to really remember people suffering but I lost quite a bit of my religion.

  5. Unfortunately I don't have any family history that I know of relating to WW2. But I think it's amazing that you've been able to pinpoint just what it is that motivates you as a writer: survival. That is truly a noble theme and I look forward to seeing how you engage with it in this project and future ones!

  6. I teach an extensive unit on the Holocaust in my middle school English classes. I even wrote a post about when we visited the Holocaust museum called A Family Always.

    I can't wait to read your book!

  7. Unfortunately all kinds of horrors still take place every single day! I was shocked when I read about Israel admitting that it had targeted Ethiopian Jews for compulsory contraception without the women knowing! That went on from 2005 to 2008 when it was discovered! You can read about it here

    Unfortunately, I don't think we've learned as much as we should have!!

    C x

  8. Sharon, this is such a powerful post. I am Jewish and have studied and read about the Holocaust ever since I can remember. I went to Aushwitz when I was in Europe a few years ago. It changed my life, because standing where so many thousands were killed, it is still hard to believe that such evil existed. And you are right. It still does.

  9. The fact that there are people in this world who try to debunk the Holocaust as a myth, is illustration enough of how far we still need to go. Excellent post Sharon!

  10. Beautiful post. I love that you want to tell stories of survival. My family story is like many stories, grandparents who came through New York City as immigrants. The immigrant story is also one of survival. When you visit NYC, I will take you to the tenement museum to hear some of these stories : )

  11. Awesome, inspirational post, Sharon. You're so right in that we can't forget our history AND we should remember to be thankful. Schindler's List is a tough movie to watch. I bet your book is awesome. Good luck with it! <3

  12. History could teach us much if only we were to open our eyes. Sadly, however, we have learnt nothing from it - in my opinion.

    Schindler's List was a very powerful film. Oskar, (played by Liam Neeson) articulated that breathtaking farewell address to his factory workers and Nazi guards. He was an extraordinary man. I will never forget it. Nor should anybody else.

    Sadly, I cannot help you with your research, but look forward to reading further on this topic.

  13. I remember reading Yellow Star because you mentioned it on your blog.

    This puts things in perspective. We can never forget history and that history does repeat itself.

  14. Hubby and both lived through WWII but as children in England so we don't remember the horrors of Europe. Hubby remembers a lot about the horrors of bombing though.


  15. What an awesome post! Few take a moment and look back upon history. It's been a long time since I've seen Schindler's List. I think I need to watch it again.

    BTW I bet you have some amazing history books!

  16. WWII didn't much affect Ireland where I grew, as Ireland was neutral but I grew up with Anne Frank and lots of books about the evacuees and the Holocaust. I am aware of it. I once visited Dachau concentration camp site.

    No, we should never, ever forget.


  17. WWII didn't much affect Ireland where I grew, as Ireland was neutral but I grew up with Anne Frank and lots of books about the evacuees and the Holocaust. I am aware of it. I once visited Dachau concentration camp site.

    No, we should never, ever forget.


  18. The cruelty that humans inflict on others astound me.

    It sounds like a good purpose, telling stories about survival. I don't really have war stories, since South Africa was sheltered by the distance from the rest of the world. :-)

  19. I've watched that movie a couple of times. It is heartbreaking but certainly an important piece of history. Have you read the book "Sarah's Key" or watched the move "The Boy in The Striped Pajamas"?
    Wishing you a beautiful Wednesday Sharon!
    xo Catherine

  20. Hi, Sharon,

    Yes, I have seen SL.... Amazing movie.

    Your passion really shows clearly in this post. It is sad to think that over sixty years later, many of the same human conditions exist.

    People never change. WE must force them to. I am proud of you Sharon. This is a very important issue that many don't relate to or understand. They live their lives like the ostrich with their heads in the sand.

    As you said, ONE can make a difference. I do my part by helping people as much as I can. I believe in sharing one's self.

    I know your journey will be a fulfilling one.

  21. lovely post, Sharon. I never watched Schindler's List, but after this, I think I might have to.

  22. Sharon,
    What a great post AND reminder/challenge to BE that type of person who wants to make a difference! Showing loving-kindness to others in all we say and do can have a ripple-affect and this world NEEDS that wave of love. I believe every act of kindness can help to shift the negative energy that comes from prejudice, greed and love of power that seems to be the center of all that is unjust and wrong with humanity.
    Good luck on your quest to share and inspire others with stories of survival.

  23. It's always good to be reminded of those dark days in the '40s. I just heard Joel Gray talk about his experience of visiting Germany--this was long after the war, but he was there to perform Caberet. He stepped off the plane and collapsed. He said he didn't know how much the stories of WWII had affected him as a German Jew until that moment.

  24. A lovely post, Sharon!

    You are right. Even when we complain about the things in our life that dissatisfy or inconvenience us, we often cannot comprehend what those people lost.

    My husband and I often hold "family movie night" here with Netflix, and we often choose movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Trading Places and Monty Python's Holy Grail. But maybe we need to take one day to get serious and show our daughters the best and worse that people can be.

  25. I saw this movie a long time ago, and it's one I would like my sons to watch now that they are old enough. It is a powerful movie, and a powerful message. One person can always make a difference. We just follow the path of right.

    It makes me sick when you see people being interviewed on camera and when you ask about the Holocaust, they say they doubt it happened. That is like a punch to the gut--I agree, no one should be allowed to forget what happened. Each generation's responsibility is to make sure they pass it on the the next. Only by doing this do we have any hope of never allowing something like that to happen again.