Defying Hitler in USA Today & New York Post book lists

Defying Hitler cover USFinally getting a chance to round up some of the reviews and responses to Defying Hitler.

USA Today made it one of their Five Books Not To Miss, noting that Publishers Weekly says the book is “an informative counterpoint to accounts of widespread German complicity with the Holocaust.”

And the New York Post marked it as one of their Books of the Week. A fascinating look at the everyday Germans who resisted Hitler’s rule in ways big and small (all dangerous), from helping to forge passports that helped Jews escape to those who passed secrets to Allied spies.”

Newsday described it as an “important book” and Forward magazine says it is a “powerful book” which features the “adept interweaving of diverse and complicated narrative threads” to make “a gripping read”.

Raid on St Nazaire: 75 years ago today

On March 28, 1942 more than 600 men left Falmouth in Cornwall in a flotilla of three destroyers and 16 smaller boats.

The special fleet included HMS Campbeltown which was packed with explosives and was to be used to ram into the gates of the docks of the French port of St Nazaire.

St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz, to return to home waters rather than having a safe haven available on the Atlantic coast.

The raid put the dry dock out of commission until the end of the war – but success came at a cost. Of the 622 men of the Royal Navy and Commandos who took part in the raid, only 228 men returned to England.

One hundred and sixty-nine men were killed and another 215 became prisoners of war. The fallen British raiders were buried at the Escoublac-la-Baule cemetery, near St Nazaire, with military honours.

Five of the raiders escaped overland via Spain.

Eighty-nine awards and medals were bestowed for the raid, including five Victoria Crosses.

*A version of this article was first published on jonkilkade.com

Cross of Lorraine crushes the Swastika

November 11 1943 is, I understand, a well-remembered day for historians of the Resistance in Nazi-Occupied France.

It was on that day that the Maquis paraded through the town of Oyonnax in an event designed as a show of strength, a morale boost for the local population. The town was chosen because there was no German garrison nearby.

More than 200 Maquisards took part. They marched, sang the Marseillaise, and then disappeared back into the mountains. The event is described in Matthew Cobb’s excellent book The Resistance.

Sometime ago I came into possession of this small medallion. It features the date ‘XI Novembre, 1943’.

One side is the Cross of Lorraine smashing a Swastika.

medallion. French, dated 'XI Novembre 1943'

On the other side is an Astrix-like warrior.

One side Cross of Lorraine smashing Swastika - previous tweet. Other side this pic of a Astrix-like warrior.I would love to know the story behind it. I assume it relates to Oyonnax, but does it?

When was it created? How many issued?

Please help and share this post if you can.

Thanks.

*First published on jonkilkade.com

The Story of the “Real McCoy”

 

Writing Tom Sharkey’s biography meant we got to “meet” many of the great characters of old-time boxing.

Sharkey wasn’t the only wild character among them.

One of our favourites was “Kid” McCoy – real name Norman Selby – who faced Sharkey in January 1899 as a boyish-looking 26-year-old and had fast become one of the most notorious figures ever to step in the ring; a talented fighter, yes, but a trickster too.

KidMcCoy

According to Patrick Myler: “The numerous stories told about his trickery, mostly apocryphal, are a treasured part of boxing folklore.”

He was said to have once filled his mouth with loose teeth and spat them out during a bout, horrifying his opponent and delivering a knockout punch on his unguarded chin.

He also scattered thumb-tacks on the canvas when he took on a fighter who fought in bare feet.

One particularly dirty trick involved Peter Maher. McCoy sent him a fake telegram, shortly before they were due to fight, saying there been a sudden death in the Irishman’s family.

As another writer, Graeme Kent, has noted: “McCoy was a brilliant boxer and an extremely shrewd operator who had sailed close to the wind on a number of occasions.”

His name lives on with us to today as a way of describing the genuine article. Myler reckons this relates to confusion with a lesser-known fighter named Peter McCoy, who was also known as “Kid”. He says a newspaper once ran the headline, ‘Choynski is Beaten by the Real McCoy’ and the phrase stuck. Kent prefers a story more in keeping with ‘Kid’ McCoy’s trickster image. He says that McCoy, trading on the drawing power of his name, sometimes booked himself to appear in different places at the same time and sent along ringers.

“Promoters had grown wise to this ploy and had insisted on the Kid being less generous with his doppelgangers,” notes Kent. “To reinforce this point they had taken to billing the boxer as ‘the real McCoy’, a phrase which later entered the lexicon.”

I FOUGHT THEM ALL IS AVAILABLE IN HARDBACK HERE

‘Freiheit’. Tribute: the White Rose

Sophie Scholl

For those fascinated by this week’s tributes to Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and Christoph Probst (all executed 76 years ago) this is the spot at which their fate was sealed.

DSC_0427

Sophie threw anti-Nazi leaflets from the balcony under the clock and into the hall below at Munich university.

All these years later it is still an emotional place to be.

A university is a place for free thinking, for questioning, for youthful exuberance. The Scholls went to the guillotine for displaying these qualities, as would many more connected to their White Rose movement.

DSC_0428

When a prison guard came to clear her cell after her execution he found that she had written a single word on the back of her indictment sheet: “Freiheit.” Freedom.

Sophie Scholl - photo taken by her brother Werner.

Photographing the film-makers

A big shout-out to photographer Susy Fernandes who is following the production of our short film This Is Not A Poem.

I’ve worked on dozens of productions but have never had someone taking photos during the process.

Being behind the camera one feels quite anonymous. Susy’s photos are putting the camera operator Paul Roberts and myself under her own kind of spotlight.

IMG_2587

We chose Susy because she can immediately connect with our subjects of internationalism, understanding and tolerance.

She was born in Mozambique in 1974 in the year of The Carnation Revolution (Revolucao dos Cravos), to Portuguese parents.

To escape the riots her parents moved the family to South Africa. She lived there until she was 12 and then the family moved back to Portugal.

In 2005, she and her own young family left Portugal and went to England to work. They later moved to Wales.

IMG_2732

In Wales, she decided to continue her studies at Cardiff and Vale College and joined a BTEC course in Fashion and Clothing. She is now studying a Foundation Degree in Photography with the USW at CAVC.

She says: “I believe that we are never too old to study and to dream. I’m doing all this so that my four boys can see me as a role model who, despite suffering from a chronic condition (Fibromyalgia), still has hope for a better future.”

IMG_2660

We have engaged Susy to document our filming days.

The only thing we haven’t managed to do yet is get a photo of Susy herself!

IMG_2818

THIS IS NOT A POEM

IMG_2746

We’re underway. My friend, Eric Ngalle Charles, and I have long-cherished a dream to turn his words and poetry into a film-hymn to tolerance and understanding.

Eric is a Cameroon-born writer who came to Britain as a refugee almost twenty years ago and has since become one of Wales’ foremost poets.

His writing is fearless and often funny, drawing on a rich history of sub-Saharan African folk tales and on his own incredible experience of being driven from his homeland and people-trafficked.

Eric has performed at the Hay Festival and held a series of writing workshops at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. The writer Owen Sheers, who is a keen supporter of Eric, has described his work as using “a unique theatrical language”.

For some time we’ve wanted to turn his work into a short film. Now, with the support of Arts Council of Wales and the Dylan Thomas Centre, we are.

We’ve worked together to edit and reshape many of Eric’s poems into a single narrative which describes why he left his homeland and how he came to settle in Wales.

And now filming has started. This blog will chart our progress.

The central theme of the work is identity and how we can all see ourselves as having several different identities at the same time: south Cameroonian, African, Welsh, for instance. Or English/Welsh-speaking Welsh, British, European.

The themes of the film are especially relevant because of the continuing national debate over immigration and Brexit.

The film will form part of a special event at which Eric will discuss poetry and his own thoughts on race and identity, and encourage discussion with the audience.

“We are all many people in one,” Eric says. “And the more we can understand ourselves, the easier it is to reach out to others and to understand them. Greg and I are committed to a message of bringing people closer together and making connections.”

Following its launch in September, the film will be shown at a number of venues around Wales and in Italy, where Eric has performed before.

IMG_2772

That’s our camera operator, Paul Roberts, (centre above) carrying all the kit but still managing to keep ahead of us.

Please follow the ‘This Is Not A Poem’ Category and Tag to keep up with regular updates on the production.

Our photographs are from the fantastic Susy Fernandes and there will be more about – and from her – very soon.