Sir Martin's Newsletter & Bookclub April 2020
April 2020
Liberation or Lockdown?
Sir Martin's April Books
Second World War: 
Sir Martin's complete history
of the war

Second World War Atlas: 
The last worldwide conflict in maps
For discount, enter DC 360
        at checkout. 
Sir Martin's Blog
500 words/2 ½ minute read
 Editor's Note:  April was meant to be a time to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of German concentration camps by British and United States forces, with visits to the sites by dignitaries, survivors and young people.  Now, as Covid-19, the uninvited guest, sweeps across the world and keeps us parked at home, we remember the events of 75 years ago that brought to an end the last great worldwide conflagration:
It was on April 15 that the first British tanks entered Belsen.  By chance, three of the British soldiers in the tanks were Jews.  But the survivors could not grasp what had happened:  “We, the cowed and emaciated inmates of the camp, did not believe we were free,” one of the Jews there, Josef Rosensaft, later recalled.  “It seemed to us a dream which would soon turn to cruel reality.” (CONTINUE READING)
A Soviet soldier raises the Hammer and Sickle on the roof of the Reichstag, Berlin, 30 April 1945

For more on the war and its end: Second World War
Sir Martin talks about The Second World War Atlas

              From Esther Gilbert                                                        

650 words/ 3 minute read
Some thoughts
in this uncertain time:
Our world is entering (or is already in) uncharted waters in terms of the worldwide disaster facing us:  disease, disruption of work and our normal routines and what we thought we'd be doing this year, along with fear of the economic impact, especially for those living paycheque to paycheque or those facing loss of employment.  In addition, we will see the suffering and the reality of the possibly untimely death for those with complications, and in the least, the realisation that the life we knew last year, last month, last week, is gone.  At least for the time being.
Years ago I was lucky to meet the late Rudolf Vrba who had been one of the escapees from Auschwitz who brought news of it to the outside world.  I asked him how he survived and he said that when he got there, he realised:  “this is real”.  He said that those who could not accept it, basically could not adapt.  We have to accept we are living in a new world – hopefully just for the time being.
For more on that war and its end: Second World War
Read Gilbert

Pope Pius XII

The “Catholic Churchill”
300 words/1 1/2 minute read
Thank you to my careful readers who found the typo in the March newsletter – what Martin would have called “a howler”.  Very early in our own correspondence, Martin would send his writing by fax machine to me in Canada and I would make corrections and notes and fax it back to him.  I can see he would not have been impressed with me now!  But I am grateful that so many of you read these newsletters carefully, even to the letter!
Interestingly, my “howler” was in the Web Citing having to do with recent news that the Vatican will be opening their archives to researchers. (CONTINUE READING) 

For more on the Pope and the Catholic Church: The Righteous

Sir Martin's newly-discovered interview on Pope Pius XII 

And in other news .....
Never Again?

History is indeed repeating itself with the plight of nearly 10,000 people stranded on at least ten cruise ships unable to dock due to coronavirus.

Photo from Martin's Book Never Again, A History of the Holocaust 
This iconic photo of thirteen-year old twins Renee and Ines Spanier peering from their ship the St Louis, docked at Antwerp in mid-June 1939, seems more relevant today than ever before.  The ship carried 927 German Jewish refugees who all had quota numbers to enter the United States, but only in 1940 and 1941.  The US government refused to take them in, even as tourists.  Cuba took only 22 in addition to the 5,000 Jewish refugees they had allowed in since 1933.  Canada refused to take any of the St Louis refugees, as did Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Though the specifics are different today, fear along with the concern for over-stretched resources, is creating the same result.
Renee and Ines, along with their parents, survived in Westerbork, the transit camp set up for Jews in the Netherlands.  Will the thousands of cruise passengers be afforded the same luck?
 For more on the St. Louis: Kristallnacht

 And finally ...
We are going through perilous times that are affecting all of us in one way or another.  Martin, as you know, was a great believer in the value of personal testimony and eyewitness accounts.  This newsletter reaches the Inboxes of people in many countries, who are all going through similar restrictions of movement, and anxiety for the future.  Let this be a forum for us to come together – send an email either by hitting the Reply button, or by writing to  What is it like for you, for your family, what is the situation in your area?  How have you been affected by Covid-19 and its reverberations?  With your permission I will print some of your responses (no email addresses or personal information).  We are living a moment in history.
As Samuel Pisar wrote in his Holocaust memoir Of Blood and Hope, “I cannot share my anguish with any of my fellow sufferers, and yet their anguish is the same as mine.”

Please, share, connect

When This Bloody War is over is the title of the historian Max Arthur's book on "Soldiers' Songs of the First World War".  Max writes that this song was sung to the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and originated in the American Civil War.  After the First World War "bloody" was cleaned up for
published versions of the song:

When this bloody war is over,
No more soldiering for me.
When I get my civvy clothes on,
Oh, how happy I shall be!

In special honour for our overworked health care and essential workers.

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Sir Martin in the News
Inside Sources, “Through New Book We Meet Lincoln Again – Differently” by Llewellyn King, posted 6 March 2020:
“Often when there is an intimidating mountain of books,
one needs something else:  another book. 
One such book was Martin Gilbert's In Search of Churchill
A Historian's Journey
, published in 1994.
“Gilbert, author of Churchill's eight-volume, official biography, must have felt that a smaller book was needed as a guide.  Or, more likely, he realized that big works on his subject abounded, so he wrote an informal book about how he wrote the official biography.  It is a quick guide to the man Churchill, his habits and eccentricities.”
Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre
Preparations are being made to do online programmes of Professor Shirli Gilbert's classes. 
Watch this space (and that of the website for updates.
Stay safe
Keep well

Modern Jewish History: A Deeper Look
Course, led by Professor Shirli Gilbert


For more info:
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