PatZi & Bernice Lerner on May 14, 2020
All the Horrors of War
It was a joy to talk to Bernice Lerner about her book and her life. It is a miracle that she was born and that today she is able to tell the story of her mother's life
ALL THE HORRORS OF WAR: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen is an important book that offers us lessons on love, courage, and determination.
It is the remarkable story of two people from different worlds: Rachel Genuth, a poor Jewish teenager from the Hungarian provinces, and Brigadier Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes, a high-ranking military doctor in the British Second Army. Their lives converge in Bergen-Belsen, where the girl fights for her life and the doctor struggles to save thousands on the brink of death.
The book begins at the end: with Hughes's searing testimony at the September 1945 trial of Josef Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen, along with forty-four SS (Schutzstaffel) members and guards. "I have been a doctor for thirty years and seen all the horrors of war," Hughes said, "but I have never seen anything to touch it."
The narrative then jumps back to the spring of 1944 and follows both Hughes and Rachel as the war draws to a close. With the Nazis fleeing the oncoming British Second Army, they transferred prisoners, including Rachel, to the ghastly camp at Bergen-Belsen where they would be exterminated. When the British Second Army took control of the camp they discovered a horror almost beyond imagining. Tens of thousands of prisoners were on the brink of death. It was Brigadier Hughes who saved thousands -- one of those saved was Bernice Lerner's mother . Though they never met, it was Hughes's commitment to helping as many prisoners as possible that saved Rachel's life.
Bernice Lerner spent fifteen years doing extensive research to write this compelling story. She collected a wealth of information from many sources, including Hughes's papers, war diaries, oral histories, and interviews.
A few reviews...
"Focusing on the traumatization of the liberator as well as the survivor, Lerner tells two fascinating stories that are original in both form and content. Her writing is clear, straightforward, and compelling. A powerful and engaging book." (Michael A. Grodin, MD, Boston University School of Public Health, coauthor of The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation)
"By describing the fate of one Jewish girl destined to die under the most gruesome manner and the horror experienced by a British doctor and officer upon stepping into a Nazi concentration camp, Lerner humanizes an event that is often described only from one perspective: either that of the liberators, for whom the survivors were often dehumanized 'living skeletons' because of their deplorable living conditions, or that of the survivors, for whom the liberators were angels of mercy descended from heaven after months and years of utter dehumanization by their tormentors. A valuable and highly readable book." (Omer Bartov, Brown University, author of Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz)
About the Author
Bernice Lerner, the daughter of Rachel Genuth, is a senior scholar at Boston University's Center for Character and Social Responsibility. She is the author of The Triumph of Wounded Souls: Seven Holocaust Survivors' Lives and a co-editor of Happiness and Virtue beyond East and West: Toward a New Global Responsibility.
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A PatZi Pix for Flix selection...
My Pix For Flix selection...
If I had the money, I would option this fascinating book. It will make the kind of film that wins Oscars -- both for Best Actor and Best Actress.
So all you people in Hollywood, check out this story that brilliantly juxtaposes two stories: one a young girl struggling to survive and the other a man who was a true hero.
If any actor is looking for an extraordinary character to portray, they can find it in Brigadier Glyn Hughes. He looked like Clark Gable and Spenser Tracy rolled into one -- handsome and caring.
He was a sickly child who overcame illnesses to become a doctor and a rugby player. Hughes was heavily decorated during the World War I and during World War II was the the first Allied Medical Officer to enter the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen.
If I were writing the script, I would include a scene from his early years -- during the First World War when he received these citations:
"Hugh Llewellyn Glyn Hughes RAMC. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations. He went out in broad daylight, under heavy fire, and bandaged seven wounded men in the open, lying out in an exposed spot for one and a half hours. At nightfall he led a party through a heavy barrage and brought the seven men back."
"Capt. Hugh Llewellyn Glyn Hughes DSO RAMC. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations. On four separate days he showed an utter contempt for danger when collecting and tending the wounded under heavy shell fire."
During World War II he was the head of what today we would call, The Task Force.
Some screenwriter will be proud to bring this remarkable story to the screen.
It is not everyday that one gets to work on a film that has the potential of being selected for Best Picture of the Year.