Tag: Autobiography

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. “The Sound of Music” and the Real Captain von Trapp

 

I see that this year marks the 60th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” as a Broadway play. If you’ve seen the 1965 move that was based on this play…and who hasn’t?…you’ll remember Captain von Trapp. The real Captain’s real-life children were not thrilled with the way he was portrayed in the movie–according to them, he was by no means that rigid disciplinarian who summoned the children with a bosun’s whistle and required them to line up in military formation. (The bosun’s whistle was real, but only for communication purposes on the large estate…no lining-up involved.)

The movie was indeed correct that Captain von Trapp was a former naval officer whose services were much desired by the Nazis after their takeover of Germany and, later, Austria… and that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. His memoir, To the Last Salute, was originally published in German in 1935 and later translated into French; an English translation has only become available fairly recently.

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What novels, memoirs, and films with a business setting do you like? Most fiction seems to be about people who are lawyers, policemen, criminals, soldiers, spies, students, politicians, and noble but struggling writers. But there are indeed some works of fiction, and some vivid personal memoirs, in which business plays a central role without being […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘Lady Death’ the Story of a Successful Sniper

 

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Jet Engines, GE, and Herman the German

 

General Electric has fallen on hard times, but it has some valuable assets. Of those operations that will remain following the spinoffs and divestitures, the crown jewel is, by general agreement, the jet engine business. I’m reminded of Gerhard Neumann, who played a major role in creating that business and who wrote a wonderful memoir.

This is the autobiography of a man who was born to a Jewish family in Germany, apprenticed as an auto mechanic, attended engineering school, moved to China in 1938, was interned by the British as an enemy alien in 1939, transferred to the American forces, joined Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, repaired the first Japanese Zero fighter to be captured in potentially-flyable condition, became a U.S. citizen by special act of Congress, and went on to run GE’s entire jet engine business, which he played a major role in creating. (The preceding may be the longest single sentence I’ve ever written in a blog post.) The book should be of interest to those interested in aviation, technology, management, social history, the WWII era, and/or China.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: Defying Hitler

 

“Defying Hitler” by Sebastian HaffnerIn 1933, the author was pursuing his ambition to follow his father into a career in the Prussian civil service. While completing his law degree, he had obtained a post as a Referendar, the lowest rank in the civil service, performing what amounted to paralegal work for higher ranking clerks and judges. He enjoyed the work, especially doing research in the law library and drafting opinions, and was proud to be a part of the Prussian tradition of an independent judiciary. He had no strong political views nor much interest in politics. But, as he says, “I have a fairly well developed figurative sense of smell, or to put it differently, a sense of the worth (or worthlessness!) of human, moral, political views and attitudes. Most Germans unfortunately lack this sense almost completely.”

When Hitler came to power in January 1933, “As for the Nazis, my nose left me with no doubts. … How it stank! That the Nazis were enemies, my enemies and the enemies of all I held dear, was crystal clear to me from the outset. What was not at all clear to me was what terrible enemies they would turn out to be.” Initially, little changed: it was a “matter for the press”. The new chancellor might rant to enthralled masses about the Jews, but in the court where Haffner clerked, a Jewish judge continued to sit on the bench and work continued as before. He hoped that the political storm on the surface would leave the depths of the civil service unperturbed. This was not to be the case.