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In My Hands

Set in Poland during WWII, In My Hands is the memoir of Irene Gut Opdyke, who helped rescue Jews during German occupation of Poland.

Summary: Irena Gut is a normal Polish girl in 1939. She loves her family and four sisters. And she’s pretty sure she wants to be a sister – or maybe a nurse. In fact, she’s studying to be a nurse when the Nazi bombing of Poland begins. She barely escapes with her life. But, in fact, the next 6 years of her young life, are a constant of trying to avoid brutality from both the Germans and the Russians. After being brutally abused by the Soviets, she’s locked in a Soviet hospital as a prisoner. With the help a friendly Polish doctor, she manages to escape and hide out with his aunt. Eventually, she receives the blesséd news that the Soviets are kindly letting those Polish who were separated from their families when the country was divided to be reunited. But it seems to Irena that this is just another scheme to capture and torture her again. But she manages to escape their clutches once again, only to land in the hands of the Germans. Her time working for Nazis doesn’t seem quite as bad. She works for a rather friendly German cook and, it’s during this time, that she starts hiding away Jews from the nearby ghetto. When the Nazi, Major Rügemer, asks her to keep house for him, she finds the blessing of a basement with hidden rooms. Rügemer has just provided her with the perfect place to hide away Jews. And right under the Nazis’s noses. Of course, this is hardly the end of Irena’s problems. She finds herself again and again fighting for her life and for the lives of the Jews she has promised to protect. But, she has decided, she has been called on by God to protect these people and to fight both the Germans and the Soviets for the sake of her beloved Poland.


In My Hands is truly an amazing account of a real young women – only in her early 20’s – who was actually willing to sacrifice everything for someone else. And Irena experienced it from both ends. Remember that the invasion of Poland by Germany started WWII. But a mere 17 days later, the Soviet Union also invaded Poland; this beautiful country was divided in half. And Irena was one of the poor souls who was stuck on the Soviet side, working as a slave in a hospital. Because what else do you call someone who is forced to work with no pay?

Yes, Irena got lucky time and time again. A Polish doctor helped her escape from the hospital and she stayed with his aunt for a year. And the German cook she worked for, Herr Shultz, protected her. I guess we’ll never really know whether or not he knew what she was doing. If he did, he looked the other way. Not every German would have done that. And then Major Rügemer, without realizing it, provided her with the perfect hiding place for so many Jews. Even when he [spoilers!] found out himself, he saved her.

So, yes, she got lucky time and again. But she was also captured by the Soviets on several occasions and only managed to survive because she was able to escape. But the point to focus on is that she was willing to sacrifice everything for someone else – and for her country. How many people today are willing to do the same?

So, do you want a real-life story about self-sacrifice? About someone who hid the Jews from the Germans – right under their noses? Then this is definitely a book worth checking out.

Genre: History

Classification: Adult


Featured in: Polish Resistance

Goodreads: In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer

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PT 109

For the last official USA eVote Reads post of 2018 (expect a special post on the 31st) we feature a History Series featured book – or at least the story! This will be a relatively short post, since we tell the story in our WWII section and there’s no need to repeat it here.

Our last post featured a story from 75 years ago – this story, too, took place 75 years ago. Both stories were miracles.

Summary (official):

A thrilling, moment-by-moment account of one of the most famous events of World War II–the sinking of PT-109 and John F. Kennedy’s heroic actions that saved his crew–and a fascinating examination of how that extraordinary episode shaped the future president’s life.

At 2:00 a.m. on the moonless night of August 2, 1943, U.S. Patrol Torpedo boat PT-109, captained by Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, was struck by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri near the Solomon Islands. The American ship was cleaved in two and rocked by an explosion; two crew members died instantly; the remaining eleven survivors clung to the sinking wreckage, adrift in enemy waters. Despite injuring his back, Lt. Kennedy–towing a severely burned sailor by the strap of a life jacket–led his battered and exhausted men on a harrowing three-and-a-half mile swim to a tiny uninhabited island. Desperate for food and water, Kennedy set off on a solo reconnaissance mission, scouting two larger islands two-and-a-half miles away. Discovering water and coconuts, he returned for his men. For six days they lived off coconuts and kept out of sight of passing Japanese patrols until they were rescued.

Drawing on new information from the American rescuers and recently released archives in both Japan and the U.S., PT-109 recounts this event in breathtaking detail and explores the incident’s remarkable aftermath on JFK’s life and legend. William Doyle reveals that, while the incident transformed JFK into a “war hero” and helped propel him to the U.S. Senate and the White House, the wounds he suffered during that harrowing week continued to haunt him, physically and psychologically.

The story of the PT 109 tells JFK’s harrowing ordeal in the South Pacific in 1943. It tells about the Japanese destroyer that cut his boat in half. And it tells the story of his rescuers. PT 109 gives a moment-by-moment, detailed account of the whole adventure.

Kennedy was already in naval officers training before Pearl Harbor – he and his older brother Joe enlisted for the navy. And while Joe flew planes for the navy, Jack was desperate to drive PT boats. Or really anything that would allow him to see action instead of being stuck behind a desk for the duration of the war.

After training, Kennedy was posted in the Solomon Islands, under the command of General MacArthur – who would later advise him in such matters as the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. One night, while out on patrol, thanks to the darkness and the confusion, the PT 109 was separated from the rest of the fleet. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Japanese destroyer loomed ahead of them. Before Kennedy could react, the destroyer and sliced his little boat in half!

From there on out, Kennedy was tasked with making sure that his crew was safe and rescued.

PT 109 tells that story – and an incredible story it is!

Like Charlie Brown, over Germany in December 1943, in August of 1943, John Kennedy was saved from the gripes of death. Both were miracles. And both stories are worth reading.

If you are looking for another incredible WWII story – and one that happened to a president at that – than this is the book for you! Or, if you’re just looking for another good Kennedy read, this is also the book for you! PT 109 tells the story of Kennedy before he became president – before he was destined to become president. Brother Joe was still alive and JFK was just fighting for his country, like every other young man his age.

Genre: History

Era: 1940s

Featured in PT 109: The Story of a Miracle

Goodreads: PT 109: JFK’s Night of  Destiny


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A Higher Call

75 years ago today, one of the greatest Christmas stories took place. In the skies over Germany, a young American fighter pilot Charlie Brown (yes, that was really his name) flew his first mission.

And that mission could have ended in catastrophe – one that might have claimed the lives of very man on board. Brown’s B-17 was hit and badly damaged. The crew, too, was badly damaged. Of Brown’s men, one could not walk, one that could not use his hands, and on had gotten his leg blown off, and one was dead. To be sure, Brown’s crew didn’t stand a chance.

They would have gone down.

But a miracle happened.

A miracle in the form of a German Ace pilot!

For all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it seemed, a German fighter plane pulled up on the tail of the B-17. The pilot, Franz Stigler, instead of shooting down the plane, adding to his hit list, did the incredible.

He escorted the crew of the B-17 to safety in neutral territory. Then, with a salute to the American pilot, Stigler flew off.

One might think that this incredible story ends there. Charlie Brown and his crew mates were safe.

But it gets even more incredible.

Years later, Stigler moved to America with his wife. There, he took part in several get togethers with American WWII veterans. Stigler, the German Ace pilot.

But then, out of curiosity, Stigler decided to look up the young American pilot he had saved. He had no idea that Brown was trying to look him up, as well.

 40 years later, Stigler and Brown met again. They both said it was like meeting a long-lost brother! Their reunion was tearful. These men – who fought on opposite sides in the war – loved each other.

Charlie Brown says that he owes Franz Stigler his life.

If you want a real miracle story, this is the book for you. A real-life war story miracle. A Higher Call covers the life of Franz Stigler, showing that the German Luftwaffe were not the Nazis we usually think of. In fact, most members of the Luftwaffe were not Nazis, just Germans fighting to protect their country from the Russians. Franz Stigler was one of those men.

A Higher Call is a remarkable story, perfect to get you into the Christmas spirit. It reminds us that – even in war – we are all humans.


Image result for a higher call


Genre: History


Goodreads: A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

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