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  1. Danusha Goska Danusha Goska says:

    Louise Steinman's The Crooked Mirror A Memoir of Polish Jewish Reconciliation has been praised as appealing to wide audiences and unblinking scrupulous and enduring Richard Rodriguez called Crooked Mirror the most extraordinary travel book I have ever read about a nightmare country dark haunted Poland into which miracle working Steinman breaks shattering lightIn fact The Crooked Mirror is the self indulgent impressionistic travel diary of a New Age dilettante Holocaust tourist The book consists of brief unorganized anecdotes In one a Lakota healer burns sweet grass and waves an eagle feather over Auschwitz visitors In another an impoverished Polish peasant listens to Radio Maryja These anecdotes are meant to give us enough ammo to conclude who our protagonists and antagonists are With the sketchiest of information we presume to gain the authority to elevate the healer as a good guy and condemn the old woman Crooked Mirror's literary style is basic its discipline absent its arrogance depressing Steinman's tic is putting two parts of speech at the end of sentences and separating them with a comma The Jews she knew hated Poland than Germany a fact I never uestioned as odd misplaced Or why would you expect your neighbors to shoot you take your house? Or she begged her father her aunts Or he uestioned her urgently gently Or We baffled him with our reactions our decisions Or my overcoat was forgiving pliant Steinman's tic is distracting annoying Where is the editor the proofreader? Steinman visits Treblinka and tries to say something of note about that piece of earthly Hell but Treblinka receives fewer words than tedious descriptions of the dreams of Steinman's travel companion Cheryl Holtzman During a layover in Paris Steinman visits La Bibliotheue Polonaise – the Polish library In this chapter she says a few things about Adam Mickiewicz the Polish national poet and then a bit about the gingko trees in Krakow Polish words for trees and how fashionably dressed and made up the library's chief curator is At the end of this chapter I had to ask myself Why did I just read that? Steinman asks rhetorical uestions for example Why does one person reject stereotypes and why does another accept them? She responds to her own rhetorical uestion Breathe in why Breathe out why So simple So difficult The chapter and the book's attempt to plumb the serious uestions it raises end right there Steinman purports to be addressing how the Holocaust could happen and why Polish Catholics responded as they did Scholars have addressed these uestions Michael C Steinlauf provides historical context and psychological insight Jan Tomasz Gross cites economic motivations Marek Jan Chodakiewicz writes about real tensions caused by high profile Jewish Communists who did torture and murder Home Army veterans Edna Bonacich and Amy Chua advance universally applicable theories that explain atrocity as far afield as the Philippines Indonesia and Africa – not just acts committed by Polish Catholics It behooves any ethical author and publisher taking on this topic to engage previous scholarship Steinman and Beacon Press do not Nature abhors a vacuum In this empty space where scholarship should be Steinman reveals her answer to the big uestions in a series of anecdotes For the most part older poorer rural and Catholic Poles are provincial Neanderthals who hate Jews Younger better educated sartorially elegant Poles who have devoted their lives to recreating Poland's lost Jewish culture through tours publications and artwork are good Poles Steinman and Beacon Press hand a free pass to the reader Do you reader need to know any serious facts about Poland before making up your mind about any of these issues? Nah not really Just interpret the dream you had last night Breathtaking in its arrogance and solipsism Crooked Mirror reports that Steinman and her travel companion Cheryl imagined convening some grand international conference for Jews and Poles Later she and Cheryl powwow with four sincere Polish university students It was a start It was a start? There have been numerous international conferences dedicated to Polish Jewish relations Steinman's and Cheryl's chat was not a start at anything Steinman appears never to have learned even conversational Polish – but that's okay; she speaks hot tub Steinman encounters an elderly Polish woman This woman wears threadbare and frayed clothing Her hands are stained with dirt Her greenhouse is rotting Her lawn furniture is overturned Her blanket is rumpled Her hand is a claw This Polish peasant crone is listening to the infamous Radio Maryja an anti Semitic station Steinman concludes that the old woman is an anti Semite and xenophobic Those who know Poland know that Radio Maryja does broadcast anti Semitic material but the station also broadcasts genuinely loving material I have met deeply good people who listen to Radio Maryja Not all its listeners are anti Semites any than all NPR listeners are effete brie eating anti Zionists I suspect that had this old woman been elegantly dressed – perhaps in garments by Hugo Boss the Nazis' couturier – Steinman would not have judged her so harshly Indeed Steinman while writing about Poland but never capturing its appearance except to describe it in clichéd ways as dreary or grim never misses a chance to report who is wearing a leather jacket Cheryl dresses beguilingly with great fashion sense Cheryl is an American woman who lives in the South of France and enjoys the beach She makes everyone around her indulge her whims to march unannounced almost into strangers' laps at their workplaces withdraw into pouts stop a car suddenly run down a public road and scream or to detail yet another one of her dreams Cheryl's carte blanche to be difficult she inherited grief from her survivor fatherThe reader is to be less indulgent of August Kowalczyk Kowalczyk a Pole was captured by Nazis at age 19 when attempting to join the resistance He was imprisoned in Auschwitz for eighteen months He was tortured Kowalczyk described an SS man casually reading the newspaper his pet dog at his feet during this torture Kowalczyk escaped In retribution for his escape Nazis gassed three hundred Poles The only thing in Kowalczyk's talk that raised a reaction from his listeners – one was stricken – was his perhaps casual comment that Jews were resigned Listeners to Kowalczyk's talk protested – just that comment That was perhaps all they heard of this Polish man's description of his own crucifixion in Auschwitz One must uestion a value system that allows Cheryl her constant indulgence of her own pain though she was born in the US and lives in the South of France and denies to a man like August Kowalczyk his heroism and his pain because he is Polish Steinman reports anecdotes as unuestioned fact Scholarship shows that this is a mistake People alter first person accounts Anecdotes may or may not be representational A responsible storyteller addressing the Holocaust will compare first person accounts with accepted scholarship Steinman's readers will take these stories as true and representational That is unfortunate on so important a topic Steinman Orientalizes Because she does not speak Polish or Ukrainian or possess much knowledge of the cultures she visits Poles and Ukrainians come across as wacky exotics They paint murals sing songs love or hate Jews and kiss hands Poles exist exclusively as Neanderthals who hate Jews or good goys who love Jews and devote their lives to them There are no Poles who live their lives without their relationship to Jews being their primary feature I cannot imagine Beacon Press publishing such an Orientalizing text about Jews and the Holocaust Would they publish a book about a tourist who spent several weeks in Israel and never bothered to learn conversational Hebrew or penetrate Israeli culture? No Then by what set of rules is this book's paradigm acceptable? Poles remain objects in this text – things about which Steinman speaks They do not speak or live for themselves

  2. Diane S ☔ Diane S ☔ says:

    35 I love books in which before I even finish reading the introduction I have already learned something I did not know I had never heard of the Kielce Pogrom that took place in 1946 which convinced those that survived the camps to flee PolandThe author sets out to attend an international Witness retreat at Auschwitz and this starts her uest to trace her Polish Jewish past She goes to Wannsee where the 1942 conference on the final solution took place and continues on to many other places trying to figure out the present day understanding between Poles and JewsPart memoir part historical it is a book from which I learned much Would have rated it a solid 4 except I found the writing uite choppy at times and a bit difficult to follow from place to placeLoved her interpretation of The Crooked Mirror where neighbors turn on each other A good addition to this genre

  3. Judy Judy says:

    In graceful and heartfelt prose Louise Steinman captures a horrific topic the results and residue of the Holocaust in Poland Thanks to my reader friend with whom I formed the World's Smallest Reading Group just the two of us I learned about and read The Crooked MirrorLouise Steinman daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants had lived all her life without learning a thing about her family's past Her mother could not even say the word Poland and Louise was only told that the country allowed almost all of Poland's Jews to be exterminated and possibly was even complicit in the genocideI immediately sympathized with her dilemma One of the reasons I decided to write my own autobiography was because my parents rarely talked about their ancestors nor as it turned out did they know much about them All my ancestors were German immigrants who came to the United States in the mid to late 1800s Two world wars with Germany as America's enemy had effectively silenced my grandparents about their origins In their efforts to assimilate and blend in neither their native language nor tales of the families' pasts survivedBy the time Louise Steinman began her uest and odyssey into the past she was a practicing American Jew in Los Angeles whose rabbi was also a Zen Buddhist Only in LA right? The purpose of her first trip to Poland by invitation of the rabbi was to attend an International Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz Birkenau This experience led her to Radomsko her grandparent's Polish hometown and ultimately to a complete understanding of the complexity of Polish Jewish relationsHaving read John Hersey's The Wall and Leon Uris's Mila 18 both are fictional accounts of the Warsaw Ghetto as well as The Patagonian Hare the memoir of Claude Lanzmann creator of the Holocaust movie Shoa which I watched I was fairly well prepared historically to appreciate the emotional prejudices Steinman had to confront None of this reading prepared me at all for the reading group discussion of The Crooked MirrorMy friend brought another friend to the meeting Both of them are Jews of Polish descent My friend has been to Poland twice and her friend at least four times including visits to the hometowns of their forebears The book meant to them than I could have imaginedMy ancestors were Lutheran and emigrated for economic reasons These women's ancestors were obliterated almost without a trace Our discussion ranged far and wide leaving me with many of my preconceived notions rearrangedTo all of these women goes my admiration for their courage in facing the past and their willingness to help heal a countrywide breach caused by the evils of both the Nazis and post WWII Communism Though the history of the persecution towards the Jewish people dates much further back than 1939 there was a time when Jews and Catholics in Poland lived shoulder to shoulder in tolerance and cooperationSteinman's memoir follows her progression from tentative inuiry through increased involvement and finally to enough healing to allow hope To this day hardly any Jews live in the entire country of Poland but efforts by both Jews and present day Polish Catholics have brought to light what really happened In older times a Polish Catholic painted the zodiac on the ceiling of Radomsko's Great Synagogue and a Polish Jewish tinsmith designed the spires of the town's cathedral

  4. Lisa Redlinski Lisa Redlinski says:

    Louise writes about the Poland that exists in American Jewish consciousness and connects this perception to the Poland of today As a Jewish woman growing up in California and the daughter or Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in the US before the war she had always been taught that Poland is a land of anti Semites and collaborators “Bitterness calcified and in my home and among my generation of comfortable suburban Los Angeles Jewish kids the very idea of Poland resonated anguish and betrayal in a way it did not for other Americans” So it comes as a shock to her that her rabbi Rabbi Singer sends her to visit Poland to engage in a Polish Jewish reconciliation After all if Poland is a country of anti Semites how can it be or ever have been a homeland for Jewish people?It is extremely satisfying to travel this mind and history together; Louise’s feelings about her friends family and community bring passion to history something historians as a whole often can not do when writing purportedly objective accounts Because this is also a comprehensive introduction to Polish history which goes back hundreds of years from the Kingdom of Polonia up to today Polonia is a birth country for a multiplicity of ethnicities and Jewish communities who lived in symbiotic relationships with their neighbours across the duchiesThe Crooked Mirror is a wormhole to this history of tolerance and its promise The Golden Era in Poland’s history was brought to its knees when diplomacy was steamrolled by invaders who gained leadership through conuest Finally it is crushed in the middle of the 20th Century when the worst of humanity’s behaviour enacts a violence and murder so thorough that it is still a well of trauma from which Europe has to emerge For me as my mother is Polish Catholic and my father is Jewish second generation with roots in Poland and surrounding areas I have always asked the uestion of how people can be so effectively mobilized to murder Louise’s stories further answer this uestion for me and passionately inspires me to further commit myself to the belief that it is our moral imperative to return to values of tolerance and diplomacy – and not vengeance or military action The governance which values tolerance is central to the history of Europe and to its finest hoursIn Lublin Radomsko Warsaw Krakow throughout cities in Poland there are people passionately dedicated to telling the stories of Polish Jews The stories coruscate in archival papers and in their objects which survive until today There are stories people have only started to tell in recent years stories about libraries great lovers and great meals – all of which were the results of progressive values and multi ethnic Europe The Crooked Mirror brings these fragments together and the effect is something like having a front door which presents a new street scene every time you open it The Jewish photographer and his mistress the Jewish butchers of Radomsk and their friendship with the local police the murals of synagogues painted by Poles and the tiled floors and spires of Churches crafted by Jews These images are profound but then the doors open and you see a scene from 1939 the torture happens and everything after is affected And today there is every reason to care about Poland and encourage a greater understanding of its place in history Through this we understand ourselves better and our fragility in the face of violence It helps us understand that when we say ‘never again’ and ‘always remember’ the two statements are also positive to always value peaceful governance and remember the intelligence love and stories – of which there is an abundance of those who came before us

  5. Kendra Kendra says:

    This book has revealed a lot to me My Paternal family is all Polish both of my Dad's parents and grand parents being 100% It's true that although I have heard a few stories about them and their struggles growing up and being successful in America after immigrating here I've never heard a single story about Poland or any family history before America It's been as if the family didn't start until they moved here I can't say for certain that this is because of the shameguilt associated with Poland that's described in this memoir but it did make me wonder My family is all Catholic so far as I know and primarily soft spoken and introverted As I was reading about Ms Steinman's experiences I sort of linked that up with the devastating existence she describes here I imagine years of living in those times changed everyone not just the Jewish populationFor anyone reading that might not have Polish or Jewish ties the book is well worth the read It's put together beautifully and written in a very relatable understandable style I felt as though a family friend were telling me a historical and deeply emotional story I'm very grateful to Beacon Press for affording me the chance to experience it through a Goodreads giveaway

  6. A A says:

    First I must note that Louise Steinman has been a dear friend for many years While this has probably colored my opinion of this book what she has written is heartfelt thoroughly researched and beautifully written Without my having much prior knowledge of the plight of Polish Jews this book brought to mind so many incidents of how people are treated wrongly and how this treatment is ignored We can reflect on our own histories and what we know and do not know about our families as well as what we can discover about ourselves

  7. Michael Lewyn Michael Lewyn says:

    This book by an American Jew who visited Poland to visit the homes of her ancestors discusses her travels through Poland and Ukraine as well as some of the people she met thereThe first half of the book discussing the author's personal memories was less interesting to me than the second half which is focused on conversations with Poles who explain the common Polish desire to memorialize Poland's Jewish heritage by repairing Jewish cemeteries and similar acts of benevolence One journalist explained that he grew up under Soviet dominated Communist Poland which he viewed as fake He added The last time we had a 'genuine' Poland was the interwar republic before the Nazi invasion And it was the Poland of the Jews In the paradox of Polish nationalism a Jewish presence is what makes Poland genuineOne especially unusual manifestation of Polish philo Semitism is the Purim play in the small town of Tykocin performed roughly on the same spot where Jews were rounded up to be murdered by Nazis in 1941 Why would Christian Poles perform a ritual once performed by their now deceased Jewish neighbors? Steinman explains that this play was not meant for foreign consumption but is a healing ritual for their community and an opportunity for the villagers to mourn the loss of their Jewish brethren

  8. Bonnye Reed Bonnye Reed says:

    XXX I received this book as a give away from the publisher Thank you Louise Steinman wrote this memoir of Polish Jewish Reconciliation from her own struggle as the descendant of a participant in the atrocities lived through in Poland before and during the Second World War On the face of it this seems simple In reality doing a successful reconciliation is anything but simple and Louise Steinman outlines the proper steps to make this horrendous mend in the fabric of Polish life as seamlessly as possible We southerners and those of us in the melting pots of America all the rival feuds instilled over the years from misunderstandings or misinformation or just basic life vision be it accurate or read through a crooked mirror need to approach our differences in the way outlined in this insightful record of a true melding of hearts and understanding It is possible to apologize and explain to mourn and live again as neighbors and friends I find that very encouraging to know and am grateful for the insights I was able to take away from this memoir Thank you Ms Steinman

  9. Naomi Naomi says:

    Read my full review opinion Let me preface my review in saying that I love uniue reads Ms Steinman has delivered this While I think this book was part memoir I feel that it could also be considered a historycurrent events bookWhile the story was fascinating I felt that the writing was disconnected It almost had the feeling of someone instead of being part of the story was writing it from the outside looking in It truly lacked the emotional aspect that given the topic I felt it should have had I felt that if there had been an inkling of emotion to the aweness of this story this hands down would have been a 5 star read Genealogy people will LOVE this book I found that aspect of the book fascinating I was emotional with some of the incidents occurring in the book but felt that the author was writing of them from the perspective of a historian versus that of a familygranted long removed but still family

  10. Andy Andy says:

    Disclosure I won a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway I wasn't reuired to review the book but prefer to do soBeautiful book by a woman who decided that her family's past wasn't past Louise Steinman overcame her family's hatred of Poland by finding out what modern Poles thought about the Holocaust in which most of Steinman's ancestors died With the help of dozens of family members fellow travelers Poles speaking for the dead and Jewish people searching for resolution she explores the complex and difficult relationship that her Jewish forebears had with their ethnic Pole neighbors during the HolocaustFour stars I did keep getting tripped up by Steinman's privilege and what some would call a hippy dippy attitude but it's what she needed to write such a book and to forgive those who committed atrocities

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Crooked Mirror [PDF / Epub] ☉ Crooked Mirror By Louise Steinman – A lyrical literary memoir that explores the exhilarating discomforting and ultimately healing process of Polish Jewish reconciliation taking place in Poland today Although an estimated 80 percent of A A lyrical literary memoir that explores the exhilarating discomforting and ultimately healing process of Polish Jewish reconciliation taking place in Poland today Although an estimated percent of American Jews are of Polish descent many in the postwar generation and those born later know little about their families' connection to their ancestral home In fact many Jews continue to think of Poland as a bastion of anti Semitism since nearly the entire population of Polish Jewry was killed in the Holocaust The reality is complex although German occupied Poland was the site of great persecution towards Jews it was also the epicenter of European Jewish life for centuries Louise Steinman sets out to examine the burgeoning Polish Jewish reconciliation movement through the lens of her own family's history joining the ranks of Jews of Polish descent who are confronting both Poland's heroism and occupation afflicted atrocities and who are seeking to reconnect with their families' Polish roots.

  • ebook
  • Crooked Mirror
  • Louise Steinman
  • 12 September 2016
  • 9781306908894