Underscoring many of the headlines in today’s politics are historical precedents. It is said that if we ignore the problems we contended with in the past, we are bound to repeat them. My love of history followed me into my political career and proved to be a great advantage in dealing with the issues of the present.
Thank you for sharing your time with me, reading my books and blogs.
– Neil Rolde
Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. Many of the same elements that led to the Holocaust survive today. Neil Rolde has dedicated himself to broadening our awareness of this era. His histories highlight the degree to which the U.S. helped save Jews during the war and what that required.
The War Refugee Board saved over 200,000 lives, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive written history about the extraordinary work that the Board did—until now.
Neil’s More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, The Tempestuous Story of the War Refugee Board is the definitive history of this heroic organization.
“The War Refugee Board’s feat of saving some 200,000 targeted innocents is surely worthy of respect. I’m proud to have told the saga of the War Refugee Board in its detailed entirety, in these two volumes,” said author Neil Rolde.
A new documentary by Ken Burns, The Sharps’ War, is the story of how a Unitarian minister and his wife risked their lives to save an estimated 125 Jews, during the height of WWII. Burns said that their story needed to be told.
While researching, Rolde found a treasure trove of stories where people accomplished extraordinary things to save Jewish refugees but their actions were rarely attributed to the work of the War Refugee Board.
For example, Raoul Wallenberg, a heroic Swede who saved at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews is known. “But not many people know that the War Refugee Board had sent Wallenberg secretly to Hungary,” said Neil. “Most of the workers weren’t Jewish. They were a small group of about thirty people doing extraordinary things.”
Tragically, during WWII the U.S. didn’t help refugees as much as the should have because of the U.S. State Department official in charge of matters concerning all European refugees during the Holocaust, Breckinridge Long.(click to view Neil’s book on Long)
“When I researched Long I came across the War Refugee Board and soon saw the need to write about their work. That lead to my latest about what happened to the Jews after the allies ‘liberated’ Europe. It concentrates on the Bricha, which is Hebrew for escape.”
Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.
The War Refugee Board, by Neil Rolde
Vol I: ISBN-978-1-882190-75-1
Vol II: ISBN-978-1-882190-76-8
BLOG 46 HISTORY IN TODAY’S POLITICS
By Neil Rolde
The first time I ever heard the word “pejorative” in public discourse occurred when it was used unselfconsciously by Robert Monks Sr., a Republican aspirant for major office in the State of Maine. Over the years, I have come across it on occasion and have, once I mastered its usage, employed it myself. Webster’s states its meaning as “to make worse,” “disparaging” and “depreciative.”
Donald Trump has been called a lot of names, as most politicians are, even the meek and the mild ones and Mr. Trump is anything but that. But to someone of my age and religious background, some of his remarks touch a deep wound.
Unabashedly, Trump uses the slogan of “America First” for his campaign. This slogan does indeed have a pejorative ring for those of us Jews who remember the pro-Nazi slant, pre Pearl Harbor, of the organization in our country headed by Charles Lindbergh. Under the guise of keeping America out of the war, it peddled the Nazi tune of preventing the U.S. from opposing Hitler’s rampage in Europe. Its most fanatic members were to be jailed as potential Fifth Column saboteurs and its organization dismantled once we entered the fray.
Now, alas, the hateful name has been resurrected and ballyhooed by Mr. Trump.
Since it strikes me that the presumptive Republican nominee for President has little knowledge of American history (nor probably much use for it) I can excuse him for not knowing that the first Nazi slogan in the 1920’s was “Make Germany Great Again.” So here once more, he is not being original but simply clueless by adopting “Make America Great Again” as another of his by-words.
To be sure, some folks have likened Donald Trump’s authoritarian style to Adolf Hitler’s and others to Benito Mussolini’s. Personally, I would choose the latter. In looks, alone, it must be said, the moustache less Trump is much more akin to the late Italian dictator. Especially with that jut-jawed demeanor of Trump’s and his pompous swaggering. Trump’s hair color doesn’t seem to match II Duce’s but then, again, what color is the man’s coiffure? Obviously its orange hue comes from a dye or dyes. There are other similar but more intangible connections: like Mussolini, Trump was a liberal in his early politics — Mussolini a fervent Socialist but who went on to invent Fascism, the forerunner to Hitler’s National Socialism.
So both Mussolini and now Trump have squiggled over to the Far Right. I will not shrink from stating baldly that Mussolini, much more than the buffoon he came to be seen as, ended badly, shot alongside his mistress by Partisans in Milano and both bodies strung upside down.
Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominee for President, embraces Pres. Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention. Mrs. Clinton will face Mr. Trump in the election for President this November. Photo by Alex Cornell du Houx
I pray that Donald Trump may never have such a misadventure just as I pray — and fight for— his never becoming President of the United States. The man is simply a super con artist. Recent revelations have shown that he is also a dead beat in repaying his debts. Same about his promises to charity. He is proud of his stuffing people from whom he has borrowed money. We should keep him from attaining the title of Honorable, which is accorded to all elected officials in the United States.
Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.“The stories were engaging – reminding an insider of the ‘old days,’ and giving an outside observer a good sense of what truly goes on behind the scenes. It certainly brought me back to the days when I was sitting in one of those leather chairs, hearing the gavel come down and wondering what was about to happen next!” added Pingree.
Anyone reading the stories should gain respect for our lawmakers and will be surprised by Rolde’s candid style.
“They illustrate that our governments are made up of human beings – and in Maine at least, doing their level best to deal with the needs of the population at the lowest possible cost. It was said that we Maine legislators worked for a salary of three cents an hour,” said Rolde.
One has to ask which stories reflect Neil’s own experiences? Continue reading
Posted Apr. 12, 2016 at 3:02 PM
YORK — At nearly 85, author, historian and longtime Maine political figure Neil Rolde shows literally no signs of slowing down. He is wrapping up the second in a trilogy of nonfiction books about the exodus of Jews to America and Israel during World War II. And he has just published his third novel, also set in WWII.
His research on the books can take him to Washington, D.C. or to New York City – “although only when it’s warm. This isn’t a good time of year to be in New York City” – and he’s traveled extensively in Europe as well.
“Every day I can, I write – sometimes many hours a day. And I walk a mile, sometimes two miles a day. I used to walk 3½ miles but those days are gone. Memory is a bit of a problem, as you might imagine. I occasionally have a difficult time remembering names and places, but they always do come back to me,” he said. Despite a cluttered office, he said, “I know where everything is and I know where I’m going in the book and what I need to do.” Continue reading
By Ramona du Houx in Maine Insights
Crimes of War, Neil Rolde’s newest novel deals with a real SS massacre of a small town in France during World War II called Oradour-sur-Glane.
“The drama here was that some of the perpetrators were French citizens—Alsatians drafted into the SS. They were put on trial in 1953 for their part—under duress, it was claimed—in the horrendous killings and destruction of that peaceful village,” said historian/author Neil Rolde.
“It has been a difficult story to tell. But I believe my current work gives the flavor, although fictionalized, that many of the non-fiction books about this incident do not.”
During the Spanish Inquisition many Cathars where tortured and murdered in the same region where the SS massacre took place, echoing the past.
“Neil tells this compelling story as if he were there—a silent witness through the centuries,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear & Company, the book’s publisher.
Specific historical figures make appearances in the story.
In the novel Professor Eugene Desfosseux, a historian and self-taught ventriloquist, conjures amid the ruins figures from deep into his past and records the interviews and interrogations in a tale that epitomizes what this or any other war crime might encompass—including his own daily life of pleasures, romance and memories inflamed to a vengeance that would destroy his life’s work.
“Thus it brings up the question of what war crimes entail and thus the plural in the title.
Crimes of war are still a universal problem,” said Neil. Continue reading
First appeared in Maine Insights
Editorial By Neil Rolde
In my last BLOG, which dealt with refugees and was posted well before the ISIS atrocities in Paris, I predicted the reaction in Congress to support for Syrian refugees. The exact words of my final sentence were: “One can read the handwriting on the wall for any substantial help for the Syrians while this Congress is in office.”
I stick by my prediction even though the initial thrust now post-Paris is coming mostly from Republican Governors, 29 of them to date who are barring Syrian refugees from their States and one Democrat Governor who has joined the pack. There may well be more as the current wave of hysteria is exploited.
Interesting. These persons are undoubtedly all fervent supporters of the U.S. Constitution. But does the Constitution allow them to bar persons legally in the country to enter their States. Could they keep me out of Mississippi because I’m a Democrat? Don’t tell them. I was just there last spring.Continue reading
by Ramona du Houx | BDN
Oct. 17, 2015, at 1:24 p.m.
Neil Rolde will be the guest speaker at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in New York City on October 19, at the New York Westin Hotel, 212 East 42nd Street.
Rolde is working on a new book about the War Refugee Board (WRB) following his successful biography of Breckinridge Long, the man who restricted Jews fleeing Germany in WWII.
“I will be speaking to one of the committees of the Joint Distribution Committee. This Jewish organization was formed in 1914 to rescue European Jews caught in the Great War. In World War II, they were the largest contributors to the War Refugee Board, about which I am writing a history,” said author/statesman Neil Rolde. “I am using their voluminous archives in New York City.”
JDC is a Jewish relief organization that offers aid to the many Jewish populations in central and eastern Europe as well as the Middle East through a network of social and community assistance programs. With the rise of Hitler’s Nazi regime, JDC supported efforts that enabled 110,000 Jews to leave Germany prior to 1939. Continue reading