World War II

In April 1945, Madame Roos wrote a letter to French authorities describing her piano she was hoping to get back. Roos, who was 72, was Jewish and her piano had been stolen when Nazis emptied her apartment in Paris.

A similar fate befell many of the 75,000 French Jews deported to concentration camps during World War II.

"It would take me too long to list piece by piece what was taken," said the letter, which only showed the author's last name. "But it seems to me if my piano is still in Paris, perhaps my furniture is, too."

color photo of abalone-inlaid Star of David on the back of a violin
publicity photo / Courtesy of Niv Ashkenazy

Among of the millions of voices silenced during World War II were those of countless musicians. While imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, they lifted spirits by playing music on beautifully decorated violins.

Many of those instruments were also silenced during the Holocaust. But violinist Niv Ashkenazi has now given a priceless violin its voice back, playing the restored instrument in a new recording featuring works by Jewish composers.

Remembering D-Day And World War II

May 25, 2020
 Soldiers in cargo vehicles move onto a beach in Normandy during the Allied Invasion of Europe, D-Day, June 6, 1944. After fierce fighting, the Allies established a foothold in northern France.
U.S Army / Flickr Creative Commons

This episode originally aired on June 5, 2019.

June 6 marks the anniversary of D-Day, when more than 150,000 Allied troops spilled onto five beach along the French coast in what is seen as the primary turning point, the beginning of the end of World War II. 

It has been just over 78 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans.

Now, in a unanimous vote, the California Assembly has apologized for the role the state played in rounding up about 120,000 people – mainly U.S. citizens – and moving them into 10 camps, including two in California.

When D'Abruzzo opened its first food kiosk in New York City's Bryant Park a few years ago, I dashed over to taste the Italian mountainous region's trademark mutton arrosticini and capture photographic proof of its existence in America, as this is not a dish often seen on our shores.

Thanks to D'Abruzzo, hundreds, maybe thousands, of Americans would be able to sample the region's savory, salted, grilled sheep-meat-on-a-stick that is cooked with passion in Abruzzo, on its own specialized grill, called la furnacell.

ccolor photo of Daniel Wnukowski playing the piano
/ wnukowski.com

“It was dark, unsettling. And it, in a way, kind of reflected my own family’s dark history.”

That’s how the music of Austrian-born Holocaust survivor Karol Rathaus first struck Canadian pianist Daniel Wnukowski when he heard it for the first time several years ago.

“This man was completely obscure to me, but the music resonated so strongly,” Wnukowski said in a recent phone interview.

Verena Wagner Lafferentz
Bayreuth Festival / Facebook

The death of a 98-year-old widow in Germany last April attracted worldwide headlines. At that age, her passing was hardly unexpected. Yet the death of Verena Wagner Lafferentz made the front pages and reminded the world of the darkest days of one of Europe’s most notable annual music festivals.

The University Press of Kentucky / kentuckypress.com

Jarmila Novotna (1907-1994) was a Czech opera singer who made movies with Fred Zinnemann, Montgomery Clift and Mario Lanza. She was a favorite of Arturo Toscanini, who brought her to New York in 1938. Just in time, as “the lights were going off all over Europe.”

Deutsche Grammophon

History, that capricious dispenser of fate, remembers some people well, others not so well and still others not at all. The same is true for musical works — some of which enjoy immortality, while others languish in obscurity, waiting for heroes to bring them back to light.

Italian violinist Francesca Dego may well go down in history as the heroine of a lesser-known violin concerto by 20th-century composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. It's a gorgeous work she justly calls a "gem" and an "Italian opera for the violin" that fell into neglect as victim to some of history's darker, crueler twists of fate.

John Seewer / Associated Press

Like so many American soldiers returning home from World War II, Bob Barger started working a new job and going to college. Once he settled into his career and raising a family, finishing school was no longer a priority.

Simon & Schuster

I knew of Eugene Drucker as a formidable violinist, and as a member of the acclaimed Emerson String Quartet. The Emersons have been established internationally for years. And they've long had a home on Classical 101.

This weekend marks 75 years since President Roosevelt's executive order that sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

Roy Ebihara and his wife, 82-year-old Aiko, were children then, and both were held in camps with their families.

At StoryCorps, 83-year-old Roy told Aiko about what happened in his hometown of Clovis, N.M., in the weeks just before the executive order was issued.

Why America Is Growing The Most Sweet Potatoes Since WWII

Jan 19, 2017

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

"A lot of things were hard to get during World War II, and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables," my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (then Aiko Yoshinaga) was a senior at Los Angeles High School.

She remembers the day the following spring that her principal took the Japanese students aside and said, "You're not getting your diplomas because your people bombed Pearl Harbor."

Japanese-American families on the West Coast were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Yoshinaga was worried that she would be separated from her boyfriend, so to the horror of her parents, Yoshinaga and her boyfriend eloped.

FBI

FBI officials based in Columbus say they've returned a painting stolen by Nazis during World War II.  The piece called “Portrait of a Young Man” is believed to have been stolen from a Polish museum in 1944, discovered by an American serviceman in Austria, and years later sold to a buyer in Central Ohio.

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