history · nonfiction · war

A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other by Ralph Webster

I do not regret that I spent last days of 2016 on reading A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other because the book was the biggest surprise of the last year!wobster

We need more books like A Smile in One Eye,  A Tear in the Other because an accounts of people who survived unbelievable atrocities of the World War II should not be forgotten. Survivors and those who lost their lives deserve the highest respect. Moreover, we should never trivialize what people are capable because the history has showed us many times that those who were underestimated committed horrifying things. Last but not the least, we should never take anything for granted. Today we live happy life but tomorrow we might be victims of international conflicts, terrorist attacks or domestic upheavals.

This beautiful book tells the story of a Jewish Family in the Nazi Germany. When the Hitler seized the power, the affluent and happy Wobsers family had to find a way to escape the madness of destruction.  The family lived in small Prussian town where they enjoyed prosperous life. Although they were Lutherans, they were told they were Jews, who did not belong to German nation. Their emotional attachment and patriotis for their country did not matter; they started to be defined by race. Wobsers lost everything they worked for. Their properties and money disappeared. People’s respect, which Wobsers enjoyed for decades, disappeared too.

Ralph Webster writes in two narratives. First, written from the perspective of this father Gerhard Udo Albert Wobser, who at the age 16 fled to the West. Looking for the refuge abroad was the only chance for him to survive the War. It was heart- breaking to read that he lost contact with all his family for many years. He did not know if his parents and siblings were still alive. When the War was over, he was able to find some of his relatives, the others did not survive… The story is told with the historical events in the background, which make this book more powerful and make the readers to understand better the tragic situation of the family.

The chapters telling the story of Wobsers are followed by Ralph Webster’s memoir about the last days of his father’s life. It has very personal dimension and it is beautiful. I think this part of the book might offer a kind of solace to those who are dealing with lose of their beloved ones.

On the other hand, I have small comment on book design. I think that the author spent too much time on description of Gerhard’s childhood.  At some moment, I got confused and I was not sure where the book was going. Personally, I would prefer to read more about Gerhard’s time in the British army.

I think the cover is perfect. Simple and humble covers always suit ambitious books. Moreover, meaningful tittle on the black background makes the book even more powerful.

I encourage everyone to read A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other because this is beautiful and valuable book.

I would like to mention a person that came to my mind while reading this book. I hope the author does not mind it. There was Auschwitz camp survivor in my hometown in Poland. He never talked to anyone about his experience. Nobody knew what happened to him and what he witnessed. When he received invitation from local school to give a speech to the student about Auschwitz, he refused it. I assume that what he went through was too horrible to talk about. We should pay tribute to people like him, or Gerhard Wobser and all other victims of the War.

The overall rating: well- deserved 5/5

I received the book from the author in exchange for honest review.

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25 thoughts on “A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other by Ralph Webster

  1. Some survivors never spoke of it, while some made a point to share their experiences in the hope of preventing future massacres. In the U.S. we had many of both.

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  2. Pingback: A Smile in One Eye
  3. This sounds like a very touching book that left an indelible impression on you and will perhaps do so on other readers as well. Thank you for sharing about this wonderful book.

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  4. We live in the world that nothing is certain. Currently I live in Izmir in Turkey. Until last week, Izmir was still safe place. But then there was a terrorist attack that changed everything. I knew the attacks would reach Izmir sooner or later but I did not expect it would happen so fast. There is no safe place in this world anymore.

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  5. Books like this are both intimidating and liberating as we seek to understand how people could do such things and how people managed, thankfully to survive. Books like this need more recognition so the world not only remembers but seeks to avoid the same paths.

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  6. yes the world is certainly in a mode that might link back/forwards. someone asked me a few weeks ago “what would you do?” I replied “well, I might not be doing anything if I was wiped out, but if I was still walking etc, I would go with the flow, hope that I had enough of whatever to survive including personal grit…” My questioner then said “I’m worried” and I replied “why…” and then changed the subject and said “gotta get going” and I walked away…

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  7. Cedar…interesting observation. Two days ago I met with a book club of about 30 women who had just read the book. One of the questions was about how my father dealt with the situation he found himself in. I believe I was able to really capture his attitude and personality in the book – that is one aspect I am particularly proud of. He spoke little of those times but, when he did, his approach was “What was I supposed to do? I did nothing special. I just lived through the circumstances that were before me as best I could. That was what we all had to do. That was the way it was.” There could never be enough mental health professionals to deal with the world’s displaced and damaged survivors during and following World War II. They had to find ways to survive on their own – and without social media!

    Ralph

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  8. that is what I think most would do as well, “what am I supposed to do?” – as we watch our respective news-casts we see the desperate chain of events – we usually hear the most vocal of the chain, whereas there are probably a good % like your father, trudging on, knowing that something will happen – hopefully for the best.

    what is quote that goes like “one step at a time..” for whatever reason you are using it.

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  9. When you wrote in your book that for a few years your father did not know what happened to the rest of family, I realized how fortunate we are. Those times there wasn’t any easy and fast way to get in touch with family members. Now, thanks to technology we can find out what is going on with our beloved ones any time any place.

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  10. Isn’t that amazing? How the world has changed! Now we stay in touch within moments – Cedar in New Zealand, you in Turkey, me in the US. We can share a conversation. Here is the question….how would that have changed things during WWII and the Holocaust? Consider all that we know about the world today…yes we react on social media….but it seems that many issues that get talked about still continue.

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  11. My first tought was that people around the world could see what Nazis did to Jews and could react one way or the other. But then I realized that there are cases of genocides and other crimes that were revealed on social media but it did not change anything.
    On the other hand, maybe it would be easier for people to cope with the situation if they could be in touch with family separated because of war.

    Liked by 1 person

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