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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A boys' version of Anne Frank, October 28, 2008
By 
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
The four authors who were boys in Manila during the months of the brutal Japanese occupation share their recollections of those terrible times in a simple, poignant narrative. Through the eyes of children, the horror is given a surreal quality, as memories of toys and games are juxtaposed with friends gunned down by sniper fire, Japanese firing squads, neighbors tortured to death, and relatives dragged off to execution. No historian, reporter, or adult stands between the boys and the reader as they tell their story--a story largely untold in the West.
As one who has taught American history, I was familiar with Japanese atrocities during World War II; still, much of what I read here was revelation. This short book would make a good reading assignment for young people studying the period, especially for junior high or high school age students like the boys themselves, and would be a valuable addition to any school library and to any history teacher's bookshelf. Just as Anne Frank wrote of her life under Nazi occupation, these boys tell of their lives under the Japanese.
It's hard to believe anyone survived the devastation of Manila, and even harder to believe that those who did could have grown up to be normal, functioning adults after such trauma. This is the sort of story that makes me swear I'll never complain about anything again. I highly recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Horror of War through boys' eyes., July 17, 2010
By 
Robert Hansen (San Lorenzo, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
The book "Manila Memories" describes the transition between the years "before the war" and "after the war." However, the book's focus is "during" the war. Because it's about life in Manila it is mainly a tale of life during the Japanese occupation in which the term "liberation" marks the sharp transition to "after the war." Liberation, however, was not a clear demarcation. For most it was a horrendous experience in which lives were forever changed.

I have a particular interest in this subject because it mirrors situations that my family and our friends endured. Many of the events described in the book were events that were discussed around our dinner table. Most of us have heard the stories of the occupation and liberation of Manila from the perspective of MacArthur and various historians. However, the destruction of Manila often garners little more than a paragraph or two in written accounts. This is a different perspective. This is the perspective of the people who survived these horrific events and didn't read about them in books. I use the term "survived" because one didn't just live through those times and events, you survived. This book is the story of four young boys who survived.

Other "survivors" have written about their experiences. Some of the accounts are obviously edited or filled with excessive prose. However, this book is succinct and unpretentious. It is a compilation of the memories of four young boys who were old enough to understand what was going on but young enough to experience a sense of awe and adventure because of the circumstances. The editor and principal narrator is Juergen Goldhagen, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was fortunate in that the Japanese recognized his family as erstwhile allies while ignoring the fact that Juergen's father was a Jew with an expired German passport. The families of the other three narrators, Roderick Hall, Hans Hoeflein and Hans Walser were also treated as allies by the Japanese to a point.

Their stories are told as a series of vignettes of incidents they remembered. Some of the incidents are mundane and typical of young boys - throwing rocks at other boys or breaking things without their parents' knowledge. Other vignettes exemplify the horrors of the times -- Roderick Hall's family was arrested and his mother summarily executed by the Japanese for possessing a "radio." In the cases of these boys, life or death was random and happenstance. Roderick and some other family members were let go. Juergen came close to being accidentally killed a few times by doing things a boy does. For all of them, the shells whistling overhead and flying shrapnel did not respect their nationality. Death could be just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These boys survived but many of their friends and family didn't during the month-long "Battle of Manila.".

This book is unpretentious and makes no value judgments unlike some books written by those who were adults during those times. Their stories are simple but spellbinding, realistic and intelligible. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what really happened during those dark days of February 1945 when Manila was destroyed before these boys' very eyes. If you don't understand why the terms "before the war" and "after the war" are so significant to my generation and our elders, you will after reading this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heart wrenching immediacy, September 23, 2008
By 
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
Gripping story of a part of WWII in the Pacific--Manila Memoriesrelates through the eyes and experiences of four adolescents their survival, as best they and some of their families are able, the japanese occupation of Manila during the short-lived, euphemistically-named"Greater East-Asia Co-prosperity Sphere"---with control and prosperity flowing to the Japanese Empire. The arbritrariness and inhumanity of this new colonial power defies the imagination, illustrating once again man's potential for inhumanity to his fellow man.A most gripping read in which day-to-day traumatic experiences of these observers, these four innocent young protagonists, are related with heart-wrenching immediacy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manila Memories, February 1, 2009
By 
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
In this fascinating book, four boys tell of their memories of life in Manila, Philippines, before, during, and after the Japanese occupation during World War II. My comments on the book are biased because I know all four authors, having gone to the same school in Manila that they attended. However, my wife Hilah read the book too. She only knows the editor and has never lived in the Islands. Her comments are melded with mine, removing some of my bias.

The memories are told in the words of youngsters, and were largely non-judgmental, at least up until their tales of the liberation, a most stressful time. The boys understood that the Japanese were the enemy, and they feared them and wished them gone. However, they described some friendly exchanges.

After the Japanese took over the Philippines, food became scarce and the boys and their families were getting hungrier and hungrier. Although Hans Walser remembers that life under Japanese occupation was "... as normal as could be," he describes how shortages of food and medicines brought about tension. Tension heightened as the Americans returned to begin their liberation drive. Air raids made life more hazardous as shrapnel and spent ammunition rained down everywhere. Walser writes how life "... was starting to get less and less `normal'." Food prices soared. Understandably, the Japanese became less friendly, more suspicious, and guarded. But the boys still spent time playing, even in their perilous surroundings.

The battle for Manila is well described, and includes a map of American troop movements. Photographs show the devastation of the once beautiful city, known before the war as the Pearl of the Orient. It was an increasingly hazardous time for all residents, including the Japanese, with the significant threats of aerial combat, antiaircraft fire, artillery, and small arms fire, even for those in their homes. It was like a war game to the boys, but their parents were fearful for the health and safety of family and friends. Descriptions of this tension transport the reader through the boys' eyes to those exciting, dangerous times.

Liberation brought much happiness to all but the Japanese. The American soldiers seemed ready for the people who lined the streets to cheer them. They won the children's hearts tossing candies down to them from their trucks. They threw packages of cigarettes to the adults. This account of joy cheers the reader.

We recommend the book to those of our age who were children during the war, as well as other readers who would enjoy the experience of seeing such a major conflict through the eyes of young boys. It is a clearly written, entertaining, and thought-provoking read.
-Norman Simmons
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Boys Remember Their Lives Before, During and After the Japanese Occupatiion of Manila, March 23, 2009
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
This riveting memoir about pre-WWII culminates in the Battle of Manila in 1945. The book is authored by four young authors, who at the time were between the ages of nine and twelve. They are Juergen Goldhagen, Roderick Hall, Hans Hoeflein, and Hans Walser, all of European ancestry: German, Spanish and Swiss, all considered by the Japanese occupiers of the Philippines, as non-enemy aliens. They and their families were, therefore, not interned in concentration camp and spent the Japanese occupation in Manila surviving precariously on their own.
While life for the boys was relatively peaceful during the early Occupation, it became less so with shortages of food and medicine. Finally, with the month-long battle for Manila, commencing in early February, 1945, all vestiges of normalcy collapsed.
Three of the boys lived in the city and experienced horrific scenes, and were nearly killed.Nationality made no difference, and if one were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, one could be burned, wounded, or killed.
One hundred thousand civilians died in the Battle of Manila. Thousands upon thousands were massacred by the Japanese military.Roderick Hall's mother, grandmother, aunt, the aunt's fiance, and a family friend were killed.Miraculously, Rod, his younger sister, and two younger brothers survived.
Sixty-five years later, four memoirists tell their stories through the eyes of their boyhood--incredible historians with tales that will never be forgotten.
--Doreen Gandy Wiley, author and survivor of the Philippine Holocaust
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manila Memories, December 21, 2008
By 
Ruth Biloon (Sleepy Hollow, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
Manila Memories is a story about 4 young boys who lived through the Japanese occupation of Manila during World War II. These are gripping accounts, similar and yet very different, as each boy's experiences were unique and are told with distinctive voices. There is the ordinariness of everyday life and then, often, the sudden and shocking cruelty of war. Once started, the book demanded to be read through. I enjoyed it very much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manila Memories, January 27, 2013
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
I found this book to be extremely facsinating as seen through the eyes of 4 young boys and their families while living in Manila during the Japanese Occupation. To me it is a must read if you want to get an indepth accounting of what these boys experienced during this time. Some of the things you will find very interesting and informative.

Of special interest to me are the things I discovered while in Hannover and Gronau, Germany this past August. Juergen's great uncle Louis Wertheim lived with my great grandmother Helene Friedheim Jacob and my great aunt Sophie Jacob for a number of years before Louis went to a concentration camp in Poland. Since my return to the USA, I have been in touch with Juergen via phone and mail and have sent him pictures of his grandmother Helene Wertheim Goldhagen's gravestone and other relatives of his. Having left Germany at such a young age, he did not have any of this information.

Once again, I highly recommend this book. It is put together in such a way that it is a very easy read.

K. G. Midtvedt
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Endurance and Triumph, November 24, 2008
By 
This review is from: Manila Memories (Paperback)
Sixty years or more after their boyhood experiences, four men have told their tales of boyhood during wartime. Most Westerners in countries occupied by the Japanese in World War II spent the three years in prison camps. However, the four families in this story were not considered enemies by their occupiers; two were German, one was Swiss and the fourth was considered Filipino because of a long Spanish history in the islands. They lived in Manila and watched the occupation take place. Their fathers' jobs ended and survival became the mode of life.

Youth can protect us from real fear -- especially if parents are present to deal with the realities. The four boys' lives went on, for the most part, as boys' lives do -- play, schooling in one form or another. The presence of the Japanese and their unpredictability was part of their experience, and as time went on, privation, too.

The battle for liberation in February 1945 was the most horrendous time for all of them. Bombing, shelling and massacre presented them with lifetime memories that leave scars. That they have all gone on to live productive lives demonstrates the resilience of youth.

Undescribed directly is the heroism and ingenuity of the four sets of parents who survived three years demanding of innovation and courage.

Everyone should read this book.
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Manila Memories
Manila Memories by Juergen Goldhagen (Paperback - August 1, 2008)
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