Category Archives: Interesting people

Holocaust survivor: I’m giving $1 million to help wounded American veterans, to express my thanks

At 83 years old, I am one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors – thanks to the American troops who rescued me in what seems like a lifetime ago. Since World War II, I’ve felt a deep connection to American troops for saving my life – a feeling that resurfaces every year on Veterans Day and throughout the holiday giving season.

And so this year I’m saying “thank you” to the American soldiers of the 1940s by donating $1 million to organizations serving wounded American veterans today.

My donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Services for Armed Forces program of the American Red Cross is my way of giving back, thanking previous generations of warriors for helping me. I hope this inspires others to give back as well.

Even though more than 70 years have passed since my rescue, it’s not too late to give back. That’s a lesson I hope the next generation recognizes, because it’s all too easy to let procrastination give way to inaction. But action is what brings hope to those who need it.

I have met many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us. Then decades later, they welcomed us.

As a child, I spent most of World War II hiding from Nazi invaders in my native France, where my parents moved after fleeing the pogroms in Poland. Unfortunately, with the German invasion in 1940, we were again at risk. On July 16, 1942, the French police led a big roundup of Jews in Paris. More than 13,000 Jews were detained before being deported to Nazi death camps.

 The police came to our apartment at 6 a.m. My parents managed to take me to my aunt’s home. She was married to a French soldier and was protected.

A few hours later, my mother was arrested as she and my brother were trying to get information about my father, who was hiding in a nearby grocery store. A concierge had pointed them out to the police. They ran, but my mother was not fast enough. She was detained and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She perished there – probably within three weeks.

I was 7, and for the next two years I lived on borrowed time, shielded by other families on the outskirts of Paris. The same was true for my future wife, who was also a child in hiding. If the war had continued much longer, we would not have survived.

I vividly remember the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of American troops who landed in Normandy to liberate us in June 1944. They were our saviors, doling out packets of sweets to half-starved, war-weary children who had almost given up hope for freedom.

The gratitude I feel to these men is beyond words. They freed our country and they saved our lives. Without American troops, my family and I simply would not have existed. I think of that every time I look at our family photos.

Since the end of the war, life has been good to me. I’ve had a successful career as co-owner of one of Europe’s largest home appliance retailers, working alongside my brothers. I’ve also enjoyed raising my family, celebrating extended family gatherings of 20 people.

My wife and I have a deep sense of gratitude for America. So in the early 1990s, freshly retired, we bought a home in South Florida. I travel with my wife each winter from our home in Paris to the warmth of Miami Beach. We still appreciate our second home there, where we now spend almost a third of our time.

I have met many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us. Then decades later, they welcomed us.

But as I watched news stories this fall of hurricanes, flooding and wildfires striking America, inflicting suffering among civilians and veterans alike, I realized that I still had an important task left to complete in my life. I had not yet given back to the American soldiers who saved my life nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

That is why I want to help modern American veterans today. They pursue the tradition of the young men who landed on the shores of Normandy in June 1944 and who I will never forget. In giving this donation, I want to thank Americans with all my heart for coming to rescue us in our hour of need.

But I also want to make a public stand in support of America. I hope that my donation can trigger a movement and lead others to take action. My story shows it’s never too late to give back, especially for a cause that’s close to your heart. If it wasn’t too late for this octogenarian, it’s not too late for you.

Bernard Darty is a Paris native and retired co-founder of Darty Group, an electrical retailer operating more than 340 stores in three European countries.

Advertisements

October 23, 1956–The Hungarian Revolution. What would you fight for? What would you die for?

image

This day, October 23 marks the 61st anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

It’s hard for many of us in the free world to appreciate times such as those. What drove virtually all segments of Hungarian society, including the military and police, to rise up against their government? What drove so many to risk everything, including their life in an attempt to throw off the tyranny and brutality of a Soviet controlled dictatorship?  

The following articles summarize those days quite well:

Excerpts:

“ … In the days that followed, frequent attacks and skirmishes took place across Budapest and the countryside, as village-based freedom fighters strove to hinder Soviet brigades heading toward the capital. Workers nationwide launched strikes in solidarity with the resisters, and more public demonstrations continued demanding radical change in government. In one particularly gruesome incident, ÁVH troops opened fire on a nonviolent crowd of approximately 10,000 demonstrators gathered before the Parliament House on October 25th, a massacre that killed around 100 people and injured hundreds more; bullet holes from that tragedy are preserved to this day on buildings surrounding Kossuth Square. …” (the picture at the top)

freedom-fighter-statue-2ee0a0de4e9b9fe0e9e64f2ea024650c2celebration-1956-hungary-1422115

https://welovebudapest.com/en/2015/10/22/the-freedom-fight-a-chronicle-of-hungarys-1956-revolution/

And an eyewitness to the revolution:

image

https://welovebudapest.com/en/2014/10/23/hope-and-tragedy-an-eyewitness-recalls-hungarys-1956-revolution/

A dear friend and Navy Shipmate Adam von Dioszeghy was also an eyewitness – indeed a twice wounded freedom fighter in that 1956 Revolution against tyranny. Read his account below:

http://www.blurb.com/b/8243686-budapest-at-war

image

Don Johnson – October 2017

Postcards from Pannonia – a book review & trip report

image

(From the book)

“A freedom fighter of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, after over 40 years in the US, and his California-born wife, decide to return to his native land to live. What’s more, they decide to purchase a dilapidated country house-with about 7 acres of land-perched atop a hill in the foothills of the Bakony Mountains, nestled in the middle of an ancient area the Romans called Pannonia. The house sits alone, set apart from the neighboring village of 1,200 souls. The couple is idealistic, brave and – some might say – idiotic to undertake such a task. Of course, the house needs to be renovated and made fit for habitation. Craftsmen and workers need to be found. The work needs supervision. As our hero and heroine are “absentee owners” (living mostly in California), they are people who could easily be taken advantage of by unscrupulous and greedy locals. Country folk often focus on strangers as exotic and wealthy – true or not – and this is especially the case when the “strangers” are viewed as “rich Americans”.

The situation calls for caution and careful planning. Fortunately, a local “good Samaritan”, in the form of a native and pillar of the community, befriends them, comes to their aid time and again, and becomes their guardian angel. Amid seeming chaos and very real trepidation, restoration and refurbishment begins. While progress is far from smooth and continuous, no major disasters occur. Local craftsmen are found who are ably kept in check by Anti, the guardian angel. The skirmishes are numerous and colorful, but the locals (who for some reason concoct the story that the house has been bought by a “famous American film producer”), gradually accept the interlopers.

As time passes and the owners spend more and more time on the property, boundaries come down and friendships are forged. There are invitations and counter-invitations issued and accepted. People offer their generous help with problems otherwise unsolvable. The house is completed. With the assistance of these new-found friends, the adventuresome newcomers plant a vineyard, and now spend over seven months a year in their new paradise. Life is good…  “

______________

My review …

But first meet the authors – Adam and Aliz

20170529_195340

This review will be a bit different than most. First of all, I had previously read Adam’s memoir Bridging Two Worlds in which he chronicles his Hungarian life from age 7 to about age 18 – World War II through the 1956 Revolution — and then his life in the United States as a non-English speaking refugee, US Navy officer, Stanford graduate and attorney for 35 years.

Secondly, and as a result of discovering this old Navy shipmate through his book, Diana and I visited with the von Dioszeghys’ recently (May 2017). And this visit prompted us to read Postcards when we returned home.

After I finished reading “Postcards … .” I had the same reaction as Diana when she finished the book. I was sad. Saddened  at the loss of your dear friend Lajcsi, and saddened that the book ended.

I must say, the book – their life in Hungary – brought out the multiple personality disorder part of me, and of me as well. Let me explain, and I think Diana will agree.

Reading the many stories after having been there with Adam & Aliz and seeing for ourselves, brought memories flooding back. Memories of so many details that we just weren’t able to appreciate at the time. Details that we simply took for granted such as the awnings over the patio – the stairway up to ‘our room’ and more. At the time, these details were noted, but no more so than had we been in anyone else’s nice home. In other words, expected niceties,  but not unusual.

But then these same memories, illuminated by the many captivating stories, took on an entirely wonderful light in recalling sitting on the terrace sipping wine, enjoying each other’s company and good food. Looking out over the countryside and now imagining the many visits to that same home and terrace by many Sur friends and neighbors such as Anti, Hajni, Kalman and others. 

So the one personality of mine has been enriched greatly by both the experience of being there with them, and now knowing ‘The Rest of the Story.’  And yet  another personality wishes that I would have read the stories before going there. But alas … that would have robbed me of the mystery and magic of the sequence as it actually unfolded. And yet another personality hopes it is possible for a return some day.  

A splendid job — congratulations to Adam & Aliz in capturing so much of life and love. The love shared with each other – the love drawn out in those new friends and neighbors – and the love of life itself they both show, in the small things and in the large.

Once more – thank you so much. Thanks for your hospitality, the fine company – and most of all thanks for drawing us into your lives as dear friends.

Love to you both,

don

Before we get to the many pictures below, here are other articles I have posted:

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/bridging-two-worlds-a-book-review-2/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/reunion/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/i-first-visited-hungary/

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/a-navy-reunion-and-more-a-personal-walk-through-history/

_________

countryHouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

20170527_191330

“Szolohegy”  the name of their home:
About 1 1/2 – 2 hour drive West from Budapest sur_map

Gulyas

And now just a few (well OK … a lot) pictures. There are many pictures here, but to Diana and I they will hopefully help connect; the two books, our trip there, and our feeble memories (well at least mine.)  

 

Not all our time was spent at the country home. Here are some pictures from Budapest. Adam has an incredible memory and knowledge of Budapest and Hungarian history, and showed us much.

 

We would sure love to go back some day.

 

What’s Become of the American Dream?

American Dream

Peggy Noonan writes a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal. Click  “What’s Become of the American Dream?” to read the article.

Much in Noonan’s piece brought me back to the memoirs of Sam Jankovich which I have just finished editing and publishing.

A couple of excerpts from Noonan …

“ … The American dream is the belief, held by generation after generation since our beginning and reanimated over the decades by waves of immigrants, that here you can start from anywhere and become anything. In America you can rise to the heights no matter where and in what circumstances you began. You can go from the bottom to the top.  … “

The picture at the top is the last page of the memoir, and shows one such person who has gone “from the bottom to the top” in the literal sense of from a mile deep mine shaft to presenting a national championship game ball to the President of the United States.

Noonan further writes:

“ … The American dream was about aspiration and the possibility that, with dedication and focus, it could be fulfilled. But the American dream was not about material things—houses, cars, a guarantee of future increase. That’s the construction we put on it now. It’s wrong. A big house could be the product of the dream, if that’s what you wanted, but the house itself was not the dream. You could, acting on your vision of the dream, read, learn, hold a modest job and rent a home, but at town council meetings you could stand, lead with wisdom and knowledge, and become a figure of local respect. Maybe the respect was your dream.  … “

Click on the book cover below and take a look at Sam’s story.

image

          (Click on the cover above)

As Noonan further writes:

“ … You can give a dozen examples, and perhaps you are one, of Americans who turned a brilliant system into a lived-out triumph. … “

And I do know of a number other examples.

 

Don Johnson – April 2017

Make Your Bed!

ED-AW249_bkrvmc_JV_20170403120930

(Click above to read the review)

I’ve been making our bed almost daily since somewhere near when Adm. McRaven first gave his speech back in 2014. I like to remember that I started this habit shortly before that now famous speech, but am willing to admit that the Admiral was most likely my motivator. After all, he is the admiral and me a lowly enlisted guy.

In any case, read this review, and better yet read the book. Who knows, perhaps you will start making your bed as well.

_______________

From the Wall Street Journal review of the book … 

Reset Your Life in an Hour

www.wsj.com |

Never give up. Always maintain optimism. We’ve all heard these lessons before—but not from the man who led the bin Laden mission. John Nagl reviews “Make Your Bed” by William H. McRaven.

Navy Seal trainees lock arms in the Pacific during Hell Week. Photo: Getty Images

By

John Nagl

April 3, 2017

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald was completely wrong when he suggested “there are no second acts in American lives.” If America stands for anything, it is reinvention, renewal and second chances. Take the Navy SEAL who oversaw the most important manhunt in history and rose to command all of U.S. Special Operations Forces. What did he do for an encore? Only give the most successful college graduation speech in history—at his alma mater, the University of Texas, wearing Navy dress whites.

In “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World,” retired Adm. William H. McRaven admits that he was nervous before the address in May 2014. He was afraid that contemporary college students wouldn’t welcome a military man, even one who had once been, just like them, a slightly hung-over Austin senior eager to graduate and get on with life. They loved his speech, and word spread. It has been viewed more than 10 million times online, and Mr. McRaven has expanded the talk into a little book that should be read by every leader in America.

The motto of the University of Texas is “What starts here changes the world.” Mr. McRaven’s book provides instruction on doing 10 little things that aren’t little at all. His first suggestion is to make your bed every morning, because when you accomplish one thing early in the day, you’ll be motivated to achieve more—even if you aren’t having the quality of your work tested by a Navy chief petty officer with a quarter.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle, he goes on, because you can’t accomplish much on your own. And always measure a person by the size of his heart, not by his physical size, skin color, creed or anything else. Tommy Norris, the last SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, was nearly booted out of SEAL training for being “too small, too thin, and not strong enough.” He proved a giant among men when he infiltrated deep behind enemy lines on successive nights to rescue downed airmen.

Some of the lessons won’t make perfect sense at first. “If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.” A sugar cookie is a wet SEAL trainee who has rolled himself in sand as punishment for some infraction of the rules—or for no reason at all, purely at the whim of the instructor. Life isn’t fair is Mr. McRaven’s point, and that’s no reason to cry. Keep going, even if there’s sand in every crevice of your body.

Embrace your failures, because every life has them, and what you learn will make you stronger. Dare greatly, because life is a struggle, and without challenges you’ll never know the limits of the possible. Stand up to the bullies, whether they are sharks circling you as you swim (sharks literally circle you in SEAL training during the deep-water swims) or Saddam Hussein. The latter was detained under Mr. McRaven’s watch for 30 days after his capture, and the SEAL firmly broke the deposed dictator’s self-confidence. Dig deep and rise to the occasion when all seems lost, whether working underwater in absolute darkness or responding to the deaths of those you lead in combat.

Mr. McRaven believes that good leaders are optimists even in the darkest times and make their teams believe in a brighter day. This is one of the best lessons of the book, illustrated by a story about Marine Gen. John Kelly, the current secretary of Homeland Security. Mr. Kelly’s son Robert was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010, and when a Special Forces helicopter was shot down killing 38 in Afghanistan in 2011, he was the right man to comfort the families. “More than any other visitor that day,” writes Mr. McRaven, “Kelly’s words resonated with every parent, every wife, every brother and sister, and every friend.” He had lived their pain and could give them hope.

Make Your Bed

By William H. McRaven
Grand Central, 130 pages, $18

Finally, never, ever quit. One hundred and fifty SEAL candidates began Basic Underwater Demolition School with Mr. McRaven in 1978; 33 graduated. As tough as these survivors were, even stronger was an Army Ranger named Adam Bates, who lost both of his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan but a year later was standing tall in his dress uniform on prosthetic legs and challenging his Ranger buddies to a pull-up contest. If Ranger Bates wouldn’t quit, which of us has an excuse?

These are not complicated lessons; we’ve all heard them before. But we haven’t heard them from the man who led the bin Laden mission. And we haven’t had them illustrated so memorably with stories from SEAL training, universally regarded as the most difficult course in the U.S. armed forces, or from a 35-year career leading men in combat.

Eight months after giving the talk that spurred this book, Mr. McRaven became the chancellor of the University of Texas System, overseeing 14 institutions with more than 200,000 students. There he has continued to demonstrate the courage, wisdom and spirit of service that he extols in “Make Your Bed.” In January, he released a statement decrying President Trump’s executive order on immigration, stating “that the talent, energy, and ideas flowing into the United States of America . . . from countries around the world are among our greatest strengths. The men and women who show up at our shores and our doors—ready to study, work, and participate—make us stronger, smarter, more competitive.” Reading that statement makes one hope for a third act in Mr. McRaven’s life, one that would affect the largest number of Americans.

“Make Your Bed” is a book you can read in an hour. It is a book to inspire your children and grandchildren to become everything that they can. It is a book to discuss with your executive leadership team as a spur to meeting shared goals. Most of all, it is a book that will leave you with tears in your eyes as you ask yourself: How does this nation find men and women like Tommy Norris and Adam Bates and William McRaven, who willingly risk their lives and their limbs to keep us safe and to protect our way of life?

Follow their example. Dare greatly. Don’t ever give up. And make your bed!

Mr. Nagl is the headmaster of the Haverford School. A retired Army officer, he is the author of “Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War.”

Appeared in the Apr. 04, 2017, print edition as ‘Reset Your Life In an Hour.’

 

The Man In The Box

20170123_134802

I’ve just finished editing and publishing the memoirs of a remarkable man — Sam Jankovich.

Sam told me today that he feels bad because I am spending so much time on this project.  And this is what I told him:

Don’t feel bad Sam. I look at this project as a blessing. There are so many stories out there – we all have them. Many  pass through this world … people close to us …  and all we have of them is a box full of old photos in a closet– if that. I would love to know more of my dad, an immigrant from Norway who came to this country at age 19, along with a younger brother  17,  and friends from the old farm country of Norway.  Most settled in Butte and Spokane, but little is known of their life, either back in the “old country” or here in the US in those days.

What did my dad & mom think of FDR, Hitler, Stalin – the great depression – World War II? How did they learn English, What was it like in the early days in a brand new country?  Was he one of those dreaded “liberals” or “conservatives” Don’t really know.

So when someone like yourself comes into my life like you, with a compelling and interesting life, I’m all ears and eyes. You are of that “greatest generation,” and I want to know more – and I want others to know. You are a man of great character and I’ve learned from your life.

Yea – I’ve missed a few soap operas and movies along the way, perhaps missed a few golf rounds (I don’t golf). But I’ve gained a dear friend in the process.

So thank you for being a blessing to me. Thank you for letting me peer into your life – sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, place to place.

Your Typoist,

Don

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: Sam Jankovich
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 6:05 PM
To:
Don Johnson
Subject:

Thanks for the call I feel so badly you are putting so much time into this project. I will get you names of key people tomorrow then on Monday. Most of the people at WSzU have passed. Thamkd

#RESIST

(Note: matt in a comment, and in a not so subtle way, reminded me that it’s not just the military #resisters who have accomplished great things in the life of American liberty. I have added some examples below: abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, right to life and the labor movement. Perhaps I’ve left out a few.  Is the  ‘pussy hat’  movement on a par in advancing liberty in America? You decide.)

_________________

Perhaps the oldest and most effective #RESIST movement in world history is the Christian movement. I speak particularly of the Christian Missionary movement.  Dating back to the Apostles like Paul, #RESISTing not with violence, marches and the sort, but with presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a way out of the slavery sin, and ultimately in centuries to come, the abolition of real physical slavery in many parts of the world.

The folks shown below are pushing back and #RESISTing much oppression in the world – the oppression of hunger, disease, slavery and poverty.  And, they are doing this on a long term daily basis.

As Paul said “ There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is to say all are equal in God’s eyes. Slavery as an accepted cultural and governmental policy has been eliminated throughout much of the world thanks to the efforts of such Christians as William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament in the 18th century,  and the Abolitionist #RESISTers in the United States during the 19th century. However, slavery is still prevalent in much of the world with an estimated 45,000,000 slaves  throughout the world today.

10481748_957536724307659_4470400335779276106_n11261976_931101116951220_7562081214168354532_n12391906_1008272125900785_9027282461204345966_n17264535_1358468424214485_3201170184262030034_nijmIJMleadershipKjellReidunP1000512P1000558P1000595P1000673   

So I repeat here what I say at the end of this piece – a bit of advice. Aim your protests in words and ways that stand shoulder to shoulder beside our founding fathers who gave us the privilege of being among that 4-5% living in freedom.  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   Ronald Reagan

Be among those who keep us from falling into that 95-96% that President Reagan warned about.

Match up what the Apostle Paul said “ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  with what our American founders said “We the People … “

____________________

Now I continue with my original post:

To all you brave ‘pussy hat’ wearing patriots, let me show you a few patriots who joined a resistance movement against real enemy threats when it really counted.

Boatpeopledday10-Ldday27-LLaffey re-up2leavingleaving1leaving2ONeilInButteth2A2W9K86vietnam057-Lvietnam123-LvietnamrefugeesWP_20141114_11_43_33_Proyktn1942faban

enhanced-buzz-wide-1052-1428520436-16enhanced-buzz-wide-6148-1428519781-28enhanced-buzz-wide-8470-1428520745-28enhanced-buzz-wide-18094-1428517495-7enhanced-buzz-wide-23663-1428520490-19

And there are other n0n-military #resisters from the past addressing  consequential American policies and laws that were contrary to “ … all men are created equal …”  Thanks to these #resisters, those policies and laws have been corrected in law and in the Constitution, although not necessarily in the hearts and minds of everyone.

reforming-american-society-2-728

abolitionists1civil_rights_marchselmamarches

 

civil rights march

 

womens sufferage

womens suffarage

And then there is the labor movement.

munion

heinze

strike1

strike2

 

image

 

A reminder, or maybe a news flash to some, about those #Resisters you see above …

These folks #resisted true tyrants, true fascists, true Communists   during that terrible time we look back on as the 20th century. Those Communists some of you seem to pine and long over … they killed something on the order of 100 million people, most of them their own fellow citizens.

The descendants of those folks you see above,  … our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters … our friends — stepping up in their own #Resist movement represent something on the order of 1 or 2 percent of our population. Their purpose in #Resisting? To protect you and me in todays still dangerous world.

You may not realize or appreciate, but of the 100 to 110 billion people that have ever lived on this earth, anywhere and at any time, only a small sliver of perhaps some 4 to 5% have ever lived in what we today enjoy as a free society.  Further, most of those 4-5%  have lived in this United States of America, or those nations who have modeled their national political life after the American model of “We the People …

I for one am immensely grateful for those in our past and to those now serving in our military … the #Resistance. As a US Navy slogan puts it … “A Global Force For Good”

___________________

Women's_March_on_Washington_(32593123745)10 Actions _ 100 Days - Action 5_ Reflect & Resist

I said it as a young 20 year old sailor in 1964, and I’ll say it again now.

“I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

And I don’t agree with much of what is said in the “resisting” rhetoric on display, and certainly not in the many extra/anti-Constitutional methods employed, but I do support your Constitutional right to say your piece and assemble and petition our government.  

A final bit of advice. Aim your protests in words and ways that stand shoulder to shoulder beside our founding fathers who gave us the privilege of being among that 4-5% living in freedom.  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   Ronald Reagan

Be among those who keep us from falling into that 95-96% that President Reagan warned about.

 

Don Johnson  — March 2017