Mirah’s parents chose Berlin as a new—for them–European city destination. Eli and I had been there before, but only briefly as a shore trip off a Baltic cruise in 2012 with friends from San Francisco. We knew then we’d only seen a tiny fraction of a place we’d be happy to return to. Germany is a country with history evoking pain and trauma in the minds and hearts of Jews.

I know people who travel extensively but still refuse to go there. My own parents were in that category, yet visited Vienna, Austria, an early hotbed of Naziism. Eli and I never thought not to go, and we were glad to go back.

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This is my sixteenth trip to China since 1995, when I met Jonathan for his spring break during the semester abroad that apparently sealed his future. This is my first trip as a Nainai, grandma on the dad’s side! Not only have Eli (aka, Yeye, whose fourteenth visit it is) and I done all of the conventional Beijing tourist sites, we’ve delved deeper into arts developments, have explored museums, kept up on new shopping malls, visited embassies, attended Jewish services, taken the subway. There’s usually somewhere new to go, but this time we have our new granddaughter here, and that’s all the new we need.

It’s likely that, when we get home, people will ask us about what the Chinese think of Trump, how the air is, and other generic China questions. But let me say that our focus has been elsewhere. Like Mirah’s first “swimming lesson.”

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I thought my previous blogging absence was long, but two and a half years–ridiculous. Obviously, no new book out in that time. (See future posts.) It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say in that period of time–God knows! Most likely, Facebook has taken over as the forum for this lazy blogger’s opinions and publicizable life events. As I’ve posted, the opportunity to get away from Facebook, an opportunity readily available in Beijing, is both the good news and the bad. Why do I say this?

For one thing, Facebook can occupy a lot of time and function as a major distraction and procrastinating factor for writing and other activities. Second, it’s begun to creep me out when I run into or hear from people who know so much about my life from FB posts. Some are what I call “Facebook voyeurs” who never post themselves but only observe the posts of others. Still others have expressed anger that we have visited their cities and not seen them, unmindful of the fact that Facebook friendship is not necessarily anything like the real thing. Which leads to the question: can FB damage friendships and/or elicit and reveal latent damage?  A recent exchange with a longtime–real (we thought), not just Facebook–friend aired his disapproval of my kids’ Beijing residence for environmental reasons. When Eli and I cut it off as politely as we could, he defriended us.  Should we have just ignored the comments? Was the exchange just an excuse to end a relationship that, unbeknownst to us, was already frayed? And, finally, on a global scale, Facebook has earned a bad rap as the enabler of the Russian interference with Election 2016.

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It borders on the scandalous that I haven’t written a blog post since announcing the publication of The Lost Torah of Shanghai. In today’s world I should be banned from calling myself any kind of an author. It’s not for lack of anything to say. Never my problem.

The past few months have been…well, busy. We moved from San Francisco back to, part-time and possibly temporarily, our hometown of Milwaukee. The move was quick, as real estate transactions in the Bay Area don’t give the seller, in August, the luxury of giving occupancy in December. Which would have been the next most convenient time, given the travel plans we knew were ahead. In fact, even when we learned the contract was confirmed, Eli and I were in Poland. We arrived home September 4 and moved out September 21. Between HIPPY travel in my last two months as HIPPY USA national chair and a long-planned weekend in Chicago, I was away from our rented home in Milwaukee 14 nights out of the first month, and then we left for a month in Israel, returning to the US in time for Thanksgiving.

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I met Elizabeth Rynecki a few years ago at a lecture at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, here in San Francisco, during its exhibit “Reclaimed: Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker.” That exhibit focused on the Goudstikker family’s efforts to reclaim highly valuable masterpieces Jacques, a prominent Jewish art dealer in Amsterdam, left behind when escaping the Netherlands in 1940, just after its invasion by the Germans. In the process of escaping, Mr. Goudstikker died accidentally on the ferry taking him across the English Channel. He had in his pocket a notebook detailing every painting in his abandoned collection, which, of course, soon fell into Nazi hands, especially those of Hitler’s greedy and art-loving deputy, Hermann Goering. After World War II, Allied art procedures repatriated the Goudstikker collection to the Netherlands, but the family began a longterm effort to regain some of the paintings, and were ultimately successful with a portion of the holdings.

Elizabeth introduced herself as the member of a family also searching for its lost art, though the paintings she sought weren’t masterpieces of famous Dutch Old Masters or celebrated Italians. Elizabeth’s search focuses on the work of her great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki, a Polish-Jewish painter somewhat known in local circles before the war, who depicted Jewish life in Poland in more than 800 works that were often well-reviewed but not commercially profitable. Before going into the Warsaw Ghetto, he deposited groups of his paintings with trusted friends in locations in and around the city and left notes with his wife. Although Rynecki perished in the Majdanek concentration camp, she and their son survived the war but could not retrieve most of the hidden paintings before immigrating to the United States.    gyw_water

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Sooner or later, it’s all about IRAQ! 

It’s been a few months since ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) became a household word and the debate about what the US should do about Iraq began—again. Then war between Israel and Hamas and the crash in Ukraine of Malaysia Flight #17 pushed Iraq off the front page for a while. But it’s back! With President Obama’s decision on air strikes, Iraq again became the crisis du jour. Or should I say the ISIS du jour?

Ok, Iraq is back in the news, but what makes it a Ripped From the Headlines topic for this blog? 

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This fall’s revelation that a trove of 1500 Nazi-looted paintings stayed for years in a Munich apartment spread shock waves around the world. Not only was this startling news for art scholars, curators and collectors. The political and legal aspects of the ongoing story are equally astounding, not the least being the fact that the German government raided Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment and found the cache nearly two years ago. And no one leaked it. Probably the most amazing!    cornelius

One of the more interesting tidbits relates to the composition of the collection. Many works in it were those of so-called “degenerate” artists, including German Expressionists of the early 20th century, such as Grosz and Nolde, but also Chagall and Kandinsky. Despite Hitler’s scorn for them, his henchmen made sure they were swept into the looting parties, and a German exhibition in 1937 showcased them. They may not have been the Fuehrer’s taste, but more savvy and value-conscious connoisseurs such as Goering managed to take a few home.  Gurlitt’s father, a dealer to those fine clients, stashed plenty. What was leftover in his son’s lair is said to be worth more than $1 billion in today’s art marketplace.

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It’s been a banner couple of months for marketing both AFTER THE AUCTION and the forthcoming THE LOST TORAH OF SHANGHAI. (Forthcoming in 2014.)  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect storm of real-life events to validate the truth/fiction synergy of the subjects I include in the novels.   Unknown

First, in October, came the news that a family in Shanghai was keeping a cache of books for a Jewish man, a refugee who’d escaped Europe and who entrusted the books to their late father in 1943. The English language Chinese TV report asserted that the Jewish man returned to Germany at that time and sent a postcard back to his book holding friend that sounded suspiciously like Holocaust stories about postcard messages sent, at Nazi behest, by concentration camp prisoners to people still back home: “Reunited with our family…” 

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My friends and readers (and I hope you’re all both!) may reasonably think: what is Linda doing running around the world when she’s supposedly working on another book? Where is book news among the travel adventures?

Well, travel is broadening (believe me, as my lifelong struggle with weight persists!) not just in body but in mind and now in mine as a relatively nouveau fiction writer. While the month+ in India might have looked like all fun and games, it made a huge impact on me as I AM trying to finish The Lost Torah of Shanghai, the next book. Really! Not only have I become personally even more invested in issues that have engaged me for years, but my writer’s voice will reflect that as the new story unfolds.

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When I asked a cab driver whether to call his city Mumbai or Bombay, he replied, “Bombay! Some crazy Indians made it Mumbai, but it’s Bombay.”    

The Gateway to India, a landmark on Bombay’s waterfront built by the British.

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