The World War II Letters of Sam Lesner
A book talk by the Editors, Roberta Lesner Bernstein & Judy Lesner Holstein
Sam Lesner was the award-winning movie critic of the Chicago Daily News from 1945 until the newspaper's folding in 1978. He had worked at the Daily News, mainly as a reviewer of theatre, music and night life, from 1928 until he was drafted into the Army in February 1944. For the next 20 months, he served in the Army Medical Corps of the 130th General Hospital in the ETO, returning to the Daily News in November 1945 when he was offered the dual positions of movie critic and night life critic.
He wrote daily letters to his wife Esther, where he talked about the war in all its aspects: loneliness, missing wife and new baby, coping with army bureaucracy, basic training with some humorous descriptions of army life, making new friends in his army unit, the challenges of treating the shell-shocked soldiers and then sending them back into battle. The letters are lyrical, filled with pathos, a grim picture of the brutality of war, and of the urgency of defeating the anti-Semitic, racist Nazi enemy. They tell stories about Jewish soldiers conducting a Rosh Hashana service and being discovered by Jewish partisan fighters, hiding in the woods; and about significant connections with other Jewish soldiers and Jewish survivors.
He intended to write a book after the war and urged his wife to store the letters safely. That she did, but upon his return, like every other returning soldier from WWII, he packed the box neatly and safely away in his basement and never mentioned the box nor its contents to anyone, preferring to put the war totally behind him and join the rest of the Greatest Generation in building new lives in peacetime America, living on the South Side of Chicago in Jeffrey Manor and Pill Hill. In 2004, his daughters accidentally found this box, long after his passing in 1990, and embarked upon the task of fulfilling his plan to put his letters into a book.
"The World War II Letters of Sam Lesner", book front cover
Monday, December 17th
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Max and Benny's Restaurant, Deli and Bakery
461 Waukegan Rd
Northbrook, IL 60062