A Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other by Ralph Webster

30634883The Third Reich is rising. The creeping madness in the heart of Germany will soon stain the entire world. This is the chilling account of one family as they flee for their lives.

The Wobsers are prosperous, churchgoing, patriotic Germans living in a small East Prussian town. When Hitler seizes power, their comfortable family life is destroyed by a horrifying Nazi regime. Baptized and confirmed as Lutherans, they are told they are Jewish, a past always respected but rarely considered, and a distinction that makes a life-and-death difference. Suddenly, it is no longer a matter of faith or religion; their lives are defined by race. It is a matter of bloodlines. And, in Nazi Germany, they have the wrong blood.

Written by a second generation Holocaust survivor, this compelling, heart wrenching story will touch every emotion.

If you read the blurb, then this book does exactly what it says on the tin- a look into history with a very personal touch. The story is mainly an account from Ralph Webster’s father who recalls his life from an early age until the time he set sail for America after the war.Β  Peppered in between Ralph’s father’s story are chapters by Ralph which gives us a more recent and overall look into who his father was as a man and how as a family they continue to deal with difficult situations. But this book is not only about the life of Ralph’s father Gerhard (or Jerry- his name when he became a naturalized British citizen), it’s about the whole family- sisters, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins and nieces and nephews. A story of how quickly and unexpectedly lives can change, a story of surviving in a world that suddenly gave Jewish people a ridiculous obstacle course which many did not pass by holding on to their lives. When I say ridiculous, then I mean ridiculous- as in, how in the hell was this allowed to even happen in the first place? What’s wrong with people? How do mad men get into positions that affect human lives? Makes me spitting mad!

It goes without saying that because we’re dealing with one of the most horrid events in human history, this story of a life, of many lives, will pull on your heartstrings. There’s nostalgia, melancholy and sadness, but also survival, hope and happiness. I became so invested in the journey of the whole family- mainly because some really loving detail was added to the story. What really makes me despise the historic events is how utterly unfair it all was. But you see… What shines through the tale by Gerhard and Ralph, and what makes me respect this family, is how they narrate the events, how they continue to address the issue in the most graceful way. There is no hateful comments in this story. Just an account of what they endured. And that! That is a show of civility and strength.

My rating: 4****. It took me a while to get used to the story-telling structure and there was a bit of repetition of facts which is duly noted by Gerhard! πŸ™‚ I guess it gives this authentic feeling to someone recalling the past. I feel horrible for nitpicking, but… what really matters is the message I and any reader can take away from this book- live, and let others live. Such is life- a smile in one eye, and a tear in the other. How we react is what defines us.Β 

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*I received this book directly from Ralph Webster in exchange for a review*



  1. I try to read at least one book about WWII every year because it should never be forgotten. I saw someone on Goodreads saying “we’ve heard enough of it by now”, which pissed me off massively. So thank you for reviewing this book in the ever so professional way! And don’t worry about nitpicking, I wouldn’t give the full 5 stars to the diary of Anne Frank either πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely, I agree with you… and this comment from Goodreads pisses me off too… It feels like the past doesn’t matter and yet, it so does! Maybe, the reason we keep getting into these horrible situations is because people don’t remember enough!
      I don’t mean to sound cruel, but lately, when watching the news and there’s been yet another bombing or attack, they ‘censor’ the images of people who have died.. and I’m always like- why do you censor this? SHOW people what we are! Don’t hide the cruelty, don’t sugarcoat things, sigh- “Oh, well, it’s a pity” and then move on to some ridiculous reality show about housewives… Yes, there are viewer discretions etc, but I would be quite blunt when it comes to wars and show exactly what one human has done to another.

      Thank you Anne!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m all with you. As long as the really young children don’t get to see it, I think everyone should be confronted with the atrocities other humans are to blame for. Luckily, they don’t censor a lot here in Holland, but still enough for me to get annoyed over as well sometimes. Like with the beheadings of journalists by extremists. They always keep those from the public while I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing. Yes, respect for that person’s family and all, but also, a wake-up call, maybe? Though it would also fuel a lot of hatred again. Ach *sighs* people.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed, children should only be able to enjoy the simple, happy childhoods full of nice discoveries…

          But, Yes, that’s the crux of it all… it’s like a vicious circle and the gray area is just too wide… not everyone will be shaken awake by seeing cruelty, some would turn cruel… it’s human nature I guess.. heck, it’s nature… and that’s the frustrating bit- it’s impossible to see an end to all of the madness!

          Liked by 1 person

          • The only end to it would be if everyone would just take a chill pill. Or global warming will do the trick, but let me not foul up your blog with my thoughts on that topic, they are endless! πŸ˜‰

            Liked by 1 person

            • A chill pill would be ideal!
              Anne… you wouldn’t be fouling up my blog :)… I am super happy you have strong opinions on matters that matter! And I am so happy to know people who actually spare some brain cells on such topics… I see too many heads in the sand, so it’s a refreshing change! πŸ™‚

              Liked by 1 person

              • I ❀ you too! Injustice and ignorance are 2 things that REALLY piss me off and they usually go hand in hand. My heart goes out to the Jews, but also definitely to the Palestinian people. In a really simplified way: their land was stolen from them and now they're getting bombed by the Jewish people for wanting to have it back. I know, it's sometimes a bit like the chicken or the egg, but the Palestinians were there first so, meh. Anyhow, I just don't understand with this loooong history of racism/antisemitism, why people can still do such things to each other.


  2. This book sounds intense. I used to read a lot of Historical Nonfiction, but not since I had my son for some reason. I have been intrigued by several Historical Fiction books I have seen lately, and I am going to be reading a Nonfiction book about NASA in the 50s, so maybe it is time to jump back on the bandwagon. I will have a look at this book, for sure. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, NASA book… sounds interesting!
      I saw Ozzy Osbourne’s new history show where he visited NAA with Jack and the old computers were all in there. It was said the memory of these machines was only 4kb! Crazy stuff πŸ™‚

      Do check Ralph’s book out- it’s an important read. I found out so many small details around what Jewish people were made to endure!

      Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha, love your comment… yes… it’s a bit of a shitstorm.. I watch about 4 different news channels from 4 different countries and they all tell their own version… I’m left then to piece it together and make sense… sad thing is, I don’t trust a single source to actually give me straight facts…
      Japanese take on news? Sounds interesting!
      Thanks! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • I guess it would translate as a ‘can’.. like a paint can or a soda can… so, if there’s a writing on the paint can that it protects from the weather, then it’s exactly what the paint does… errr… it’s this saying they have here in Ireland, and probably UK as well, I pick up all sorts of phrases here! o_O


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