Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
‘Denying the Deniers’ testifies to horrors of the Holocaust; great performances bring Stephen Hawking’s story to screens

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the January 15, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

Eddie Redmayne, who was such a great singer in the film Les Miserables (“Media Watch,” IR 1/17/13), plays one of the best dramatic roles of the year in James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything.

Redmayne plays the great theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. While completing his studies at Cambridge in 1963, Hawking is diagnosed with motor neutron disease which is similar to ALS. He is given two years to live. At the same time he falls in love with Jane (Felicity Jones), who rushes to marry Stephen for the two years she believes they will have together. They are able to have three children and a marriage of roughly 25 years.

Jones is equally fine in the more quiet role of wife, mother, and nurse. Their love story appears very real.

The acting of Eddie Redmayne is incredible as he allows his body to change as the disease progresses, even eventually to the loss of his voice. The computer voice used in the film is the actual voice of the real Stephen Hawking’s computer. In addition, so much is done by the eyes in the case of both of the main actors, especially in the key scene of their marital breakup.

There is much discussion of Hawking’s theories and give-and-take on the issue of a creating God, as Jane is a believing Christian.

If you want to see some of the finest acting of the year in a love story with an overlay of science, The Theory of Everything is the movie for you.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film PG-13. Catholic News Service gives it a rating of A-III – for adults.

Book Reviews

Some years ago I met John Regnier at a Christmas party north of Minneapolis that my sister and I were invited to. His daughter Paula and her family were the hosts of the party.

Just this year, Regnier, with Susan T. Hessel, has published a paperback history titled Denying the Deniers: A Soldier’s Intersection with the Holocaust. It is published by the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership at Viterbo University in La Crosse University, which has a connection to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who once ran Marycliff High School in our diocese. Internet sources quote a price of around $13.

The author goes back to his family beginning and the Depression, leading into the start of American involvement in World War II. He is drafted and enters the war with thousands of young men after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The key purpose of the book is to give an eyewitness account of discovering the concentration camps after the Battle of the Bulge. One of the camps visited with General Eisenhower and photographed for posterity was the Ohrdrul subcamp of Buchenwald. By March of 1945 there were 12,000 prisoners there who were forced on a “death march” of roughly 12 miles to Buchenwald, which was the largest concentration camp in Germany.

Regnier vividly describes what he saw as he took pictures of people for the future. He quotes General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “The things I saw beggar description.... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room where there were piled 20 to 30 naked men killed by starvation.... I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”

This is a book that would be excellent in any class on World War II or for anyone interested in that period. In the process you learn what it was like to be a soldier who wishes there was no such thing as war, with a story told by a good man who wants the world never to forget what happened in World War II.


As a five-to-ten-year-old child I lived with my folks, Tom and Opal Caswell, with my sister, Patricia, in the Mt. Baker district of Seattle. Dad was the manager of the Men’s Department of the downtown J. C. Penney store. Today the site is occupied by an apartment complex, located a block from the entrance to Pike Street Market. Our home overlooked Lake Washington, near the first floating bridge. We were able to watch the University of Washington crew members practice their rowing.

Daniel James Brown has written a wonderfully readable and informative book titled The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is published by Penguin Books in large-size paperback for a list price of $17.

Brown focuses on one of the members of the Olympic team. Joe Rantz was born in Spokane but lived much of his life on the west side of the state. In the Depression years it is very difficult for Joe to fund the costs of attending the University of Washington. Amid family difficulties he is able to make it through the University and be a member of the various crew teams. The story of Joe’s training along with teammates from freshman year through senior year is impressive. As the story draws closer to the possibility of UW representing the U.S.A. at the Olympics, we learn much more about the other members of the final team.

Throughout the story there is information on the building of the unique boats used in crew. Each chapter begins with an epigraph by George Pocock, who lived in Seattle after emigrating from England and who became the premier builder of wooden shells for all American crew teams.

There is much detail on the coaches at UW. The freshman coach was Tom Boles, who was later recruited for the Ivy League, and Al Ulbrickson, the head coach who stayed at UW well into the 1940s. The book comes alive with the races on Lake Washington, mainly with the powerhouse of the University of California. Other fascinating and key races were on the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Key Eastern teams participated on the Hudson. There was tendency to look down on the Western teams of fairly ordinary backgrounds. The race leading to the Olympics is portrayed with riveting excitement.

At the Olympics the team finds itself in the middle of Hitler’s propaganda machine. Crew racing was the second most popular sport in the Olympics of that day and Hitler was in the stand on the fateful day. Leni Riefenstahl was there to film the race for her film Olympia.

The author does put the issues facing a Jewish family in a village near the Olympic crew course into the story and tells us what happens to that family later in the war. The father felt his courageous service in World War I would protect him and his family. Only one of his two daughters survived, as the rest of the family died in the concentration camps.

The book is heavily based on the recollections of Joe Rantz before he died, and his daughter Judy Willman.

You need not be a sports’ enthusiast to enjoy this story of the commitment and challenge of sports competition. This is a book most anyone would enjoy, especially anyone living in the Pacific Northwest.

Recently Received

Patrick J. Graham continues his collection of historical books on the Colville area with Book Five: Catholicism in the Colville Country (ISBN #978-0-9846229-2-4). It is printed by Gorham Printing of Centralia, Wash., with a treasure trove of pictures, including many in color.

From the early Hudson Bay Company era to the Jesuits, with emphasis on Jesuit Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet and the founding of St. Paul Mission, there is a rich history.

One picture caption says that over 3,000 people once attended a pontifical High Mass at the site of St. Paul Mission, where the first Catholic Mass was celebrated in what became Washington State.

The Colville area also had the Providence Sisters’ Sacred Heart Academy, founded in 1873. In the beginning it had 100 Indian girls. The St. Francis Regis Mission, operated by the Jesuit priests, was for boys. It was home to Jesuit priests who served 12 parishes. In 1906 the two schools had over 200 students.

The Dominican Sisters from Speyer, Germany, made their American headquarters in the area until they moved to Spokane in 1970.

There is much detail and pictures of Immaculate Conception Church in Colville. The Jesuits turned the parish over to the diocese in 1941. There is lots of information on various pastors and renovations of the church through the years. Color pictures of significant aspects of the interior of the new church are excellent.

Many parishes would rejoice with such a fine presentation of their history. Of course, Colville and surrounding Stevens County have a long and important history in the founding and continuation of the Catholic Church in Washington State.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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