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In-Depth World War I Historical Series Coming to Lansdale Library

Tony Di Domizio

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 • 2:43pm

A detailed, in-depth history lesson on everything World War I is being planned for at least a three-night series at Lansdale Library in the late summer-early fall.

The history expose is proffered by Lansdale resident and ex-councilman Mike Sobel and comes at a time when we recognize the 100th anniversary of the war. Sobel will lead each presentation, and he told the library committee Monday night that it will delve into the people, places and politics involved in the escalation and operation of WWI.

"There's so much to cover. I can't do it in one sitting," Sobel said.

He plans to cover it all: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, in Bosnia, by a Bosnian Serb; the Japan-Russia War in 1905; royal relatives; alliances; the roles of England and Italy; Belgian neutrality; the 1870 Franco-Prussian War; the Zionist movement; the Russian Revolution, an unrestricted submarine war; and Eddie Rickenbacker, to name a few topics. Sobel will provide a glossary of terms to help distinguish, for instance, the differences between a brigade, battalion and regiment.

The event was extremely welcomed by director Tom Meyer and committee members Mary Fuller, Rich DiGregorio and council vice president Steve Malagari.

"Once you get to August, it's nice because the summer stuff is winding down," Meyer said.

Meyer suggested each session run 90 minutes, and that the entire thing be split up into three nights at the library's Lynn Janoff Memorial Room. Sobel will liven up the presentations with visual aids, like maps and photos of important figures, possibly through PowerPoint. Each session would have a Q&A. There will also be WWI-era music, which Sobel called "happy and upbeat for as bad as this was."

The series will be targeted toward adults, but any age is welcome. 

"It could bring in nine people for one time, or 30. Every program we do varies," said Meyer. "You could partner with the VFW and Lansdale Historical Society to get more interest and a nicer crowd."

Sobel wants to contact the Lansdale VFW and the Lansdale Historical Society for help in the presentation, respectively in World War I weapons and gear, and gathering background on the lives and deaths of the names on the World War I memorial in Memorial Park.

Fuller suggested kicking off the series with the historical society at its monthly event at the parks and recreation building and then carrying it over to the library, in order to get more draw.

"You can get more ideas," DiGregorio added, "and people helping you with the program."

With the last surviving World War I veteran dying in 2012 at age 110—his name was Florence Green, a British man—Sobel believed it is of utmost importance to keep the real history of WWI alive. (Missouri's Frank Buckles was the last living U.S.. WWI vet, dying in 2011. The last living combat vet died in 2011 and the last living trench warfare soldier died in 2009. Both Brits).

"There's a local aspect to this," Sobel said. "These people should not be forgotten."

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