Book Review: “999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz” by Heather Dune Macadam

Hello!

For the past three years, I’ve always ended my reading challenges with a book about the Holocaust. Of course, they were mostly fictionized, but they echo the stories of fellow inmates and survivors of the most infamous camp, Auschwitz. This time I managed to find a book that was on my Goodreads TBR (to be read) and it was free with Kindle Unlimited.

I knew what was getting myself into before I did the one click thingy, but I am never prepared to what would be in front of me with every page. I am always drawn to read about these awful years towards the end of each of my reading challenges. I doubt I’ll ever understand it, but here we are anyways.

WARNING: There are spoilers down below, so you might want to ignore this review today!


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A PEN America Literary Award Finalist
A Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee
An Amazon Best of the Year Selection

The untold story of some of WW2’s most hidden figures and the heartbreaking tragedy that unites them all. Readers of Born Survivors and A Train Near Magdeburg will devour the tragic tale of the first 999 women in Auschwitz concentration camp. This is the hauntingly resonant true story that everyone should know.


On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women, many of them teenagers, boarded a train in Poprad, Slovakia. Believing they were going to work in a factory for a few months, they were eager to report for government service and left their parents’ homes wearing their best clothes and confidently waving good-bye. Instead, the young women were sent to Auschwitz. Only a few would survive. Now acclaimed author Heather Dune Macadam reveals their stories, drawing on extensive interviews with survivors, and consulting with historians, witnesses, and relatives of those first deportees to create an important addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history.

taken from Goodreads.


Despite the evil of it all, this book was really interesting!

“We were nice girls from good families trying to learn how to steal from other nice girls from good families. This was not human. They dehumanized us.”

The author Heather Dune Macadam focuses on the original girls who were taken to Auschwitz in 1942. There are a lot of names and numbers to remember throughout the entire book, but I find it important that you mostly hear these heartbreaking stories from these lovely ladies. These were innocent girls expecting to work for the government (even though it was them who took practically their jobs and everything else before whole families were rounded up!) and end up in hell on Earth in a form of a new camp for anyone and everybody who was an enemy to the Nazis.

The conditions at the camps were downright awful! Each girl and woman was forced to strip their Sunday best, shave their heads, and get tattoos on their arms of their numbers the officers gave them. However, as you go on and learn about the jobs the prisoners vied for on a daily basis, and it wasn’t just the Nazi officers giving orders, it was fellow inmates too. They were offered a series of jobs in Auschwitz, none of them were ideal, some were downright dangerous like dig ditches and lakes in all seasons and temperatures! The women were being fed little unkosher meals, like soup made out of horsemeat and a piece of beard no bigger than a fist. And if that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with diseases like typhus and sleep in places that were covered in fleas and lice!

And yet, we have survivors….

“Genocide does not simply go away. Just as it can continue to haunt the survivors, it shapes the lives of those who live with and love those survivors.”

As I see what is going on with the world nowadays, seeing Israel and what they are doing to their Palestine communities is another example of the Holocaust, as the Jewish were also kicked out of their homes and made to live in a one room with other families in the ghettos. Israel is an unique country with three main religions: Christians, Judaism and Islam. I used to think this was amazing until I saw what they don’t put on the mainstream news. I wonder how many Jewish people who were in these cocreation camps would support this violence. I think it would be a very low number. And then, we have what is going on with Russia and Ukraine, and you have the same exact story. History is just going to continue to repeat itself over and over again until we find out how to respect each other in our differences, and as much as I’d like to see that happen someday, I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime and that’s the sad truth to it.

Have you read Heather’s “999: The Extraordinary Young Women in the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz” yet? Do you find yourself interested in books like this one? How do you deal with the sadness they tend to bring us readers?

snowflake

Life | Struggling With My Heritage

Hello!

If I am a having a great reading month, I can bang out two reviews at the most, but if I’m not, figuring out what I want to blog about can be somewhat difficult for me. I do believe the book and music posts are the heart of this site but I think what I miss about are personal stories. It could be what I eat in a day or a life lately update, as long as it is like you’re talking to your best friend, I love them! And that’s what I want to bring back to the blogging community for 2021.

So, let’s start this year off with a brand new series, called “Life”. I sort of felt like Sir David Attenborough at the beginning of those nature documentaries you see on BBC America a little as I was writing that sentence!


At the end of 2019, my mom and I were finally to get dad something he’s always wanted for the last two or years, and it was the AncestryDNA kit. The year before, I was relaying things about my nana’s results, because she was given the kit for Christmas the year before. The biggest difference between the two of them is that, we sort of knew where she was from as we have a detailed family tree and information for her, whereas with my dad, it has been a case of “maybe” since I was really young, so he was genuinely very happy to receive this, even though he has been worried that these companies will keep the DNA in case you are wanted by the CIA or FBI. I understand why he had this fear, and I feel like it’s not one that a lot of people make easily, but again, he was very excited to finally get some answers!

Honestly, he wasn’t the only one who was curious. I am interested in genealogy, as I watch almost every TV show about other people’s discoveries. I find them really neat, especially when people are introduced to certain ancestors that may not have been the best people in their lives. It is also cool to feel proud of these people being apart of important moments in history too! However, if you are only wanting to see the percentage of where your family came from, that’s fine! This tool gives a better insight of general areas you came from through your heritage.

When my nana had told all of us was stuff we already knew, well, what I knew at least. She has strong ties to the British isles, mainly Irish, but there was an even bigger number for the western part of Europe: Germany. For my nana, who was given up for adaption at the age of 2. After she was given to her parents, they were afraid that her older siblings would be able to find her and basically steal her back to her biological family, so she moved around a lot growing up and lived on the West Coast for the majority of her life before coming back to the Midwest where she met her husband, my papaw in the the early 60’s.

It wasn’t until the late 80’s that someone came and knocked on her door to ask her name and was told that she had been adopted. Now, it took a little bit for this news to sink in but in the next two years, she found out that she was one of 13 children to a German father, who was a traveling salesman (he used to make furniture) and a Irish stay at home mother. She was able to meet some of her siblings and their families as they held a reunion a year before I was born. So, as I grew up, I heard every stage of her life and it’s been permanently engraved into my brain. It wasn’t until I was out of high school did I become obsessed with learning more about my own ancestry.

As we were able to find loads of information on my mom’s parents, and how exciting it was to learn more about both sides, I figured going into my dad’s side would be the same, even though it was full of questions more than answers. He has always said that we were of Scottish and Welsh descent but then there was some folklore in there too. We could have been connected to Native Americans. I was very much into that side of the story, and wanted to learn so much about it, but nobody was sure on what tribe we came from or how it came about either. Every year in school, we would learn more about these people and I would be ecstatic about it! When I was in fourth grade, our class created a teepee on one side of the room and we were divided up into a group of four and had to come up with names that resembled something they would have been called in their tribe. I chose Sunflower and was thankful that nobody else picked it out for themselves!

While my dad kept track of the arrival of his results at the end of February, they answered things we knew but my heart shattered on the no mention of being related to Native Americans.

It was one thing to know that I wasn’t a descendent of these amazing people, but it was even a harder pill to swallow to know that I was a full on brute.

The start of 2020 was very difficult on my self-worth because I would literally torture myself as I silently retraced the steps of history’s most horrible people like, Adolf Hitler’s hatred towards the Jewish community and becoming a dictator and was able to convince all of Germany to be mean. They were beaten, forced to work in camps, starved, and murdered because of their difference in religion. Unfortunately, after all these years of Germany becoming liberated of the Nazi regime, many people are still weary of the country.

And the last, the English coming to the West Indies and creating colonies on lands that were already occupied by indigenous people. Instead of the reason being about their religion, it was because they were not like them. Everything about Native Americans scared them, so they took everything that belonged to them and massacred and gave no mercy to anyone, even mothers and children. The English also brought with them the cruelty of keeping black people in slavery to the already cursed country. This would prove a problem that lasted well after Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation and allowed them to become “free” and able to do things that their masters had long been doing since they came to the United States.

It is a blessing to know many parts of history, but it is so hard to digest everything that your distant relatives could have done, which was the main reason why I didn’t say anything to anybody until now. I often wonder what would they think of me. Would they be embarrassed or proud of the way I hold myself, think about certain things and most importantly my disability? Unfortunately, I will never be able to gain anything by keeping this thought around, because it’ll never be answered.

As frightening to know that I could have some very bad people connected to my DNA but I started to feel bad for only looking at that side of things. These events are unsettling; we still struggle with our past, but we must move on and make sure to change our ways so it doesn’t happen ever again. We don’t learn anything by forgetting these sometimes gruesome and upsetting tales, so I will let them live in a large chest that is already full to rim of things that I have experienced in my life already, and continue blossoming into this journey.

Have you had your DNA tested? If you have, did you find out anything that was unexpected? For those who haven’t done it yet, can you tell me one reason you haven’t done it yet?

Album Review: “Heart Of The Hurricane” by Beyond The Black

34729747_951670208326241_2834433232856940544_nWe’re back with another review! This time I am talking about symphonic metal with a band that I have discussed on here in the past, it was their album “Lost In Forever” that I actually listen to almost every other month now. The band recently released their third album “Heart Of The Hurricane” in late August, and you would be very proud of me, because I have not listened to a single song–even though I really wanted to every time I saw one pop up on my Spotify–so my thoughts on the songs themselves will fresh and I seem to like it better to go about it that way.

Here’s a little background on the band, they are originally from Germany, leading the bunch is Jennifer Haben while Chris Hermsdörfer and Tobias Lodes play guitar and do some backing vocals. Stefan Herkenhoff is on bass, Jonas Roßner plays the keys and finally Kai Tschierschky does the drums. The album consists of 15 songs, which is more than I usually review on here, but I thought what the hell! So, let’s get this party started!

We start off the album with a song called “Hysteria” and this has a nice heavy metal sound with the guitars being at the center of the beginning and I like the balance between the orchestra’s light tone against the harsh guitars together, and Jennifer along with the choir, keep that soft element there throughout despite the fact that the track is about chaos. I thought that was kind of interesting! It was pretty mild to what I kind of expected but I liked it nonetheless though. Second is the title track “Heart Of The Hurricane” and I definitely like how this one starts, it’s heavy but when Jennifer comes on, the guitars die down. I had a hard time keeping myself still while listening to it the first time, which is a really good sign! I was slightly jumping up and down on my bed and whenever it got quiet, I turned to swaying side-to-side and I can’t wait to learn the lyrics to it. Next is “Through The Mirror” and a piano begins the song off which surprised me because you hardly ever hear songs like this towards the start of the album. Of course, the sound explodes into this monstrous ballad. I really like it.

 “Million Lightyears” is the fourth song and I’m not going to lie, I kept picturing Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story when I first read the title of it. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it! This has a different start, as it was a male singer, and it kind of threw me off because I couldn’t see a featured artist, so it could either be Chris, Stefan, or Tobias. However, I do like the deeper tone of his voice against Jen’s soaring vocals. It gives the song an extra edge so it’s good! We move on to “Song For The Godless” and once I saw this title, I was really intrigued; I just knew I was going to like the suspense of not exactly knowing what was going to happen with this song. The introduction in this one is so good! It has this exotic element but fierce drumming coming together, everything that I wanted was in this song! The only thing that would have made it better was if that drumming was as loud as it was throughout the choruses. I think that would have been interesting, but the song is really good otherwise!

Next there’s “Escape From The Earth” which is another song that grabbed my attention right away and it has a somber undertone that you hear immediately. I liked the fact that it was softer, but it had some interesting edges to it with the fast strumming in the mist of the second verse, so it sort of changed the tempo and direction of the “normal” ballad. I also enjoyed the very loud slap of the drums, unfortunately I don’t know anything but drums but I still liked that little surprise because it made that song even better. Now, we have “Beneath A Blackened Sky” and I’m happy to say that this is another heavy epic track. The haunted sounds of the orchestra, with the choir singing in the introduction really excited me, but those elements kind of took a back step whenever Jennifer would start singing. They would start up again towards the choruses so I wasn’t that disappointed with it! It’s actually a really good track.

The eighth song is “Fairytale Of Doom” which made me really curious, because the first thing that popped into my head was a darker turn of Alice In Wonderland, although I had clue to what I would actually hear when the song played. I think this has a bit of a thrash-y sound to it, as the symphonic part of it isn’t as powerful, but I thought it was okay to go that route. Honestly, I would have been mad if they had went a sweeter and angelic sound with this, so instead they went with a hardier vibe that still told a good story. This one sort of threw me off, it’s called “My God Is Dead” and I’m always worried with these types of songs, but knowing the genre itself, they’re not talking about their lives, rather than a character made for the album itself. The track is a nice ballad again, but I really enjoyed whoever does the harsh vocals in the choruses, it was different but not enough to  divert the sound as a whole a lot.

We have “Dear Death” next and here was another title that got me wondering, I really enjoy doing that, I rarely expect how it’s going to sound but I try to guess the story behind it. I think it’s the storyteller in me! Anyways, I’m glad that it has a hefty sound in the beginning but honestly that really dies down as it continues to the point where I kind of grew to not like it. I can’t really explain it. So, let’s move on to the other song, “Scream For Me” and I really like it! The introduction made me slightly worried because they have a lot of mellow songs and I thought this was just another one, but they gave us a big surprise as the choruses are explosive! Everything is heightened and for once, I liked the guitar solo! I hardly ever like the solos anymore.

The last four songs, and we start with “Freedom” and it definitely has more of a power metal vibe going on, if you like to headbang, you can really do it with this one. I like the creepy and slow notes of the piano in the background with all of the chaos being center stage. I’m happy that Jennifer was able to control her voice in that type of environment . My voice would have been all over the place and that’s the truth! Next there’s “Breeze” which sounds sweet when you first read it, and then when it starts to play and you Jen’s voice basically stripped down with only a piano, strings and a choir gave it a classy tone and it’s the perfect calm down after the previous song! It’s really pretty!

“Echo From The Past” is the fourteenth song of the album. It seems like we go back to the mild soundings, as the it has a mysterious introduction with what sounds like church bells ringing in the background leading to some of the rough guitars. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I like that about it. And finally, the last song is “Parade” and I was utterly surprised with this because if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this had some electronic elements in it! I don’t really know what to say about it, other than it’s interesting but it’s not my favorite off the album.

I am officially done! I have to say, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into with this album mostly because I’ve only listened to one album all the way through and I kind of liked it, whereas this one was slightly boring. It didn’t keep me interested and they all just blended together in a bad way unfortunately. It’s a nice effort in my opinion.

What do you think about Beyond The Black’s new album “Heart Of The Hurricane”? Did you like it or were you not pleased with it at all?

snowflake

Album Review: “Sign Of The Dragonhead” by Leaves’ Eyes

23131766_10156007791623901_1988138923982422649_nYou guys know how much I love symphonic metal music, right? Leaves’ Eyes is one of the numerous bands cranking out amazing music to its fans! The five piece band consists of Joris Njenhuis on drums, Pete Streit plays guitar while Thorstein Bauer does bass and to round it out the band has two vocalists: Alexander Krull and the newest member Elina Sirala. “Sign Of The Dragonhead” is Elina’s first record with the band. The album was released on January 12th, and as you can see from the artwork on the side that it involves the Vikings and their mythology!

We start the album with the title track, and I will say I hadn’t heard of Elina’s voice before I decided to review the album, so everything is completely new to me. I actually like her voice, it’s deep and not overwhelming as some singers I’ve heard in the past. It has a soft and sweet undertone to it, which works out great with Alexander’s harsh vocals. As far as the song as a whole, I’m not really a fan of it. I feel like it was rushed, however I did like the introduction. It gave you the scene that you were about to be transported out of there. I also liked the pipes as well. It added a nice gentle Celtic tone to it. Second is “Across The Sea” and you instantly hear this playful sound, that always reminds me of voyagers on a boat, the heavy guitars give you that other added element to it, but it’s all good and keeps the listener upbeat to hear the story.

Next we have “Like A Mountain” and I really liked the soft beginning, just hearing only a piano with Elina’s voice was beautiful, but of course we can’t stay in that direction. It doesn’t change into a jam-packed harsh song. It actually stays pretty neutral in sound, so it has a good melody to follow, and shows the beauty in Elina’s voice too! Leaves’ Eyes has had a history of using all kinds of languages in their lyrics: English, Irish and of course a form of the Viking language too! So the song “Jomsborg” is no surprise to me. I looked up the title to see what kind of information it could give me and according to Google, it was a legendary Viking stronghold on the coast of the Baltic sea. You have the same vibe that you get while listening to the second track, but I always find it cooler to see bands be inspired by real things, if it’s people or structures, it doesn’t matter. I love it!

And then we continue with the same inspiration, with the song “Völva” that tells you about a pagan Norse shaman. She would be considered a seer or prophet to the Vikings and their religion. If you want a better description: think of Gambit from the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit books and films! I think it has a very playful sound, but it also has an exotic vibe going on too! It’s a very pretty song! This next one though, as soon as I heard it, I didn’t know what to exactly think of it. I mean, it’s not bad, kind of unique because it sounds like a jam session happened and they recorded it as it was. The song is called “Rides Of The Wind” and I do like the addition of the choir during the choruses but this one has me all confused! No wonder people who don’t normally listen to symphonic metal have a huge opinion or chip on their shoulders about the changes of their beloved genre, this is a weird one,

We’re heading to the end, the last five tracks of the standard edition. We have “Fairer Than The Sun” and after the previous one, my expectation was a little low because I was surprised once, it could certainly happen again! I’m happy to say that it definitely a little quieter compared to the others. I’d consider it a ballad in a way because it has a dreamy quality to it. Nice change! The eigth song is “Shadows Of The Night” and we’re out of our dreams now, back to the nightmares! I think the song is good, but I feel like there’s nothing giving it a special element to it, which sucks because it sounded like it had potential. And now have “Rulers Of The Wind And Waves” and you definitely get the true sailing viking tone in this song. I’m also happy to say that it’s an instrumental! There’s really nothing that makes me happy more than that honestly! It’s also a nice break too.

Now we have the last two songs, starting with “Fires In The North” and it has a bit of the vibe of the track before it. I like it. The more I listened to it, the more I started to really pay attention to the lyrics. That’s one thing that is difficult to do in this genre, because of the fact that there’s many elements, between Elina’s operatic vocals and Alexander’s darker growls along with the sound of the song together can be choatic at times! Lastly, there’s “Waves Of Euphoria” and it was nice to hear a true epic symphonic metal at the ending of the album. You recognize the horn in the beginning, keeping with the viking mythology there and after the long intro, the guitars come alive and it’s actually really good. It sounds like a normal Leaves’ Eyes.

The real question is whether or not I liked the album as a whole? Honestly, I don’t think any of their newer material will be able to top Symphonies Of The Night that was released in 2013. I did like it though, it just wasn’t at that level as this album.

Have you heard “Sign Of The Dragonhead” yet? Do you have a favorite on it yet? Let me know!

snowflake

Album Review: “Theater Of Dimensions” by Xandria

15578479_10154323610840889_4576199446702677479_nToday’s album review is from a band called Xandria. I’ve been a fan of theirs since the end of 2011 I believe, so I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and heard a lot of amazing music for the last six years!

Xandria is a German symphonic metal band and they are made up of five members: Marco Heubaum and Philip Resemeier on guitars, Steven Wussow is on bass, Gerit Lamm plays the drums and Dianne van Giersbergen is the main vocalist. They released their new album called “Theater Of Dimensions” on January 27th, that day was a just good day of releases. I had a total of four albums and this won the chance to be review!

I’m basing my review off what it is Spotify, and they have both the Deluxe and Standard editions, but I’m only discussing the standard issue. Now let’s finally get into this, shall we?

If you’ve never heard a symphonic metal album, most of the bands will create a story within the actual album, so each song will contain a different section of the plot. I don’t think this is a concept album, but there is some kind of story telling throughout the record that I am still searching to figure out. The language that seems to be used in this album is what I’d call Old English, almost Shakespearean, hence the title of the album in general perhaps?

The first track has a soft introduction, the song is actually very beautiful! It is called “Where The Heart Is Home” and when I hear it, I think it has a good balance of soft and dramatic  notes. I think Dianne’s voice just sounds angelic in this song! I can always get behind a song that is about seven minutes long! I think it’s a great, fairly tame start to the album.

Next is “Death To The Holy” and this was the song that reassured me that this album would be heavier than the last two albums. I’m not saying I didn’t like them, I do! I love them wholeheartedly, but I also love a heavier metal track too! I love the drum intro! I love the whimsical vibe you get throughout the song! It’s easy to stay on the beat as they arranged it, very catchy too! Dianne even sounds almost playful. I think that’s sort of unique to her because she has such a strong, powerful voice! The choirs sound amazing as always! I’m a sucker for choirs I really am! I am usually drawn to these types of songs for some odd reason! They just remind me of sailors, I know that probably sounds weird, but once you’ve heard multiple symphonic metal albums, you’ll understand why I say that!

I love the introduction of “Forsaken Love” it starts out with the villean pipes, which really bring out my interest in it. I love to hear anything with pipes, flutes, fiddles, and violins. Anyways, it’s a beautiful ballad. The next track is “Call Of Destiny” and when this was released at the beginning of January, I was secretly attached to it. I couldn’t get enough of it. Despite this, I find it a tad bit tame compared to their first single, “We Are Murders (We All)” when I heard this, I felt bummed, but now I like it and so much so that I included it into my Vikings Playlist on Spotify! I thought it fits in parts of the verses! There is a featured singer in that song, it is a Swedish singer Björn Strid of Soilwork.

The sixth track is “Dark Night For The Soul” and I really love the piano of this one. I think with someone like Dianne, been classically trained, this is where she really shines. Sometimes going simple can be a glorious thing, especially as a metal band in general. We’re so used to our heavy bangers and normal ballads, that some of us can’t appreciate softer ballads such as this one. It does have a guitar solo in it, but thankfully it isn’t obnoxious! I don’t normally care for guitar solos myself, but I think this one was very good! Marco and Philip have created some very gorgeous solos in the past I will say, so I do make exceptions every once in a while!

And then we have “When The Walls Come Down (Heartache Was Born)” and this one is a heavy track, the introduction has this ominous feel and then you suddenly hear the choirs and it’s very good! The next is “Ship Of Doom” and it has another soft beginning, but it very good. It’s another fantasy-like song, would probably be good on my Vikings playlist too, but I have like four of their tracks about sailing, so I’m going to hold out including it for now! Ninth is an instrumental called “Ceilí” and I was a bit shocked to see this, because they are not known to put this kind of track on an album mostly because they do not have a touring keyboardist. If they ever play it live, it would mostly likely turn up during intermission. It is a whimsical tune, very playful but also heavy in the guitars, so it’s a good mix.

The last four of the standard edition are next. We have “Song For Sorrow and Woe” and it is another slow start, but once the tempo increases you can kind of hear the horns, which can be sort of hard to decipher, but not here. Unfortunately I don’t really care for it, and even I’m surprised! It has everything that I usually look for, but it is an interesting song! Next we have “Burn Me” and this also features another singer, it is Zaher Zorgati of Myrath and this is another very tame song. I do like the duet between Dianne and Zaher, I think it is interesting dynamic since she’s so high and he seems to be more of a baritone.

I have a thing for unique introductions, I have a weakness for an acoustic guitar I think every person does, they just don’t want to admit it out loud. “Queen Of Hearts Reborn” has a quiet, but epic beginning and then it just erupts of sounds between the drums and guitars, they cut into Dianne’s high notes and she almost sounds evil in parts. I swear, I mean that in a good way! It brings out a new character for her. I could see this one becoming a favorite of mine! Lastly, we have the title track “A Theater Of Dimensions” and they are known for their final songs to be the longest of all the rest; this one does not disappoint, it is 14 minutes and 22 seconds long! The only bad part about it is the fact that it is really slow! Thankfully, it does gradually get better and becomes more intense as it goes on. It’s pretty good!

I love Xandria, I really do! I always look forward to their albums but I have to say, I just sort of felt let down in a way. I think it might’ve been the ballads or the way of speaking, sometimes that can be an issue with me. I do think it’s interesting and different, so I definitely can’t say I hate it, but rating wise I would give it a eight out of 10. I think the album is great, but not as amazing as “Sacrificium” but you can’t like everything.

Have you listened to Xandria’s “Theater Of Dimensions” yet? What did you think?

snowflake

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