The life of a courageous, righteous man well told.



Popular historian Kershaw (Escape from the Deep: A True Story of Courage and Survival During World War II, 2009, etc.) looks at the work of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and his still mysterious disappearance.

Wallenberg, famously, was the bane of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi general who commanded operations against the Jews of Hungary, always with the eager assistance of members of that country’s fascist Arrow Cross Party. At a time when Jews were being deported to the death camps from the region at a rate of 12,000 a day, Wallenberg managed to save as many as 30,000 (the estimates vary widely) by, among other tactics, renting buildings, giving Jews sanctuary there and declaring them Swedish territory and therefore protected by diplomatic immunity. It’s easy to see why Wallenberg’s activities gave the Nazis and Arrow Cross fits, but Kershaw shows capably and beyond much doubt that Wallenberg died at the hands of the conquering Soviets. Why he was targeted has never been made clear, and the author isn’t of much help on that question, beyond noting that the orders may well have come from Joseph Stalin. Of particular interest in Kershaw’s measured account is the aftermath: Wallenberg disappeared pretty much in plain view, and there wasn’t much doubt that the Soviets took him. Even so, fellow Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold, who became secretary general of the United Nations, declined to press the investigation into the Gulag, saying, “I do not want to begin World War Three because of one missing person.” Kershaw capably builds plausible scenarios, drawing on recently released archives, wondering rightly as he does why Wallenberg’s story is less well known than that of Oskar Schindler, who “saved far fewer people and in any case profited from their forced labor.”

The life of a courageous, righteous man well told.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-306-81557-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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