An engrossing, haunting journey for bibliophiles and World War II historians.



An erudite exploration of the systematic plundering of libraries and book collections by Nazi invaders.

Looting books by mainly Jewish owners, collections, and libraries was an effective way of stealing Jewish memory and history, as this thorough work of research by Swedish journalist and editor Rydell attests. From early bonfires of objectionable publications (by Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig, among others) in Berlin in May 1933, staged by enthusiastic German student federations, to the desecration of synagogues and sacred texts on Kristallnacht to the methodical plundering of libraries in occupied areas during the war, Rydell ably delineates the spiraling destruction, city by city: Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Thessaloniki, Vilnius, Prague, etc. The Nazis believed libraries needed to be “cleaned up” and “un-German” literature destroyed—i.e., “degenerate,” “Communist,” Free Mason, and “Jewish” works. As the author emphasizes, however, the Nazis were not anti-intellectual; on the contrary, they were building a whole new “intellectual being, who did not base himself on values such as liberalism and humanism, but rather on his nation and race.” The most valuable books (e.g., antique and medieval works) were claimed by chief Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg’s plundering organization, ERR, which grew into a frightening international organization focused on confiscating “thoughts, memories, and ideas” and enlisted intellectuals and academics as librarian foot soldiers. Rydell considers the millions of volumes confiscated, such as the priceless Yiddish library in Vilnius, essentially the repository for Ashkenazi history and culture. In the “model” concentration camp Theresienstadt, Hebrew scholars were saved from immediate murder by being forced to catalog the thousands of confiscated books in what was called the Talmud Command. Rydell visited many of the rehabilitated libraries (which are still sorting the stolen books), and he traces some of the volumes that have since been returned, such as a cherished book belonging to Berliner Richard Kobrak, deported with his wife to the gas chambers in Auschwitz in 1944.

An engrossing, haunting journey for bibliophiles and World War II historians.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2122-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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