Bikont’s fearless research—she even confronted the brothers known to have led the Jedwabne murders—makes this a fantastic...

THE CRIME AND THE SILENCE

CONFRONTING THE MASSACRE OF JEWS IN WARTIME JEDWABNE

Polish journalist Bikont (editor: And I Still See Their Faces: Images of Polish Jews, 1996) delivers a daring exposure of the crimes of her countrymen in the first week of July 1941.

At the time, the deaths of the Jews of Jedwabne and those of Radzilów and Wasosz were glossed over, until a book commemorating them appeared just before the 60th anniversary. Jan Tomasz Gross based her book Neighbors (2001) partly on the Jedwabne Book of Memory, edited by rabbis Julius and Jacob Baker. It was the first time the testimony of eyewitness Szmul Wasersztejn was published, a good first step for Bikont to begin her search for witnesses. Sixty years after hundreds of Jews were herded into a barn that was then burned to the ground, the author found a host of disturbing reactions from the local residents. There are blatant denials that any Poles took part and assurances that it was the Germans who forced locals to participate. Many told Bikont that since it occurred so many years ago, she should just leave it alone. Her persistence in chasing down those who might tell her the facts took her all over Poland and to Israel, the United States, Cuba, and Costa Rica. Her most shocking discovery was the still-virulent anti-Semitism in the area. For years, the Catholic Church had preached against the Jews, so when neighbors were exiled to Siberia during the Russian occupation of 1939-1941, the Jews were the best scapegoats, and it was a good excuse for the beginnings of the pogroms. The elements of competitive suffering that the author uncovered in her interviewees appear to be just more excuses.

Bikont’s fearless research—she even confronted the brothers known to have led the Jedwabne murders—makes this a fantastic book. It was first published in Poland in 2004, and the European Book Prize it won in 2011 (for the French version) should be only the first of many awards for this significant work.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-17879-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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