WHY MY FATHER DIED

A DAUGHTER CONFRONTS HER FAMILY'S PAST AT THE TRIAL OF KLAUS BARBIE

A piercing historical and personal record of the wartime crimes and 1987 trial of the Gestapo's ``Butcher of Lyon.'' France's most significant war-crimes trial since the Forties is covered here by the head of the political desk for the French magazine Le Point—who also happens to be the daughter of one of the victims of the notorious Klaus Barbie. Skillfully interspersing present-tense accounts of the Lyon trial with narration of her own parents' ordeal, Kahn charges up both halves of this legal/family saga. We read firsthand testimony about Barbie personally breaking limbs, throwing a baby away from a mother's arms, loosing vicious dogs on prisoners, forcing a woman to have sex with a dog, torturing children in front of parents, and sending many thousands to brutal executions on meat hooks or slow deaths in extermination camps. As Gestapo chief of occupied Lyon and environs, Barbie consistently drew upon his sadistic imagination to ferret out information on members of the resistance and Jews. Kahn's father was guilty of both associations, while her Christian mother couldn't get a baptismal certificate from her unforgiving priest. The author's details of her father's underground activity, capture, and execution match her research on Barbie, exposing his family's anti-French background and his trial lawyer's ties to Mideast terrorism. Kahn's precise and personal portraits of victim and victimizer humanize the overbearing phrase ``crimes against humanity.''

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-65883-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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

NIGHT

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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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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