SMOKE AND ASHES: The Story of the Holocaust by Barbara Rogasky
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SMOKE AND ASHES: The Story of the Holocaust

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As Rogasky says in a rare authorial aside midway through this moving account, ""It is almost impossible to imagine this."" Yet, even as survivors came to believe that some of them must live--at whatever terrible price--to bear witness, she tells the story lest it be repeated. The fact that the Nazis' cold-blooded, methodical murders were unimaginable to much of the world made them possible. Like a descent into hell, Rogasky's narrative touches on the history of the persecution of European Jews, gives the immediate background of the Nazis' rise, and then follows, step by step, the inexorable journey to the death camps--including legal moves, tactics, ghettos, and the stories of other groups who were also persecuted. ""It may not be possible to write about the camps."" She does, however, and in detail, though sparing us the individual stories that would have made the narration still more intolerable. Then, a small reprieve: individual and group attempts to fight back, and a heartening litany of rescuers. But there's no room for complacency for us as either Americans or members of the human race: the Allies' inaction is detailed (even explained, with understanding if not sympathy); other recent instances of genocide are described; more than a hundred war criminals are listed, with their fates: execution, suicide, commuted sentence, still at large; and the fragile, emaciated remnant is pictured and described. Made still more powerful by its straightforward simplicity, this is thorough, and organized so that the information is as comprehensible as it can be: an account guaranteed to move any reader to greater understanding and compassion, as well as horror. Like Chaikin's A Nightmare in History (1987, similar in scope, slightly shorter), a work that belongs in every library collection. Illustrated with photos, list of sources, index.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1988
Page count: 187pp
Publisher: Holiday House