A portrait of a Jewish child's life in hiding in Belgium during the Holocaust, based on recently rediscovered letters by the author's parents, her own childhood diaries, and other documents. The author's family had fled Germany after Kristallnacht, but they got no further than Belgium, thanks to the reluctance of many countries to take in Jewish refugees. This antipathy is exemplified here by an emigration form filed by the family that was rejected for a technicality: A ``single typographical error,'' Muchman notes, ``could spell the difference between life and death.'' Thus trapped in Brussels, Muchman's parents managed to place their young daughter in a Christian household in rural Belgium, and the emotional high point of the book comes when, in the fall of 1942, her despairing father comes to say what would prove to be a final goodbye. He and his wife were soon arrested and killed. Because up to this point the narrative is more reconstructed from the letters and documents than it is recalled, there is a sense of remove- -readers do not get to know the girl's father and mother as personalities. The memoir becomes more engaging when it relies on her frank diary entries. Young Beatrice, with a negligible religious upbringing, took to celebrating mass and eating snails with relish. After the war she was adopted by an aunt and uncle in Chicago, and like many other survivors, she tried to forget the Holocaust. Her daughter's discovery of the letters and diary, however, allowed Muchman to not only remember her past, but also to get over the lingering childhood conviction that her parents had abandoned her. As a diarist, Muchman was younger and more vain and materialistic than Anne Frank. But her adult use of the diary and the recollections is inspired, when not slowed down by bureaucratic documents, and effectively portrays the upheavals of her lost-and- found life.

Pub Date: July 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-88125-598-X

Page Count: 126

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

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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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