A scholarly, thoroughly documented work that elucidates historical issues and explores moral ones.

THE AMBIGUITY OF VIRTUE

GERTRUDE VAN TIJN AND THE FATE OF THE DUTCH JEWS

Was she a heroine or collaborator, a saint or sinner? How should we view Gertrude van Tijn (1891–1974), a woman tasked with saving Jews from the Nazi’s gas chambers?

In an attempt to understand her motives and actions, Wasserstein (Emeritus, Modern European Jewish History/Univ. of Chicago; On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World, 2012, etc.) takes a close look at the background and behavior of his subject. He gives readers not just a personal portrait of van Tjin, a bourgeois German Jew who embraced Zionism as a young woman and acquired Dutch nationality upon her marriage in 1920, but also a stark picture of the plight of European Jews before and during World War II. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1940, van Tijn, who had been working there for the Committee for Jewish Refugees, found it taken over by the Nazi-controlled Jewish Council of Amsterdam. When the council sent her to Portugal with the mission of arranging overseas transport of Jewish refugees, her role in the registration of Jews, who instead of being transported were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, has raised questions, which Wasserstein examines here. He sees her story as a study in the ambiguity of virtue, and while he acknowledges that her reputation would have been better had she resigned from the council early on, he argues that the failure of her mission lies elsewhere. While the actions of the Nazis, the complicity of the Dutch, and the immigration policies of the American and British governments may be familiar to many readers, Wasserstein includes one less-well-known and fascinating story: In 1944, a group of more than 200 Jews from Bergen-Belsen were exchanged for Germans being held as enemy aliens in the British mandate of Palestine; van Tijn was one of them.

A scholarly, thoroughly documented work that elucidates historical issues and explores moral ones.

Pub Date: March 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-28138-7

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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