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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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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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