WOMEN IN THE HOLOCAUST

A valuable collection of 21 articles by leading historians, sociologists, writers, literary scholars, and survivors. Ofer (Contemporary Jewish History/Hebrew Univ., Israel) and Weitzman (Sociology and Law/George Mason Univ.) divide their book into four sections: on life before the war, life in the ghettos, resistance and rescue, and labor and concentration camps. Two contributors express reservations about including women as a subcategory of Holocaust studies at all; they are answered by historian Joan Ringelheim’s observation that “Jewish women carried the burdens of sexual victimization, pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, killing of newborn babies in the camps to save the mothers, care of children, and many decisions about separation from children.” A fine piece by German historian Gisela Bock on “Ordinary Women in Nazi Germany” notes that females in the Third Reich performed almost all the political and administrative roles that their male counterparts did, thus countering Claudia Koontz’s hypothesis that they occupied a “separate sphere.” Particularly valuable are several memoirs by survivors about daily conditions and coping mechanisms in labor, concentration and death camps. And in a review of three memoirs by Auschwitz survivors, literary scholar Myrna Goldenberg notes how women formed emotional support networks, known as “camp sisters,” while men tended to be more isolated. This is not the first collection of its kind, but it does bring together a particularly impressive interdisciplinary group from the US, Europe and Israel. It also reveals how much scholarly work remains to be done. It would be useful, for instance, to have some detailed comparative studies of male versus female behavior and to learn more about topics left uncovered here. Still what is included in Ofer’s and Weitzman’s collection is substantial and will help readers appreciate how gender sometimes significantly influenced an individual’s fate during the Holocaust.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07354-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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