A remarkable work and an essential document in the vast library devoted to the Shoah.

THE BOY

A HOLOCAUST STORY

A moving scholarly detective story that hinges on an iconic photograph from the Holocaust.

Porat (Holocaust Studies/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) writes that “it is the responsibility of a historian to narrate photographs with analytic rigor, even while retaining, and indeed deepening, their immediacy and meaning.” He succeeds admirably in his critical evaluation of the photograph, taken during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, which depicts an eight-year-old boy, hands raised, his face a study in fear and terror. To his right, a young woman, hands also raised and apparently at the head of a column of prisoners, looks at him with concern, while behind him, a Nazi soldier keeps a rifle at the ready. In an exemplary campaign of research, the author doggedly pursues their stories, as well as those of the man behind the camera and the official who ordered that these images be made. The last was a Nazi SS officer named Josef Stroop, once an aimless World War I veteran, then a Nazi true believer, who kept a careful, ornately bound chronicle of his actions on the Eastern Front. Even Nazi leader Alfred Jodl condemned the excess: “The dirty arrogant SS swine! Imagine writing a 75-page boastful report on a little murder expedition, when a major campaign fought by soldiers against a well-armed enemy takes only a few pages!” The photographer also found his calling in the SS, as did the guard with the rifle, a sad sack who was initially appalled at the work of the death squads but soon shed his scruples. Each of the Nazis was executed in the years following the armistice, and only a few of the Jewish figures survived the war, which they carried with them forever.

A remarkable work and an essential document in the vast library devoted to the Shoah.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8090-3071-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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