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MENGELE

UNMASKING THE "ANGEL OF DEATH"

An eerily engaging life’s work by a dogged researcher that adds materially to the Holocaust documentation.

A chilling biography of the terrifying doctor who led a charmed life through the Nazi ranks—and eluded justice for decades.

“In 1985,” writes Marwell, “while working in the Office of Special Investigations at the U.S. Department of Justice, I was assigned to the international investigation to locate Mengele and bring him before a court of law.” Though the author, the former director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, explores Mengele’s life and experiments at Auschwitz, he concentrates on his postwar flight and his ability to resist detection as a war criminal and reinvent himself in South America—a journey largely funded by his family’s manufacturing firm back in Germany. Trained in Germany’s finest schools, Mengele became a medical doctor with an intense interest in anthropology and racial science, and he was influenced by the prominent anthropologist Theodor Mollison, who focused on “racial science.” At the infamous Frankfurt Institute in the late 1930s, Mengele’s dissertation on the heritability of oral clefts “served to underpin” the Nazi legislation enforcing sterilization to prevent “diseased offspring,” resulting in 375,000 forced sterilizations. As World War II intensified, Mengele transitioned from scientist to soldier and became a combat physician. After experiencing “extreme brutality” with the SS Viking Division, he was transferred to Auschwitz in May 1943. There, he conducted scientific experiments with “unprecedented resources,” which allowed him to “surmount the barriers that traditional medical ethics and basic humanity placed in his way.” His heinous experiments are well documented, as are his movements in the final days of the war and afterward. How did it take so long to find such a highly ranked Nazi war criminal who had reestablished his name in 1956 in Argentina and resumed practicing medicine? Marwell engrossingly describes the capture process as highly political, involving American, Israeli, and German government groups. He ends with an account of the unsettling visit (revealed in letters) by Mengele’s son to see his unrepentant father in 1977.

An eerily engaging life’s work by a dogged researcher that adds materially to the Holocaust documentation.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-60953-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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