A searching, vigorously written history of an unsettled time too little known to American readers.

THE LAST MILLION

EUROPE'S DISPLACED PERSONS FROM WORLD WAR TO COLD WAR

Historian Nasaw, known for biographies of industrial moguls, turns his attentive gaze on the period immediately following the end of World War II in Europe.

When the Third Reich finally collapsed in May 1945, millions of displaced persons, including forced laborers and prisoners of war, were stranded in the ruins of Germany. Not all were blameless victims, notes the author. Many, especially from the Baltic states, were anti-communists who had willingly joined the Waffen-SS and thrown themselves into the killing of Jews, Roma, and other “undesirable” people. This masterful book centers on “displaced Eastern Europeans who, when the shooting stopped, refused to go home or had no homes to return to.” Some were Polish Catholics who had been forced to work in German factories but had no wish to return to a homeland occupied by Soviet troops. A small minority, fewer than 30,000, were Jewish survivors of the Shoah who tried to repatriate themselves to Germany only to find that they were not wanted and so moved on, eventually, to Israel and the U.S. And those Eastern European Nazis? Australia took in many of them, favoring white, Protestant Latvians and Estonians who were volubly anti-communist; as Nasaw writes, Australia resettled more refugees than any other nation, though only 4.5% were Jews. Britain favored Polish soldiers who had fought under British command as well as “a thousand single young female Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian displaced persons [who] were recruited to work in understaffed tuberculosis sanitaria.” Canada screened rigorously for evidence of Nazi collaboration and admitted more Jews than other Commonwealth nations, while the U.S. overlooked wrongdoing almost entirely. One of Nasaw’s many intriguing cases in point is a Romanian Iron Guard leader who became a faux preacher and “was invited by Richard Nixon to deliver the opening prayer at the convening of the 1955 Senate session.” Deported to Portugal in the early 1980s, he died a free man.

A searching, vigorously written history of an unsettled time too little known to American readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-673-3

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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 concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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