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

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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