Nonetheless, a useful addition to the literature of the Holocaust.

A RACE AGAINST DEATH

PETER BERGSON, AMERICA, AND THE HOLOCAUST

Throughout WWII, it seems, the last thing the US government wanted to hear about was the plight of Europe’s Jews. That we were made to listen, this study suggests, owes much to the tireless efforts of one man who is little remembered today.

In 1940, a Lithuania-born Palestinian Jew named Hillel Kook, an organizer for the nationalist Irgun organization, arrived in New York and immediately set about lobbying the American government and Jewish leadership to take up the Zionist cause as their own. Changing his name to Peter Bergson, he first confined his activities to raising funds and public awareness for a project to relocate European Jews to Palestine, which met with considerable resistance in this country in part because the government did not wish to alienate the Arab nations and threaten supplies of oil essential to the war effort. He eventually found powerful backers in Eleanor Roosevelt, Florida congressman Claude Pepper, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Wyman (History Emeritus/Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; The Abandonment of the Jews, not reviewed) and Medoff (associate editor of the journal American Jewish History) offer a thoughtful essay discussing Bergson’s work and its fruition in turning an indifferent government’s attention toward Jewish affairs (though not without cost, as they write, for more than one beleaguered official threatened Bergson with deportation). The authors, however, focus mostly on transcripts from interviews that Wyman conducted with Bergson in 1973. In them, Bergson talks unguardedly about the opposition he met from officials and anti-Zionist American Jews—and about some of the unlikely allies he found, such as the reputedly anti-Semitic publisher William Randolph Hearst. (“I mean, Nixon isn’t as hated as Hearst was then. What right did we have to decide who would save the Jews? For God’s sake, we would go to anybody.”) Though highly partial, these interviews will be of much interest to scholars with a background in the period, although general readers may find themselves lost in the absence of annotation.

Nonetheless, a useful addition to the literature of the Holocaust.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2002

ISBN: 1-56584-761-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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