Significant new research that examines both the relevant prewar history of Auschwitz and the blueprints of the death camp's daily functions. Dwork (Holocaust Studies and Modern Jewish History/Clark Univ.) and van Pelt (Cultural History/Univ. of Waterloo, Ontario) present both the historical, cultural, and architectural plans of the Nazis for Auschwitz. The entire surrounding region of Upper Silesia had been long targeted to be wrested from Poland and returned to Germany, whose claims extended back to the conquests of 13th-century Teutonic knights. The area referred to as ``the German East'' by Josef Goebbels was to become a rural paradise for redirected Germans, while the local Poles were to be expelled, exploited for slave labor, and ultimately exterminated. Even more damning than Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's controversial new study, Hitler's Willing Executioners, this book makes clear that thousands of transportation workers, accountants, Farben employees, engineers, architects, and builders were as conscious of the lethal goals of Auschwitz as Himmler or Hitler. In the slower-paced cremations of murder victims in 1940, for example, the camp utilized ``an efficient and technologically advanced doubled-muffle . . . coke-heated furnace from Topf and Sons for 9,000 marks'' with ``the capacity to incinerate seventy bodies in twenty-four hours.'' With ``one wash barrack per 7,800 inmates and one latrine hut per 7,000,'' it is argued that degradation and disease were not incidental, but that ``the design was, in fact, lethal.'' The pride of the gathered architects of Auschwitz-Birkenau is successfully captured in a group photo, as is the sincerity of a Polish nun in 1990 comparing the campgrounds to the sanctity of Golgotha. If the amalgam of insightful historical analysis and exhaustive pictorial and financial documentation is challenging for students of this period, just think of the difficult reading facing Holocaust deniers. Scores of van Pelt's photos and enhanced plans and blueprints supplement the lengthy notes in this peerless work of documentation and research that sheds new light on this century's darkest address.

Pub Date: June 24, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03933-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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