A fresh, significant contribution to Jewish history.




Saving cultural property was central to postwar Jewish identity and recognition.

Throughout World War II, Jewish leaders around the world became horrified that Nazi looting of books, manuscripts, Torah scrolls, ritual objects, and documents would annihilate Jewish culture in Germany and Eastern Europe. In meticulous detail, drawing on archival sources, memoirs, correspondence, and histories, Gallas, chief research associate at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture, makes an impressive book debut with a comprehensive history of efforts to recover, identify, and restore artifacts of Jewish culture and scholarship. The process was complex and sometimes contentious, generating debates about how to define the “Jewish collectivity”—as constituted through “the collective experience of persecution,” religious affiliation, or by territorial boundaries; how to give legal recognition to that collectivity; where European Jewries and their sociocultural worlds could be revived; and where—and under whose auspices—recovered property should be housed. Gallas focuses on four individuals who took prominent roles in the efforts: political theorist Hannah Arendt; rabbi and scholar Salo W. Baron, who held the first professorship of Jewish studies at Columbia and came to believe that Jewish communities could never be re-established in Europe; archivist and historian Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the daughter of Polish immigrants; and philosopher Gershom Scholem, who championed an Israeli state as the only home for Jewish culture. Offering capsule biographies of these key figures and extended examination of their efforts, Gallas notes that they “differed fundamentally in terms of their generation, background, self-image, and political vision” but “regarded their shared rescue mission as an existential duty.” All contributed actively to Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc., the most significant of many such organizations devoted to compiling detailed data about the recovered material. The result, writes the author, “was tantamount to the creation of an archive of documentation and remembrance.” Their work was imbued with emotion: “The smell of death,” Dawidowicz said, emanated from hundreds of thousands of books and objects, “orphaned and homeless mute survivors of their murdered owners.”

A fresh, significant contribution to Jewish history.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4798-3395-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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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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