A meticulous, nuanced look inside the deeply fraught postwar political theater in France and Europe.

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POLITICAL SURVIVORS

THE RESISTANCE, THE COLD WAR, AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CONCENTRATION CAMPS AFTER 1945

A pointed academic study of the important work of a French-led organization of political survivors of Nazi concentration camps that worked to reveal largely hidden internment camps in the Soviet Union, Spain, China, and elsewhere.

Kuby (History/Northern Illinois Univ.) explores the pioneering work of David Rousset (1912-1997), a survivor of Buchenwald and other concentration camps who organized the International Commission against the Concentration Camp Regime (known by its French abbreviation CICRC), which “targeted not only the gulag but also political internment systems around the globe, from Francoist Spain to the People’s Republic of China to Greece, French Tunisia, and even, in 1957, war-torn French Algeria.” In his writings, Rousset used the phrase “concentrationary universe” to describe a “sphere of suffering” absolutely unknown in other parts of human history, without precedent and without parallel—“a new procedure of dehumanization.” Moreover, he asserted that the Nazi camp survivor was an “expert witness” and used the model of the Nuremburg trials in organizing the CICRC’s “mock trial” of the Soviet Union’s “crimes against humanity” at the International Military Tribunal in Brussels in May 1951. While Rousset’s work was instrumental in establishing “witnessing” as essential in conveying the “universal significance and generalizable import” of the experiences of those who suffered in internment camps, Kuby also shows how the organization enshrined the political survivor (particularly of the Resistance) at the expense of the Jewish victim, which was partly the cause of the organization’s unraveling in the late 1950s. Reviled by the darlings of the French left, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who still supported the Soviet Union and Red China during this time, the group also lost financial support, much of which had come from New Yorker John O’Shea and “friends,” who did not countenance Rousset’s targeting of French political prisons during the Algerian War.

A meticulous, nuanced look inside the deeply fraught postwar political theater in France and Europe.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5017-3279-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Cornell Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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...

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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