A commendable contribution—but no match for Melvin Bukiet’s superb second-generation anthology Nothing Makes You Free (2002).

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AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE

MEMORY, HISTORY, AND THE AFTERMATH OF THE HOLOCAUST

Literate if sometimes arid essays on the world—intellectual, cultural, and emotional—of the Holocaust’s “second generation.”

Memoirist Hoffman (Shtetl, 1997, etc.), a representative of that generation, writes, “I was the designated carrier for the cargo of awesome knowledge transferred to me by my parents, and its burden had to be transported carefully, with all the iterated accounts literally intact.” Literally intact: to tinker with the narrative of the survivors, she writes, in order to streamline, even to make more comprehensible, would have been “to make indecently rational what had been obscenely irrational. It would have been to normalize through familiar form an utterly aberrant content.” It is a terrible responsibility, this burden of keeping alive and unbowdlerized the murder of so many millions; it inserts the realities of the first generation into the lives of the second, such that, she writes, “the facts seemed to be such an inescapable part of my inner world as to belong to me, to my own experience. But of course they didn’t; and in that elision, that caesura, much of the post-generation’s problematic can be found.” The problematic is real, writes Hoffman: it is all to easy for the second generation, laden with the “emotional sequelae of our elders’ experiences,” to feel that it has no history of its own, that “we are secondary not only chronologically but, so to speak, ontologically.” But the burden is necessary, Hoffman suggests, if only as a means of bearing living memory into history and into “our consciousness of the world” in a time when many—whether children and grandchildren of the second generation or a new generation of Germans—look, perhaps understandably, to forget about the past and move on.

A commendable contribution—but no match for Melvin Bukiet’s superb second-generation anthology Nothing Makes You Free (2002).

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58648-046-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2003

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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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