Of much interest to students of modern history but also to those engaged in humanitarian relief efforts, refugee relocation,...

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ORDINARY JEWS

CHOICE AND SURVIVAL DURING THE HOLOCAUST

A political scientist turns fresh eyes on the problem of how European Jews responded to the Holocaust as it was unfolding.

Why did so many Jews not fight back? Past studies often look at “choiceless choices,” to which Finkel (Political Science and International Affairs/George Washington Univ.; co-editor: Coloured Revolutions and Authoritarian Reactions, 2013) adds, “yet choices they were nonetheless.” The author groups those choices into categories including evasion and cooperation and collaboration, in a gamut of responses ranging from outright collaboration to outright resistance. His study acquires layered depth with close analysis of three populations: the Jews of Minsk, Krakow, and Bialystok, among which (but also within which) there were significant variations, so much so that the author cautions that he is necessarily looking at “general behavioral patterns.” Among more culturally assimilated people, for instance, compliance was a norm simply because lawful people growing up in a supposedly lawful civilization could not believe what was happening to them. “There were also Jews…who initially believed that the German authorities had the legitimate right to issue orders,” he writes, “and that these orders ought to be obeyed by the subject population.” In Minsk, a place of pogroms, the population was more attuned to self-defense, with resistance shared by members of the working and middle classes alike. Finkel recognizes some of the difficulties attendant in all the choices: with evasion, for example, came the horrible fact for some Jews of being deported by Soviet authorities to the Nazis. He also ventures onto difficult and surely controversial ground when examining the behavior of collaborators. He closes this plainly written but inevitably somber account with pointed lessons for those who may find themselves persecuted, arguing, “it is possible to analyze and even to try to predict the behavior of people targeted by mass violence, and…doing so might increase our ability to help these people when violence unfolds.”

Of much interest to students of modern history but also to those engaged in humanitarian relief efforts, refugee relocation, and the like.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17257-6

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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