Further useful testimony from an unspeakably terrifying era.



A Holocaust memoir by a secular Czechoslovakian Jew who was 22 when she was rounded up with her family to be deported to Terezín in 1942—only the first step of her wartime misery.

Epstein (1920-1989) wrote this brief, striking memoir in the mid-1970s, largely for the benefit of her children. Her daughter, Helen Epstein (The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma, 2017, etc.), a writer who struggled her entire life to grasp her mother’s awful wartime experiences and her own trauma as the child of Holocaust survivors, could not face returning to it until recently. Here, she does a fine job of clarifying some of the detail and characters. A youthful zest for life comes through despite “Franci’s” many travails. She demonstrates a fierce determination to adapt and prevail amid the harshest conditions. First, she watched as her parents, middle-class members of the German-speaking community in Prague, were brutally separated from her at Terezín to be sent to the Nazi death camps. Life in the barracks of Terezín was fraught but bearable, and Franci keenly observes the hierarchy of survival, where the well-connected enjoyed benefits not available to all, and “a whole new standard of behavior evolved, much of it self-sacrificing and noble, but also frequently selfish and amoral.” Married hastily to a young man from home who was able to help them survive by his canny trading instincts, until he was caught and disappeared, Franci was herded into the cattle cars for transport to Auschwitz in May 1944. There, her cousin made her aware of what was burning in the chimneys; she “became conscious of a peculiar odor in the air, like burning hair or bones.” From then on, the author refers to herself by her camp tattoo number, A-4116, and she chronicles how she endured the brutal conditions and disease at several women’s camps by using her sewing and electrical skills.

Further useful testimony from an unspeakably terrifying era.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313557-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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