Despite some minor flaws, Dawson’s humanist treatment of his chilling subject and illumination of events all but forgotten...



Dawson (Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival, 2009) investigates a little-known story of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

The Ukraine is often something of a coda to discussions of the Holocaust and World War II. Despite suffering a death toll in the millions, it has been little studied and understood. Its reoccupation by the Soviet Union following the war hid survivors, textual sources and physical evidence behind the Iron Curtain, and memories receded. During the process of researching his previous book about his mother’s improbable escape from the death camps as a Jewish Ukrainian, Dawson came across a detail so obscure that in the course of more than 100 public readings, he never encountered anyone who was familiar with it. The first war-crimes trial against the Nazis took place not in Nuremberg, but in Kharkov, Ukraine, which was also the site of some of the first systematic killings of the Holocaust. Using these events as bookends, the author presents a personal, moving exploration of the human experience during the Final Solution. The Eastern Front was an area of experimentation, and many methods of killing were used before “Himmler’s dream of an antiseptic Holocaust in which there was no blood and bones” was realized. Less a systematic history than an impressionistic memoir of the author’s family and millions like them, the book is sometimes annoyingly cutesy: “For those who ended up in the dock at Nuremberg, denial was just a river in Egypt.”

Despite some minor flaws, Dawson’s humanist treatment of his chilling subject and illumination of events all but forgotten make it well worth reading.

Pub Date: April 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-290-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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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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