JUSTYNA'S NARRATIVE

The memoir of a young Jewish resistance fighter, written in a Polish prison during WW II shortly before the author's escape—and death. All Holocaust narratives are sad, but some are more profoundly moving than others—for example, the story of Draenger. Justyna (her resistance alias) was 25 years old when she penned this narrative in 1943, after turning herself in to the Polish police to be with her husband, who had been captured. She was repeatedly tortured by the Gestapo, but despite her suffering, and with the help of her fellow women inmates, she managed to write her story on scraps of toilet paper sewed together with threads ripped from the prisoners' clothing. In it she tells of her activities in the Jewish youth resistance: how young men and women in their teens and twenties fought valiantly with few weapons and little hope of victory against the most terrible killing machine in humanity's history; of their dreams and ponderings, their suffering and joy. Draenger's story is tragic, first, because she and the people she wrote about were young and courageous, and most of them died horribly at the hands of the Nazis. But the narrative is also sad because it does not always do justice to the remarkable effort devoted to creating it, nor to the amazing woman who wrote it. Draenger wanted the memoir to be literary, but with no chance to edit what she wrote under such horrible circumstances, the result is often disjointed. And because she was writing a ``heroic narrative,'' she turned all of her characters into stock figures instead of the true-to-life heroes they were. She and her husband rejoined the underground after escaping from prison and died while fighting the Nazis. Reading her final words, one is most affected by the thought of what this exceptional woman might have done had she lived in a different time and a better place. (10 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55849-037-X

Page Count: 168

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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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