As a teenager, Nelken, who is Jewish, kept a diary of the permanent destruction of her comfortable life when the Nazis overran her homeland. Unlike Anne Frank, this girl survived the Holocaust to tell the full story. Now an art historian, she was born to a prosperous, assimilated Polish family. And she recalls, with bittersweet verisimilitude, her idyllic early days in Krakow—the people and the pastry, the kitchens and the streets. Moved from home to the ghetto and to ever more confined quarters and constricted living conditions, Nelken goes on to describe the travails of her parents and brother, her friends at gimnazium (when she was allowed to attend school), her work (including enforced street cleaning), and, with special grace, her youthful yearnings and romances. Despite lack of rest and food, she notes the music, poetry, and aspirations she found in the ghetto. “Somehow,” she wrote in her diary, “I hope that something will happen and my life will change for the better.” Then the ghetto was closed, and Nelken, her mother, and sister-in-law were sent to the Plaszow, Auschwitz, and RavensbrÅck concentration camps, where the likes of Amon Gîth, Franz Hoessler, and Dr. Mengele were her keepers. By the closing days of the war, some prisoners were able to escape and, save for her father, the author and her immediate family endured. Her story of purgatory is a lifetime ago and a world away from her present life in academic Cambridge, Mass. But she fulfills a moral obligation to remember the past, while urging us not to heed the “professional Holocaustniks” who weren’t even there. “If only,” she wishes for those who were, “I could protect all of us from forgetfulness, individually, as we were, we living people!” In moving testimony, her legacy is another story snatched from six million. An intelligent and writerly memoir. (16 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-55849-156-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 19, 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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