Abram Silberstein led a remarkable life in the turbulent 1940s, but his biographer and friend uses this book as an excuse to glibly recap the history of WWII and the rise of Israel. Except for a moment when both were boys in Poland, the author only knew Silberstein after the war. While he and Abram lost their families in the Holocaust, Orenstein did not share Abram’s active life on the front lines of history as a teenage immigrant to Palestine, a volunteer in the British army, a daring commando fighting the Nazis in North Africa, a smuggler of concentration camp inmates into Palestine, or as the transportation specialist who broke the Arab siege of Jerusalem. And while this may sound nonetheless as though it would have to be the lively memoir of an extraordinary subject, Orenstein perversely sticks Abram in the background—in order to saturate the bulk of his pages with his own views of the major events and battles of the second half of this century. Orenstein, author of the Holocaust memoir I Shall Live (1987), is capable of writing simply and effectively, but most readers will undoubtedly prefer to look elsewhere for well-known highlights of the careers of Rommel, Mussolini, Hitler, and Churchill. Abram the die-hard Zionist is duly outraged at the “American Army’s Jewish officers— lack of interest in what he and other Palestinian Jews were fighting so hard to accomplish.” The book well describes the danger for Palestinian Jews of a German takeover of Egypt; also useful is Orenstein’s willingness to reassess the Zionist icon David Ben- Gurion. Abram opposed Ben-Gurion’s suicidal attack of Jordanian-held Latrun, which blockaded Jerusalem. After criticizing the future Israeli prime minister to his face, Abram helped to create the “Burma Road,” which saved Jerusalem from starvation. The brief tale of an interesting life couched in long stretches of irrelevancies.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8253-0503-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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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