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Levine (coathor, The Death of an American Jewish Community, 1992; Sociology and Religion/Boston Univ.) seeks to discover a seemingly ordinary man, the extraordinary thing he did, and the lessons to be learned. Raoul Wallenberg, Oscar Schindler, and others have been justly celebrated as selfless gentile saviors of countless Jews during the Holocaust. In recent years, the name of the elusive Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara (a.k.a. ``Sempo Sugiwara'' and ``Sergi Pavelovitch'') has been added to that remarkable roll. Sugihara's widow and son have reported that he rescued 6,000 Jews from certain slaughter. Levine sets the figure at 10,000. No matter. After two generations, numbers go only so far. As one of ``Sugihara's Jews,'' displaying family photos, told the author, ``I am thirty-seven people!'' The rescue operation took place over a few summer days in 1940 in the Lithuanian town of Kovno. There, against all the strictures of his government and of diplomatic convention, the courtly, mysterious Sugihara issued transit visas to anyone who asked. The US consulate and that of Great Britain found reasons not to help the fugitives caught between the Nazis to the west and the Soviets to the east. Only the Dutch were cooperative. On the basis of considerable research, including interviews with survivors, friends, and relatives, official records, and Sugihara's scant memoirs, Levine presents the available facts along with much supposition and tangled, peripheral history. Why did this singular civil servant come to perform an act so selfless as to assure his place in history? Was it a conspiracy of altruism or simply the banality of goodness, as Levine puts it? The question, always worth asking, is unanswerable. Despite an occasional lack of discipline in Levine's telling (including abrupt, inexplicable switches of tense from past to present and back again), Sugihara's story is ultimately a fascinating addition to Holocaust literature and a valuable historical footnote.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-83251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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...

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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