Military historians, fans of war stories, and lovers of Judaica: all will all be pleased.




An action-packed, real-life drama featuring the first Jewish army to go into combat for 2,000 years.

Blum (The Gold of Exodus, 1998, etc.) writes more like an omniscient author of fiction than as a historian, and with good reason. In chronicling this little-known niche of WWII, the former New York Times journalist interviewed the living members of His Majesty’s Jewish Brigade, a Jewish cadre from British-controlled Palestine who fought with honor in Italy at the close of the war. While many of his scenes are worthy of a blockbuster movie—as when Peltz, a tough-as-nails brigade member, reconnoiters a German encampment in the dead of night—the deeper story lies in the emotions these Jews felt about their relation to the Holocaust. Many of them, recalling families slaughtered in concentration camps, saw their arrival in Germany in 1945 as payback time. Between battles, Blum evokes the men’s thoughts. They wonder about their families, who lived in countries formerly occupied by Germany, and blame themselves for not being there to save their parents.That sorrow quickly turns to anger, however, and once the war is over the brigade seeks vengeance. While the soldiers are on guard duty on the Austrian border, a covert group of Jews hunts down and executes former SS members, then gradually form an underground railroad that shuttles Jews out of Europe toward Palestine. Interspersed with these events are many stories like the one about one of the men’s sisters who escaped the Nazis in the Ukraine to become a partisan and eventually a nurse in the young state of Israel. Her trajectory is replicated for nearly all the brigade members, who wind up using their military talents in Israel’s wars with its Arab neighbors.

Military historians, fans of war stories, and lovers of Judaica: all will all be pleased.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019486-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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