A tirelessly researched investigation, this work unravels many strands to be taken up for subsequent exploration.

A MOSQUE IN MUNICH

NAZIS, THE CIA, AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IN THE WEST

An intriguing, densely packed, somewhat murky journalistic exposé of disgruntled Muslims who fled Soviet Russia and were politically manipulated over the decades by dubious Western elements.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal reporter Johnson (Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China, 2004) was surprised to learn that the Islamic Center in Munich held such a prominent place in the Muslim world. He soon discovered that the mosque had been built and financed by a unique group of émigré Muslims and refugees in West Germany who had troubling ties to Nazi Germany and the CIA. The story begins on the battlefields of Russia during World War II, when the Nazis captured minority Russian soldiers—Georgians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, etc.—and recognized that their oppression by, and hatred of, the Soviets could render them valuable tools for the Nazis. These soldiers were employed in the Ostministerium, an administrative arm of the Wehrmacht charged with managing the newly conquered East European territories. Johnson pursues one of the key administrators, Gerhard von Mende, a Turkic studies expert whose work in the Ostministerium, including the wooing of the notoriously anti-Semitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, nicely dovetailed with his postwar Cold War intelligence work for the West Germans. The author also examines Robert Dreher, a CIA agent working for the American Committee Liberation from Bolshevism (“Amcomlib”), which mostly ran Radio Liberty and kept close watch on von Mende’s activities and agents. Plans to build a mosque in Munich in 1960 as a place of political activity brought together these disparate elements. It also offered a meeting place for the Muslim Brotherhood, a grassroots Islamist organization founded in 1928 with questionable ties to terrorists yet embraced by the United States and others.

A tirelessly researched investigation, this work unravels many strands to be taken up for subsequent exploration.

Pub Date: May 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-15-101418-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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