A richly documented short history of the Warsaw Ghetto by Gutman (History/Hebrew University), who is a death-camp survivor and the director of the research center at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial. There are many well-chosen citations from diaries, underground papers, and other rare documents—along with several maps and photographs (some previously unpublished). The title is the book's major flaw, as if the publisher grasped for the few moments of heroic resistance in an account dominated by hopeless victimization. Gutman himself criticizes the Israelis for giving disproportionate play to armed revolt when commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto. The shots heard 'round the occupied world are first fired more than halfway through the book. The harrowing entries and statistics describing life in the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of the typhus traps carefully planned by the Nazis, make clear that resistance was impeded by the Germans' use of Jewish police (often assimilated or converted Jews) and by the deadening effects of slow starvation and strategically strewn crumbs of hope (``those who cooperate and work will survive''). Gutman moves from the painful details to the larger, ideological picture, such as Himmler exhorting his troops to battle the Soviets, aka the ``Jewish'' Bolsheviks, for the Aryan world ``as we have conceived it: beautiful, decent, socially equal.'' Only after the ghetto is largely depleted from evacuations to the death camps do we hear poet and partisan Abba Kovner ring out with ``Arise! Arise with your last breath!'' The final weeks of armed struggle are brought to life with excerpts from dismayed German generals (referring to Jews as the ``enemy''), rival Jewish militias, and distantly admiring Poles. As the index and bibliography indicate, one would have to read dozens of German, Jewish, and Polish accounts to get what Gutman has gleaned for us here. An essential one-volume read for the layman or undergraduate.

Pub Date: April 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-60199-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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