The Chief Rabbi of Israel recounts a harrowing journey from child prisoner in Buchenwald to champion of Holocaust survivors.

The son of successive generations of rabbis from Poland, Lau was just five years old when he and his family were separated during the Nazi roundups of Jews in of 1942. His father was sent to Treblinka, never to be heard from again; the author and his mother and oldest brother, Nephtali (who had already escaped from Auschwitz and returned) were first interned in a Polish ghetto, then sent by train in 1944 to Buchenwald. On a split-second decision by his mother during the selections, Lau was cast toward his brother in the men’s cars, as if she had understood that the women and the children were killed first. A baffling presence to the Nazis, the child was sheltered and protected by various prisoners—may of whom Lau later tried to find. His relegation to “block number eight” seemed to have saved him, and he was checked on by his brother, who was remarkably resilient and persevering. American troops liberated Buchenwald in April 1945; Nephtali and Lau, despite battling postwar illnesses such as typhoid fever and measles, finally made their way to Israel, where an uncle welcomed them and Lau began his long, rewarding journey to becoming educated and ordained as a rabbi. Alternating his Holocaust memories with more recent events such as visits back to the camps with dignitaries and heads of state, Lau inserts poignant details, such as first learning about the fate of their mother, while administering wedding services in the 1970s, by a woman who had known her in Ravensbrück. Lau addresses frankly the postwar silence about the Holocaust and the issue of Jewish submission. His deep knowledge of biblical scripture informs every page of this finely tuned work. Uplifting story of peace, reconciliation and an incredible life’s journey.


Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4027-8631-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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