``LIFE UNWORTHY OF LIFE''

RACIAL PHOBIA AND MASS MURDER IN HITLER'S GERMANY

Glass, an expert in the interplay of politics and the psychology of illusion, takes on the darkest example of that phenomenon, the Holocaust. Like Daniel Goldhagen in his controversial Hitler's Willing Executioners (1996), Glass (Government/Univ. of Maryland) eschews the conventional wisdom that the majority of Germans under Hitler were merely indifferent to the fate of the Jews. Rather, he argues fairly convincingly, Nazi Germany, including the world of medicine, was permeated by ``a culture-wide phobia against touching Jewish flesh . . . [and] a firm belief in the absolute necessity of maintaining racial purity.'' Within German medical science, there was a shift from a paradigm based on objective use of evidence to one in which the paramount value was a desire to preserve this racial purity. This underlay a pseudoscientific discourse in which the Jews were depicted as disease carriers and, along with the Gypsies, as ``life unworthy of life.'' Glass outlines in considerable detail the ways in which the pre-Nazi German medical profession was implicated in eugenic theories that contained a considerable body of anti-Semitic propaganda, and the post-1933 medical and scientific establishment's close and enthusiastic support of the Nazis. Glass draws effectively on previous researchers' work on the infamous T-4 euthanasia program, which extended racial purity to the extermination even of German children, and later adults, who were handicapped, and the writings of such previous students of Nazi medical ``science'' as Robert Jay Lifton and Gotz Aly. For much of the book, he is engaged in a spirited polemic against other theorizers of the Holocaust (particularly Lifton, Zygmunt Bauman, Hans Mommsen, and Hannah Arendt) that may leave nonspecialists feeling they have wandered into a private argument. Despite that shortcoming and an occasional loss of focus, Glass makes a compelling case, a bit more understated than Goldhagen's and more effective as a result.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-465-09844-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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