The sorrows of history multiply: a necessary book.




After all the millions dead, after the Nazi terror, a good many Poles still found it acceptable to hate the Jews among them. Thus, this somber analytical work by Gross (History/Princeton Univ.).

Though many Poles aided and sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, many others “witnessed up close the extermination of the Jews, and they often availed themselves of the opportunities afforded by their attendant spoliation.” In the short time between the collapse of the Third Reich and Poland’s absorption into the Soviet empire, writes Gross, Jews who had survived the Holocaust began to turn up in Poland’s towns and cities and farms, some looking to reclaim their things, others merely looking for food. During this brief period of civil war, they met fierce resistance; in individual acts of terror and organized pogroms alike, as many as 1,500 Jews were killed. Seeking an answer to how this could have happened, Gross considers the history of anti-Semitism in Poland, where, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir charged, hatred of Jews is taught from birth; yet this wave of violence was so out of place even there that the Polish intelligentsia “was utterly baffled.” In one pogrom in Kielce, in 1946, Polish soldiers entered the Jewish Committee headquarters and herded its occupants outside, where a mob attacked and killed them; nurses even abused the hospitalized survivors. Sometimes, as in Kielce, the murders were marked by howling passion and bloodlust; sometimes Jews were murdered in episodes of “passionless killing,” singled out as easy victims. In most events, Gross concludes, Jews were perceived as dangerous and frightening, “not because of what they had done or could do to the Poles, but because of what Poles had done to the Jews.” The Jews were witnesses, motive enough to silence them.

The sorrows of history multiply: a necessary book.

Pub Date: July 4, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-50924-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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