An invaluable illumination of small acts of astonishing bravery and generosity in the darkest days of war.


Part of the Family


A compassionate, detailed account of a little-known corner of World War II history.

The triggering incident of Hensley’s gripping debut work is Kristallnacht, the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom conducted in November 1938 in Germany, ostensibly in retaliation for the alleged murder of a low-ranking German diplomat by a Jewish boy. Nazi officials and mobs shattered shop windows, rousted hundreds from their homes, and later rounded up tens of thousands and sent them to concentration camps. The inciting incident made it impossible for the international community to continue to ignore the Nazi persecution of German Jews, and one outcome was a program called “Kindertransport,” in which German Jewish parents sent thousands of children to live with foster families in England. Approximately 250 children found themselves in the homes of Christadelphians, members of a small Christian sect whose philanthropy toward European Jews was of long standing. Hensley’s historical narrative centers on 10 kids and relates their stories in exhaustively researched detail. He also relates the equally touching tales of their parents, who made unthinkable sacrifices for the chance of giving their children futures. One set of parents, for example, sent a note to the foster parents: “You, as gentle people, will understand what it means to send beloved children into a strange world. How much pain and tears are in this.” Hensley effectively tells of the many displaced children, who knew neither the language nor the ways of their new homes and who almost invariably ended up being the only surviving members of their biological families. The author conducted extensive interviews with the Jewish survivors and the Christadelphians who took them in, and he accompanies this invaluable oral history with black-and-white photos that help to bring the stories to life and give them personal immediacy. Overall, this book lays out its history, and especially its Christadelphian aspects, with carefully controlled dramatic energy.

An invaluable illumination of small acts of astonishing bravery and generosity in the darkest days of war.

Pub Date: May 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5327-4053-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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