An in-depth analysis of how, during the Cold War, the respective political leaderships of the two Germanys developed very different narratives concerning the legacy of the Third Reich and of the Holocaust in particular. Herf (History/Ohio Univ.) describes how, in Communist East Germany (GDR), the prevailing ideology of ``antifascism'' came to be divorced from Nazism; rather, it stood for opposition to the ``bourgeois capitalists'' in Bonn, London, Washington, and, ultimately, Israel. The GDR's leaders viewed themselves as victims of the Nazis, rather than as heads of one of the Third Reich's successor states, with all the obligations that might entail. Thus, in the early '50s, when some of the GDR's leading theorists advocated reparations to Jewish Holocaust survivors, they were purged from the party. The history of Holocaust memory in West Germany is decidedly more ambivalent. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer accepted the policy of reparations to the Jews, but he did so grudgingly while also ``integrating'' ex-Nazis into his Christian Democratic government and proceeding sluggishly in prosecuting suspected Nazi criminals. The ``heros'' of Herf's study are a number of West German presidents, particularly Theodor Heuss (in office 194959), who took the initially highly unpopular stance that postwar Germans should feel collective shame, if not collective guilt, for the Nazis' war crimes, as well as such Social Democratic leaders as Kurt Schumacher, Ernst Reuter, and Willy Brandt. Herf focuses almost exclusively on policy-makers; there is unfortunately little here on the role of public opinion in West Germany, and nothing on such cultural influences as the writer GÅnter Grass, or on the roles of the small Jewish communities in each country. Still, this illuminates much of the political cultures of the two Germanys. Herf also has provided a valuable case study of how the quest for memory and justice are largely subsumed by present- day nationalist and other political needs. (20 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-21303-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

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...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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