Today, when studies are showing many Americans know little about the Holocaust, this will serve as a compelling remedy: a...

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THE STONE CRUSHER

THE TRUE STORY OF A FATHER AND SON'S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ

The story of a father and son who struggled to survive in some of the Holocaust’s most horrendous sites, from Buchenwald to Auschwitz to Mauthausen to Bergen-Belsen.

Dronfield (The Locust Farm, 2013, etc.), a biographer, historian, and ghostwriter who also writes fiction, returns with a thoroughly researched, deeply grim account of the Kleinmanns, a Viennese family devastated by the Holocaust. Although his principal focus is on the father, Gustav, and son, Fritz, the author does occasionally shift to others, some of whom did not survive. The title image—the stone crusher—is a mechanical device in a stone quarry at Buchenwald, and Dronfield employs it as a metaphor for the entire Holocaust—it is among the book’s final images. The Kleinmanns, father and son, were able to cope with the unspeakable rigors of the concentration camps because they possessed manual skills that the Nazis required and employed. Gustav was an upholsterer, and Fritz, quick and able with his hands, learned to lay bricks and perform other tasks the camps needed. One of the most moving aspects of the book is the relationship between Fritz and his father; both struggled mightily to stay together, and neither was interested in abandoning the other. Dronfield also does an effective job keeping us informed about the wider war so that when the liberators approach, we are prepared. The author uses the father’s diary as a key document, but, as the endmatter demonstrates, he has consulted the principal Holocaust archives and documents and conducted interviews as well. The resulting swift, novelistic narrative clarifies the brutality in ways that traditional histories sometimes do not.

Today, when studies are showing many Americans know little about the Holocaust, this will serve as a compelling remedy: a personal and universal account of brutality at its worst and of family devotion at its best.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61373-963-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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...

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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