IDEOLOGY OF DEATH

WHY THE HOLOCAUST HAPPENED IN GERMANY

Why did the most savagely anti-Semitic regime in history gain power in Germany rather than, say, France (scene of the Dreyfus affair) or Russia (with its widespread pogroms)? Weiss (History/Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY; The Fascist Tradition, not reviewed, etc.) doesn't quite satisfactorily answer this question, but he does come close. In the process, he has produced a detailed, clearly written account of German anti-Semitism from Luther to Hitler, nicely integrating political, social, and intellectual history. He demonstrates how the demonization of the Jews came to pervade almost every segment of a German society otherwise characterized by oligarchy and torn by class conflict; Jews, he documents, became the scapegoats for popular resentment at the excesses of capitalism, communism, and modernism. In fact, even such leaders of the anti-Nazi opposition as Leipzig mayor Karl Goederler believed that ``the Jewish people belongs to a different race.'' Weiss also hypothesizes that what made genocidal thinking take root in Germany was the popularity of eugenics and other aspects of ``racial hygiene'' among physicians, anthropologists, and political leaders. Unfortunately, after making some interesting comparisons between French and German attitudes toward democratic government, he largely abandons the comparative approach that would be essential to answering the question implied in the book's subtitle. The most serious flaw is Weiss's periodic tendency to be overly deterministic, assuming that after 1933 ``the iron logic that led to the Holocaust was set in motion.'' Finally, Weiss appears to have engaged in very little firsthand research, although he has done a fine job of synthesizing insights from secondary sources. Neither very original nor entirely convincing in its thesis that a Nazi-like regime could only have gained power in Germany, this is still an extremely stimulating and informative work.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 1996

ISBN: 1-56663-088-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more