A beautifully written account of two generations in five Jewish families living in West and East Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland. Kaufman, a Pulitzer Prizewinning reporter for the Wall Street Journal and author of Broken Alliance: Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America (1988), organizes his accounts around two seminal events: the defeat of Nazi Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He writes movingly about the many personal, cultural, and religious resonances of the Holocaust on Jewish life. One of his subjects is a Polish woman who was hidden by a Catholic family during the war, was raised to think of herself as an ``ordinary'' Pole, and learned almost by accident, and in her mid-30s, that she is Jewish. But Kaufman is particularly engrossing on the less well known and complex relationship between Eastern European Jewry and Communism. He provides a balanced account of how and why Jews were disproportionately represented in the leadership of most Eastern European countries; in 1949, for example, 7 of 13 members of the Hungarian Politburo were Jews, although Jews constituted only about one percent of the population. On the other hand, several of his subjects suffered physical and emotional torture under Stalin-like anti-Semitic purges, such as the Slansky trials in Czechoslovakia during the early 1950s. Kaufman seems by far the most engaged by, and offers the most detail on, his two families in West and East Berlin: respectively, a Holocaust survivor and his historian son, and a Communist party leader and his dissident son. And unlike so many accounts that depict Eastern Europe as a kind of extensive cemetery for Jewish life and culture, this book provides real, if modest, evidence of Jewish resilience and renewal. This is a work of exemplary journalistic research and narrative, one highly recommended for anyone interested in either contemporary Jewry or the new Europe.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-86747-0

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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