Companion volume to a PBS documentary on the 761st Tank Battalion, which led the Allied advance in WW II Europe and helped liberate Dachau and Buchenwald. The crux of this remarkable story isn't just the exploits of the 761st, perhaps the best battalion in Patton's Third Army. What really matters is that the 761st was all-black (with white officers) and thus represents, as portrayed here by filmmakers Miles and Rosenblum and screenwriter Potter, the triumph of courage over racism. The emotional highlight of the 761st's saga was the liberation of Jews from two of Hitler's worst concentration camps, described here as ``the coming—in the eleventh hour—of one despised and rejected people to the rescue of another.'' Given this subtext of the struggle for freedom, the writers wisely broaden their horizons and begin with an exposition of the history of black warriors in America—from the story of runaway slave Crispus Attucks up to the eve of WW II, when the US military still denied blacks any real leadership or combat positions. With the war, a crucial opportunity arose, and, thanks to the pleading of Eleanor Roosevelt and others, the 761st was born. In battle, the black tankers made history, not least when their lives intertwined with those of Jewish camp victims. The accounts of liberation are heart- rending (survivor Ben Bender: ``I was seeing black soldiers for the first time in my life, crying like babies, carrying the dead and the starved and trying to help everybody''). The 150 b&w photos included here—of black soldiers triumphant in Hitler's garden; of Buchenwald victims; of a KKK march in Washington, D.C.; of a Jim Crow sign at a bus station in North Carolina—capture the extent of this transcontinental battle for human rights and liberation from terror, and of its almost unbearable poignancy. A hitherto hidden history revealed in all its glory.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-151283-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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