A challenge to traditional views of Jewish passivity in the face of the Holocaust. One of the most contentious aspects of that tragedy concerns the disputed role of the Jews themselves during WW II. Introduced into the postwar debate about the Holocaust with Hannah Arendt's accusations against Jewish leaders in her landmark work Eichmann in Jerusalem, the Jews have since been accused of accepting extermination with resignation and docility. That scenario is effectively contested by Lazare, a Holocaust survivor himself, a member of the French Jewish underground during WW II, and scientific editor at the International Center for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. He presents overwhelming evidence that French Jews were active in the Resistance. And he demonstrates in compelling detail how Jewish resistance took many more forms than just armed insurgency. He traces how the myriad array of small actions undertaken by French Jews—from the establishment of underground networks to the smuggling of children across borders- -eventually coalesced into a concerted and collective effort to survive the Nazi program of extermination. Besides the study's value in gathering this material, Lazare offers an important theoretical reconsideration. French Jews were acutely conscious of an inevitable fact: French gentiles could obey the laws of Vichy and occupied France and survive. Jews had no such option. Therefore, the Jewish Resistance in France, according to Lazare, was qualitatively different from the French Resistance. Christian French were fighting for their country's independence, while Jews were fighting for the survival of their people. This distinction generated much controversy when the book was published in France. Perhaps the formulation is overly rigid: The Resistance also saw itself as fighting for survival, both its own and that of civilization itself. The controversy, however, does nothing to diminish Lazare's accomplishment in bringing to light an important episode in the history of the 20th century. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 6, 1996

ISBN: 0-231-10124-4

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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