THE RAPE OF EUROPA

THE FATE OF EUROPE'S TREASURES IN THE THIRD REICH AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR

A sprawling, vivid look at the fate of Europe's artworks during WW II. ``Never,'' states Nicholas in her admirably accomplished first book, ``had works of art been so important to a political movement and never had they been moved about on such a vast scale....'' Charting this unprecedented movement, Nicholas begins with the Nazis' twofold ``purification'' effort to ban ``degenerate'' culture and to scour public and private collections of enemy lands and races for nobly Germanic art. Backed always by astonishing statistics, the author recounts not only the brutal pursuit of both goals in western continental Europe and the even harsher, racially motivated pillage of Russian and Polish art treasures, but also the baffling exceptions to rules: the modernist ``garbage'' (Goebbels) imported into Germany and auctioned for hard foreign currency; the Jewish experts in Nordic art made ``Honorary Aryans''; the hands of Jewish women kissed by Goering in his quest for favorite canvases. As a former researcher at Washington's National Gallery who made a childhood visit through the devastated Germany of 1948, Nicholas is well equipped to elucidate the technicalities and vivify the chaos of wartime Europe's emergency storage sites, their improvised safety and climate controls, the economics and legalities of the art trade and postwar reclamations, and America's interests during and after the war in custodianship, reparation politics, and efforts to protect its own collections. Nonetheless, Nicholas does not, so to speak, lose the big picture, duly prefacing each country-by-country account with background history of the war. One interesting Cold War issue she considers is the politically sensitive return to newly Communist countries of plundered religious relics. The book abounds in poignant and bizarre details, from masterpieces traded for everything from human lives to ``8 kilograms of millet,'' to Chinese bronzes found holding manure in East German pigsties. Nicholas restores harrowing political contexts to ``safe,'' pristinely displayed museum masterpieces. (87 b&w illustrations and 3 maps)

Pub Date: May 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-40069-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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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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