A poignantly illuminating Holocaust memoir.



A Holocaust survivor’s daughter chronicles how her mother used her influence as a prisoner functionary to save lives at Auschwitz.

In 2003, Lee’s mother, Hellinger, printed and sold copies of a memoir that detailed her experiences as a concentration camp survivor. But it was only after she died that Lee fully appreciated the “complexity of my mother’s story,” which Lee amplified through academic research and by drawing on the extensive recorded testimonies that Hellinger—and those who knew her—left behind. Retaining her mother’s first-person perspective throughout, Lee traces Hellinger’s life from her childhood in eastern Czechoslovakia and reveals that her mother showed an early gift for organizing Jewish community projects. She studied to become a teacher and then opened a kindergarten that Nazis allowed her to continue operating after Hitler’s takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1938. In 1942, she was deported to Auschwitz with other Jewish women from her town. Using her organizational skills, Hellinger helped keep order among her fellow inmates and quickly earned the respect of female Nazi guards. Her German captors began to give her small but important prison jobs and then promoted her to prison leadership roles, which put her in direct contact with high-ranking Nazi officials. Lee shows how her mother deftly negotiated her difficult position to keep both herself and many of her fellow inmates alive. When Nazi officials chose sick prisoners to die, she used her influence to spare lives. When new prisoners arrived, she helped them learn “the ways of the camp so they would have the best chance of survival.” Written in part to clarify Hellinger’s true relationship to her captors, this book offers a much-needed perspective on the roles many so-called collaborators played in helping fellow concentration camp inmates survive the Holocaust. “Magda has been misrepresented and judged unfairly by some survivors simply because of the positions she was forced to hold,” writes Lee, who provides a solid corrective.

A poignantly illuminating Holocaust memoir.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-22-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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