A significant new chapter of Holocaust history.



An uplifting story of music emanating from the depths of one of the 20th century’s most horrific periods.

Drawing on abundant archival sources, Paris-based journalist Eyre makes his book debut with a well-researched dual biography of two men who brought the consolation of music to the Nazi concentration camp at Sachsenhausen: Polish nationalist and amateur musician Aleksander Kulisiewicz (1918-1982) and Jewish choral conductor Rosebery D’Arguto (1890-1942). Although Aleks, as he’s referred to throughout, had been a member of antisemitic groups as a young man, he later renounced those views. After Germany invaded Poland, he joined an underground network of tutors, which led to his arrest when Nazis rounded up teachers, students, and intellectuals. Rosebery had been a choir director in Berlin before leaving for Warsaw in 1938; returning for what he thought would be a brief visit, he was arrested in 1939. Eyre depicts in harrowing detail the brutality inflicted on the camp inmates, including Aleks and Rosebery. Aleks managed to survive by his wits and an astute sense of camp structure and hierarchy. He took to composing poems and lyrics, bearing witness to the carnage and inhumanity sometimes by overlaying his own words on existing melodies. When he discovered that Rosebery had convened a choir in the Jewish barracks, he was astounded, and the older man quickly became Aleks’ musical mentor. He was devastated when Rosebery was sent to Dachau and then to Auschwitz. When the camp was evacuated and the war ended, Aleks emerged emaciated, ill with tuberculosis, and deeply depressed. Mentally, he claimed, “he still lived in the camp,” making it impossible to feel joy or even friendship. Two marriages failed, and he was a distant father to his children. Instead, he became obsessively devoted to gathering music, poetry, and art of the camps, including the 50 songs that he had created and others he had memorized, and worked tirelessly to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

A significant new chapter of Holocaust history.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780393531862

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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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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A graceful debut.



A series of essays cohere into an evocative memoir.

In her first book, Zoffness, winner of a Sunday Times Short Story Award, gathers thoughtful pieces on themes that include motherhood, anxiety, and Jewish identity. Raised by extraordinarily fearful parents and worried about bequeathing her own anxiety to her son, the author studied medical journals and textbooks “to learn parent-child transfer.” She tries to assuage her 6-year-old’s fears, she tells her therapist, by putting up “a shield of faux calm.” The therapist referred her to a nearby doctor: “Maybe,” she suggested, “if you talk to her you can respond to him with real calm instead of faux calm.” Her 4-year-old son, too, incites her worries because he is obsessed with becoming a police officer. Zoffness is dismayed by “the heraldry of dominance and toughness that my boys can’t help but inhale,” and she finds it difficult to talk about injustice and brutality with such young children. She comes to realize, though, that the child is not drawn to violence; as the younger sibling, he just wants to exert some power. In “Ultra Sound,” Zoffness reflects on her tense relationship with her own mother, a deeply private woman who refuses to share details about her past as a performer. “Holy Body” merges the theme of motherhood with Jewish identity: Zoffness chronicles her mikveh, or ritual bath, intended, in part, “to help Jews of all stripes honor life transitions or commemorate occasions.” Zoffness acknowledges her momentous transition from childbearing in contrast to a friend, a mother of three, who has become a gestational surrogate, an act of altruism the author finds both selfless and mystifying. In other sharp pieces, the author recounts teenage angst and a friend’s betrayal; a visit to an astrologer recommended by a therapist; and confronting evidence of the Holocaust in the idyllic city of Freiburg, where Zoffness was teaching.

A graceful debut.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952119-14-9

Page Count: 165

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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