Thirty-six brief, often moving profiles of individuals who, usually at great personal risk, saved Jews from the Nazi juggernaut of death, from a noted French Jewish novelist (The Book of Abraham, 1986, etc.) and human-rights activist. Halter himself escaped the Warsaw Ghetto as a small boy with the help of two Polish Catholics. For this volume he traveled to 14 countries to interview other rescuers. He discovered such little-known stories as that of Berthold Beitz, who set up a protective factory (like Oskar Schindler's) employing Jews in Rumania under the auspices of the Krupp armaments empire, and Giorgio Perlasca, the ``Italian Wallenberg,'' who, by feigning to be the Spanish ambassador in Budapest in late 1944, rescued several thousand Hungarian Jews. The rescuers make some revealing observations about their life-saving work and its motivations and implications. A man involved in the mass ferrying of Danish Jews to Sweden in October 1943, for example, makes the remarkable statement that the Danes ``owe a debt of gratitude to the Jews for . . . they obligated us, by letting us save them, and in so doing, safeguarding our self-respect.'' Unfortunately, Halter has a tendency to cut short his stories so as to indulge in the Gallic penchant for meditation on Big Philosophical Questions. Thus, he wonders rather pointlessly, ``will we be able to find enough Just people in the whole world to prevent the worst ones from being totally victorious?'' Halter also seems unfamiliar with the extensive work on rescuers done by a host of American scholars, including Philip Hallie, Malka Drucker, and Eva Fogelman. And he is careless with certain facts, stating wrongly, for instance, that the captain of the ill-fated refugee ship St. Louis grounded the vessel off the coast of England. Despite these flaws, Halter's stories and interviews should touch readers—and help them expand their range of moral activism both in extremis and in day-to-day life.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8126-9364-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Open Court

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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