A truly surprising denouement caps a well-told postwar account.



A daughter turns her German mother’s harrowing memories of living through the liberation of Berlin into a moving insider’s account of the time.

Lieff assumed that her mother, Margarete Dos, who was a young teenager in Berlin during World War II and who died in 2005 at age 81, knew about the gas chambers and other horrors executed by Hitler’s regime. Her mother had never wanted to talk about the war and afterward, when Dos and her mother ended up in a Russian gulag for two years. However, finally hearing her mother’s memories over the three years they spent systematically recording them at the end of her life, then finding love letters to a German soldier her daughter had never heard of, threw tantalizing ambiguities over her mother’s life and provoked new questions for Lieff. The author does an admirable job of reconstructing her mother’s extraordinary journey, allowing the frankness of detail to reflect the integrity of her mother’s voice. Indeed, the young Dos went from an Edenic childhood in Swinemünde, with doting parents and a younger brother, to Berlin after her father’s death and the remarriage of her mother. Dos claimed her family never joined the Nazi Party and were always held in some suspicion; nonetheless, she and others were swept up in the general euphoria promised by the Nazis in the wake of hyperinflation and unemployment, until it all began to “feel wrong and frightening.” Dos attempted to study medicine and work as a nurse, even as she and her mother navigated bombings, food rationing and the liberation of Berlin by the Russians. Fleeing their savagery, they tried to make it to Sweden but were imprisoned for two brutal years in the Russian gulag.

A truly surprising denouement caps a well-told postwar account.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7627-7798-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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