A CHOSEN FEW by Mark Kurlansky


The Resurrection of European Jewry
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 A richly descriptive and insightful survey of post-Holocaust European Jewry. Kurlansky (A Continent of Islands, 1992) interviews scores of Holocaust survivors and their children in Germany, Holland, Poland, Slovakia, and other countries to examine how and why Jews still live in Europe. He moves from the end of WW II to the present, showing people just after the war, often in displaced-persons camps, and then later, having survived--opening a bakery in Paris, enrolling in a Jewish school in Budapest, or running a museum in Prague. Kurlansky states that ``Jewry today has a future in Europe, and Hitler at last has been defeated,'' and he gives statistical evidence that European Jewry is rebounding. But the qualitative state of European Jewry remains less clear. Many of the interview subjects have had Jewish identity thrust on them, whether they want it or not, by political opponents or by the biases and prejudices of the majority cultures in which they reside. And the few traditional Jews (in the growing communities of France and the Lowlands) are immigrants from North Africa or Hasidim who have come to ply the diamond trade. Many of the younger people we meet have only been told of their Jewish background when a parent is dying or when a child is found to be on the receiving or giving end of anti- Semitism. Anti-Semitism, in fact, has been a constant over the years, whether it's the rantings of Nazis or the subtle, anti- Zionist sneers of present-day foreign secretaries. This is not a catalogue of fear and shame, however, as Kurlansky, with a novelist's eye for irony and description, offers many moments of transcendence and humor: entertaining culture clashes between communists and capitalists, religious and secular, Zionists and diasporists. The humor darkens when American tourists are greeted at the Warsaw train station with cries of ``Taxi? Hotel? Auschwitz?'' in Poland's new ``world fair of genocide.'' A lively, penetrating follow-up to Holocaust readings that speaks volumes about the resiliency of the Jewish people.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-201-60898-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994


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