A CHOSEN FEW

THE RESURRECTION OF EUROPEAN JEWRY

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. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-60898-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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