An invaluable account of genuine heroism in the midst of one of the most terrifying episodes of human history.

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THE ESCAPE LINE

HOW THE ORDINARY HEROES OF DUTCH-PARIS RESISTED THE NAZI OCCUPATION OF WESTERN EUROPE

How businessmen, ministers, secretaries, and others carried on unarmed resistance during World War II.

Koreman (The Expectation of Justice: France, 1944-1946, 2000), a former history professor, is the daughter of Dutch parents who took part in the resistance. Given exclusive access to archives of the era, she presents the history of Dutch-Paris, a group that aided more than 3,000 Jews, political refugees, freedom fighters, and downed Allied airmen to escape the German occupiers in three countries. The book’s central figure is Jean Weidner (1912-1994), a Dutch businessman who lived in France, near the Swiss border. Weidner’s business took him frequently across the border, where his wife worked. When he was contacted by a Dutch Jew seeking a way to escape with his family to neutral territory, Weidner decided to help even though there were already laws against helping Jews escape. That began Weidner’s resistance career, and his network stretched from the Netherlands and Belgium to neutral Spain and Switzerland. Koreman thoroughly documents the process by which refugees were smuggled to safety, with stories of hairbreadth escapes, betrayals, and the human drama of dozens of ordinary people doing what they could to help others escape the Nazi horror. Unfortunately, not all were lucky enough to avoid the Germans’ efforts to clamp down on the escape routes. The author is a deft narrator, drawing on original documents and survivors’ accounts, and despite the grim realities of living in Nazi-occupied territory, there are enough lighter moments to give readers a well-rounded perspective. There is an enormous amount of detail about the various participants, with maps of the different cities that figure in the narrative and appendices listing members of Dutch-Paris and those they helped to escape, plus a glossary, a timeline, and a list of archives consulted.

An invaluable account of genuine heroism in the midst of one of the most terrifying episodes of human history.

Pub Date: May 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-066227-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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