An all-too-brief but informative introduction to German Jewry since 1945, consisting of two essays by Brenner and 15 short autobiographical statements by Jewish communal, religious, and cultural leaders. Brenner (Jewish History and Culture/Univ. of Munich), himself a child of Holocaust survivors, notes that the Jewish community in Germany, which today numbers close to 50,000, has consisted of three streams: Holocaust survivors, overwhelmingly from Eastern Europe, who decided to settle in Germany for a wide variety of personal reasons; German Jews who had fled Nazi Germany and returned following the liberation; and immigrants from Israel and, starting in the mid-1980s, from the USSR. In the immediate post- Holocaust period, the community was so traumatized that a US chaplain described the survivors as ``demoralized beyond the hope of rehabilitation.'' The community also suffered both external neglect—help from American Jewish and other Diaspora organizations was late in coming—and internal divisions. While the returnees tended to be less religiously observant and more assimilated, the Eastern European survivors were largely Orthodox Jews and Yiddish speakers. In time, the two communities learned to work together and reconstituted old or established new Jewish structures in Germany. Brenner's thematic approach to this reconstruction leaves some important areas undercovered, but he does deal succinctly with a great deal of interesting material, including the recurrence of German anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, the tensions between Yekkes (German Jews) and Ostjuden (Eastern European Jews), and two major intracommunal financial scandals. Brenner reveals a community that demographically has grown surprisingly strong and durable, but that religiously and culturally remains weak, with communal leaders who have only a ``cursory awareness'' of their heritage. A very readable and useful study, written with the engaged sympathy of an insider and the balanced judgments of a fine historian. (For a profile of a postwar German-Jewish community in New York City, see Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer and Michael Kirchheimer, We Were So Beloved, p. 1438.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-691-02665-3

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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