AFTER THE HOLOCAUST

REBUILDING JEWISH LIVES IN POSTWAR GERMANY

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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