A rewarding tale of redemption in the face of horror, of wide interest.




An American doctor’s quest for the unlikely Samaritan who saved his family during the Holocaust.

“He was better than Schindler.” So remarked debut author Good’s mother on returning, in 1999, to the dilapidated site of a onetime Nazi motor-repair facility—an HKP, in the German acronym—outside of Vilnius, Lithuania. There, more than a thousand Jewish slave laborers and their families, having been removed from a ghetto that would soon be liquidated, spent the last years of WWII servicing military vehicles bound for the Eastern Front. Conditions in the HKP and its satellite shops were “relatively benign”; the prisoners, Good’s grandfather recalled, “slept in beds and were able to wash [them]selves and to cook,” and if rations were sometimes short, no one starved. This comparative good treatment was all thanks to the offices of a Major Karl Plagge, who courted severe punishment himself for interfering with the murderous policies of the S.S. With the Germans’ westward retreat in 1944, Plagge disappeared. Working from the testimonials of survivors, Good first sought to locate military records but was stymied because access to such documents was restricted. Having recruited the help of German researchers, however, he was finally able to locate transcripts of Plagge’s postwar denazification trial, in which Plagge related how he attempted to balance being a good and obedient soldier with being a quiet agent of resistance: “I took the decision,” he said, “always to act against Nazi rules and to also give my subordinates the order to act in a very humane manner toward the civilian population”—including Jews. Armed with this evidence, Good petitioned Israel’s Yad Vashem commission to grant Plagge the honorary designation of “righteous among nations,” indicating a gentile who had helped Jews at personal risk. Good’s request was finally granted in 2002—but not without another trying period of argumentation and presentation of evidence to prove that Plagge truly deserved such recognition.

A rewarding tale of redemption in the face of horror, of wide interest.

Pub Date: April 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-8232-2440-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Fordham Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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