The definitive resource for understanding this deeply troubling episode in the 20th century’s greatest horror. (8 pages...




Essays by military and Holocaust historians (whose answers to the question in the subtitle vary widely), supplemented with relevant primary documents.

Editors Neufeld (The Rocket and the Reich, 1994) and Berenbaum (CEO/Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation) have assembled a myriad of replies to “one of the most basic questions that students of the Holocaust ask” and are faithful to their goal of presenting all sides of the debate. Some, like Neufeld himself, argue that bombing would have been “a failure under any circumstances” (or, in the words of contributor James H. Kitchens, “a chimera”). Contrariwise, Richard G. Davis (among others) submits that attacking the death camp would have sent “the strongest possible message to the Nazis” and “would not have seriously delayed the accomplishment of other goals.” In between these two positions lies the essence of the debate, and an impressive assortment of authorities’ attempts to answer its various questions. Did the Allies know what was going on in Auschwitz-Birkenau? (Yes, but the Nazis had already killed five million Jews by the time the Allies invaded Normandy.) Did Allied bombers have the range to reach the camp deep in Poland? (Yes, but not until early in 1944 when the US established an air base in southern Italy.) Would a raid have been effective? (Virtually everyone acknowledges that bombing in 1944 was highly inaccurate, that multiple attacks would have been necessary, and that innocent inmates—perhaps hundreds or thousands—would have been killed.) Other writers examine the moral issues. Walter Laqueur observes that “saving Jewish lives” was not a high priority; Henry L. Feingold attributes the inaction to “mere indifference or moral obtuseness”; and Deborah E. Lipstadt condemns the bystanders, noting that a person “who takes no action becomes a facilitator.” Wisely, the editors include much of the documentary evidence.

The definitive resource for understanding this deeply troubling episode in the 20th century’s greatest horror. (8 pages b&w photos, 4 maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-19838-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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