One man’s valiant story unearths valuable wartime details.




A dying father’s wartime army box yields a wealth of lively detail about American intelligence work in POW and displaced persons camps within the ruins of Europe.

Walter Wolff, who went on to found the furnishings maker Bon Marché, was a Jewish immigrant whose family made it to New York City in 1941, just in advance of the Nazi invasion of their country, Belgium. After attending the Dwight School in New York and becoming fluent in several European languages, Wolff was drafted into the U.S. Army in May 1943; he was not yet a citizen. The author, Wolff’s artist daughter, knew little about her father’s wartime exploits until he gave her the letters he kept in a metal box shortly before he died and she was able to read the prodigious correspondence (often written in French or German) he kept with his mother and others while serving in the military. The author’s translations are mostly verbatim and full of energy and punctuation. Starting at Camp Ritchie, in Maryland, Wolff and other “refugee soldiers” with useful language skills entered the short-lived Army Specialized Training Program located at several colleges—e.g., Virginia Tech, Yale—and at Camp Grant, in Rockford, Illinois, where Wolff was successively posted. There, he learned interrogation techniques and other types of psychological warfare. Yet the war was winding down, and time to get back to Europe and witness Germany’s debacle was growing short. So Wolff finagled a job through the Pentagon, first translating documents belonging to Mussolini, then moving into various displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria and vetting German war criminals—the latter proved to be a deeply satisfying task for Wolff. Along with Wolff’s intimately chronicled accounts of the devastation from bombings and the homelessness of Jews and others, the accompanying photographs he took himself reveal stirring remnants of an apocalypse.

One man’s valiant story unearths valuable wartime details.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62872-377-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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