An important and horrifying contribution to Holocaust studies.




The tale of one Eastern European town reflects a long history of anti-Semitism and political strife.

Bartov (European History/Brown Univ.; Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine, 2007, etc.) draws on historical and archival sources to create a stark portrait of a town in present-day Ukraine, where enmity between Polish and Ukrainian residents, compounded by Russian, Austrian, and German incursions, resulted in violent reactions against the Jewish population. This contribution to Holocaust and genocide studies, in which the author is a respected scholar, is notable for the barbarism that erupted among ordinary men and women against their Jewish neighbors during World War II. Anti-Semitism, however, was rampant much earlier: in a 1924 memoir, a witness reported seeing a Jewish orphanage set on fire by soldiers in search of vodka; in a synagogue courtyard, he “was stunned by a terrifying picture of destruction, vandalism, and cruelty.” Houses were filled with raped Jewish women and “men with smashed heads and gouged eyes.” Jews became the focus of hatred by Poles who believed that they preferred Austrian rule to Polish independence. Jews, Bartov writes, “were featured as an alien, inassimilable, and potentially subversive element,” lumped together with despised Russians and communists. The most hated enemies were Ukrainians, characterized as savage hordes. Ukrainians, for their part, publicized their plight as victims, aligning themselves with Jews. During the war, ethnic hatred erupted into mass murder. Germans created local groups to suppress organized resistance, transforming the Ukrainian militia into “a uniformed district police force.” Bartov profusely documents sadistic atrocities that occurred at the hands of soldiers, police, and security forces throughout the war. What he finds most shocking—and readers will agree—is the “astonishing ease” with which “spouses and children, lovers and colleagues, friends and parents, appear to have enjoyed their brief murderous sojourn in the region” as they killed people they knew personally. “For many of them,” he writes, “this was clearly the best time of their lives.”

An important and horrifying contribution to Holocaust studies.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8453-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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