A chilling exploration of the moral complexities of survival in an insane world distinguishes this unusual and deeply disturbing Holocaust tale. Far from the stereotypical Nazi collaborator, Stella Goldschlag—blond, beautiful, and Jewish—first met Wyden (Wall, 1989, etc.) as a classmate (and pubescent fantasy figure) in 1930's Berlin. But while Wyden and his family managed to escape Germany in 1937, Stella remained trapped. After enduring forced factory labor, a precarious few months as a ``U-boat'' (an illegally subsisting Jew), and two rounds of Gestapo torture (punctuated by two escapes), she became a greifer (catcher), one of the desperate Jews who hoped—generally unsuccessfully—to save themselves and their families by helping to apprehend others. Relying on a wide-ranging mix of personal recollection, extensive interviews (including talks with Stella herself), psychological commentary, and published records, Wyden sketches a hypnotic portrait of his subject's world against its larger political context: the progressive loss of civil liberties; street violence; sudden deportations; suicides; concentration camps; daring escapes; refugee struggles; and disbelieving inaction by outside powers. At the ethically troubling center is Stella, responsible for as many as 2,300 deaths, stalking her prey at cafÇs, movies, the opera, resorts, and even funerals- -and, after three trials and ten years in Soviet labor camps, remarkable unrepentant. Hiding neither his horror nor his sense of connection, Wyden goes beyond the dismal facts to probe the limits of culpability when faced with ``the final choice: to die or join the devil.'' While this ultimately makes the book more intellectually than emotionally challenging, it heightens the universality of its theme—not nobility vs. evil, but the tragedy of ordinary people in a hopeless situation. A provocative and haunting work, worthy of the attention—and soul-searching—of a wide readership. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-67361-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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