In a world that often seems permeated with cruelty and indifference, why are there always a few people actively engaged in rescuing others, even at enormous personal risk? Examining this phenomenon of radical altruism comprised much of the life work of the late Hallie. This beautiful book, written with what might be called disciplined moral passion, consists of a distillation of his thoughts and own life experiences on the subject, filtered through some fascinating case studies. Hallie, a philosopher, was the author of the justly praised Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (1979), concerning the French village of Chambon, whose inhabitants sheltered over 5,000 Jews and other refugees during the Nazi occupation. His protagonists in that book were the Protestant pastor and his wife who rallied the villagers to the cause. Here Hallie broadens his focus, looking at the third actor in the story, Major Julius Schamling, who led the forces that occupied the town and repeatedly turned a ``blind eye'' to the rescue activities he knew were occurring there. Hallie devotes a long chapter to Joshua James, who for over 50 years in the late 19th century was a lifesaver of men in wrecked ships off the storm- swept coast of Massachusetts, and one to Katchen Coley, a contemporary of Hallie's who placed herself in great danger to help ex-convicts, drug addicts, and other troubled men. Hallie has thought deeply about why the overwhelming majority of us are morally passive, and he has some provocative things to say about the origins of such inclinations. He also notes instances where ``kindness can be cruelty to the recipient . . . you must look closely into the eyes of the recipient if you would know whether help has really happened.'' Such crisp, plain-spoken, and forceful prose exemplifies this fine summary of one of those very rare lives spent immersed, intellectually and personally, in issues of active moral engagement.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-018745-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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