For the future of humanity, forgetting, Sands insists in this vastly important book, is not an option.

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EAST WEST STREET

ON THE ORIGINS OF "GENOCIDE" AND "CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY"

An engrossing tale of family secrets and groundbreaking legal precedents.

In a tense, riveting melding of memoir and history, international human rights lawyer Sands (Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, 2008, etc.) focuses on a subtle, and critical, debate that emerged from the Nuremberg trials: whether the Nazi defendants were guilty of crimes against humanity or of genocide. Two Polish-born lawyers, with influence on trial strategy, had strong opposing views. Hersch Lauterpacht, a professor of international law at Cambridge University, maintained that calling Nazi atrocities “crimes against humanity” would lead to protection of individual, fundamental human rights. Rafael Lemkin, who had fled Poland to a position at Duke University Law School, felt, with equal passion, that the murder of whole peoples must be called genocide, a word he coined to describe acts “directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of national groups.” The two men’s positions became pieces of a larger conversation among Soviet, American, French, and British prosecutors, each with his or her own particular stake. The lawyers’ own stakes became intensified when they discovered, during the trial, that many of their family members had been sent to their deaths by Hans Frank, one of the Nuremberg defendants. Interweaving the biographies of the scholarly Lauterpacht, tirelessly persistent Lemkin, and arrogant, self-aggrandizing Frank, Sands engages in a search for his own Polish ancestors, especially his grandfather, who was born in the city where Lauterpacht and Lemkin studied law and never spoke of his past. From letters, photographs, and deeply revealing interviews, the author portrays Nazi persecutions in shattering detail. He discusses his viewing of family albums with the son of a Nazi officer who could not bear to condemn his father, and he visited an elderly relative whose emotionless affect puzzled him. But she had not forgotten the past; rather, “I have chosen not to remember.”

For the future of humanity, forgetting, Sands insists in this vastly important book, is not an option.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35071-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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