A dry style and theoretical casuistry mar this otherwise terrifying history.




A not wholly successful examination of the seminal trial of Nazi perpetrators.

In December 1963, two dozen former guards who had worked at Auschwitz were put on trial in West Germany. Wittmann (History/Univ. of Toronto) demonstrates, first, how the prosecution, with massive documentation about the camp, tried to show the political context of the crimes, and, second, how German law shaped the outcome of the trial. West Germany banned “retroactivity” in law, meaning that Nazi criminals had to be charged under the laws that were in place at the time. Absurdly enough, this meant that the court had to make the case that the defendants’ acts violated Nazi law in a Nazi extermination camp. As a consequence, behind-the-scenes managers like Karl Höcker, an adjutant to the last Auschwitz Commandant, Robert Baer, received lesser sentences for lesser crimes than more visible camp personnel. Less satisfying than the story of the trial itself is Wittmann’s confusing thesis. On the one hand, she takes a more exculpatory view of Adenauer-era justice than other critics—most famously, Hannah Arendt, whose withering survey of West Germany’s tendency to connive in comfortable amnesia about the past takes up a chapter of Eichmann in Jerusalem. Wittmann, by contrast, believes that “the argument that the entire West German justice system was tainted with a malaise regarding Nazi crimes is too simplistic.” Her own account, however, shows that the court was able, if it chose, to make very creative end runs around the retroactivity law and, furthermore, that the law itself was not imposed on the West German system, but chosen by it. Arendt’s harsher verdict still seems more valid than Wittmann’s. As if confirming Arendt’s suspicions, Hofmeyer, the presiding judge, questioned afterward whether the “background of the ‘entire event’ should be addressed at all in such trials.” In practical terms, that would mean covering up the genocidal nature of Auschwitz completely.

A dry style and theoretical casuistry mar this otherwise terrifying history.

Pub Date: May 30, 2005

ISBN: 0-674-01694-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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