PACK OF THIEVES by Richard Z. Chesnoff


How Hitler and Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History
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A disappointingly unfocused and underdocumented attempt to chronicle the seizure of Jewish possessions and assets by the Nazis and their collaborators. Correspondent and columnist Chesnoff did not intend to write an “encyclopedic” or “definitive” record, but rather a “journalist’s report” for the general reader. His disclaimer notwithstanding, he has recycled a story that has already been told better elsewhere. Chesnoff adds little new to his coverage of Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Norway, France, Poland, and Hungary. He has little to say about the most significant issue to emerge in recent days: new revelations regarding the degree to which Swiss banks were accomplices in the seizure and laundering of Jewish assets by the Nazis and of the banks’ non-cooperation with survivors inquiring after the assets of their families and their unwillingness to admit their guilt and make restitution to those affected. Chesnoff has not undertaken the task of producing a detailed account of the identity of Jewish depositors, or the specific sums they left behind that were seized by the Nazis and their accomplices. This work, he acknowledges, will be completed by scholars. But a readable, reliable synthesis covering the complicit European countries is needed as well, and despite Chesnoff’s claims, this is not it. Although there are frequent citations of scholarly books written about the Holocaust and claims to have consulted classified files, there are no footnotes to document either. Chesnoff has interviewed numerous survivors and other interested parties, but their testimony lends no authority, for example, to his claim (against the arguments of most scholars) that Kristallnacht was enthusiastically greeted by the mass of Germans, rather than embarrassing the decent folk of a so-called civilized country. Readers would be better served by studying the relevant parts of the books by Hilberg, Friedlander, Feliciano, Nicholas, and others that Chesnoff lists in his wannabe bibliography. A disappointing mishmash of emotional narrative and anecdote on a subject that deserves much better. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-48763-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


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