Goldberg writes eloquently of the “volcanic pressures” that shaped her family’s story and continue to haunt her own.

A daughter revisits her mother’s harrowing past.

Goldberg (Comparative Literature/Harvard Univ.; Sex and Enlightenment: Women in Richardson and Diderot, 1984) grew up knowing that her parents had survived the Holocaust through a combination of luck, agonizing struggles and selfless acts of heroism. Her emotionally shattering memoir focuses on her mother’s experiences, as the author seeks to understand a parent she felt had distanced herself from her children and to explore the legacy of the Holocaust on her own identity. “I have never known what to do with this history,” writes Goldberg. “It makes a better tale than anything that has happened in my own life, and it has to some extent paralyzed me.” She and her sisters felt they “had to live up to the myth we inherited…[of] our grandparents’ martyrdom, on the one hand, and our parents’ exceptional courage, on the other.” They felt inadequate and inconsequential in comparison. Surely, Hilde Jacobsthal emerges as heroic in Goldberg’s sensitive recounting, documented by material from the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies; histories and memoirs; and probing interviews with her mother, father and uncle. Living with her parents and brother in Amsterdam, Hilde was best friends with Anne Frank’s older sister, Margot; after the war, Otto Frank became Rita Goldberg’s godfather. Hilde happened to be away from Amsterdam when the Nazis made a sweeping arrest of Jews, including her parents. The 15-year-old returned home to find the Nazi seal on her door and her parents gone. She fled to Belgium and spent the war years in hiding, fearful always of betrayal. After the war, she served tirelessly and devotedly as a nurse, child care center director, and liaison with the British Red Cross in Bergen-Belsen, the American Joint Distribution Committee, and the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Goldberg writes eloquently of the “volcanic pressures” that shaped her family’s story and continue to haunt her own.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62097-073-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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