An illuminating, welcome addition to the literature of the Holocaust and its aftermath.




A painstakingly researched account of the seaborne refugee operations to deliver Jewish survivors of the Third Reich to what would become Israel.

Whitehouse, a journalist and historical adviser at Vienna-based Centropa, “an interactive database of Jewish memory,” impressively documents a moment in history when more than 1,000 Holocaust survivors gathered on a Ligurian beach and clambered aboard a rickety ship that was stuffed far beyond its capacity, sailing to the British Mandate of Palestine on a thankfully uneventful eight-day journey across the Mediterranean. The survivors braved Italian authorities, a British naval blockade, and an oddly hostile reception by those who reflexively believed that “they must have done some wrong in order to still be alive.” In order to effectively chronicle this and other tales of rescue, Whitehouse traveled to such critical sites as Berdychiv, where the Soviet journalist Vasily Grossman “was shocked to discover the major role that his former Ukrainian neighbors had played in the murder of his mother, his relatives and the thousands who lost their lives”; tourist-packed Auschwitz, where “cars and coaches fill the carparks and locals quick to make a few zlotys try to divert day-trippers from the free parking to their private paying lots”; and Dachau, “not a place that lends much help to the road-trip historian.” During her journey interviewing survivors, relatives, archivists, and historians, Whitehouse learned about stories not often recounted elsewhere, including the work of avenging former prisoners who poisoned their interned erstwhile SS guards with arsenic-laced bread; of the Jewish Brigade of the British army, “a unit of soldiers who had effectively gone AWOL” to help Holocaust survivors escape to Palestine; and of Italian partisans and ordinary townspeople in helping overcrowded refugee ships sail, a story commemorated in Leon Uris’ novel Exodus.

An illuminating, welcome addition to the literature of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78738-377-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hurst Publishers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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