Amid all the unspeakable brutality, cruelty, fear, loss and despair, hope somehow lingers until the final gunshot.

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THE CLANDESTINE HISTORY OF THE KOVNO JEWISH GHETTO POLICE

Some unknown members of the ghetto police chart both their own brief histories and the darkness of the human soul during the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Covering the period from June 1941 to the end of 1942, the text—written in Yiddish and buried in the old ghetto site—was found in 1964 by the Soviets, who sat on the material for 25 years. Carefully and unobtrusively edited by ghetto survivor Schalkowsky, the material chronicles the removal of Kovno Jews to the ghetto, the savage beatings and rapes and thefts along the way, and the grave and brave attempts of those confined to organize and to maintain some sort of humanity in the eye of the Nazi hurricane. The anonymous authors employ various narrative strategies. They present charts of the sorts of infractions they dealt with (sanitation offenses kept them busy), tell stories about the viciousness of the Lithuanian locals and the Nazi guards, narrate the horrors of not knowing what was happening, and chronicle the harsh Nazi punishments for even the most minor infractions, the mass shootings, the forced labor, the paucity of food, the insistence that Jews give up their money—even their books. The authors also tell us about their own failures—their own occasional violence against other Jews—and they also look at some of the ghetto residents who made life worse (if that’s even imaginable) for the rest. By the end, the police have organized an effort to maintain the cultural life of the community—concerts, lectures and other events. The detail is extraordinary, and while the authors occasionally assail their tormenters (in print), the tone is otherwise grimly, wrenchingly expository. An introduction by Samuel D. Kassow (History/Trinity Coll.) tells what happened, and there is no light whatsoever in that dark story.

Amid all the unspeakable brutality, cruelty, fear, loss and despair, hope somehow lingers until the final gunshot.

Pub Date: April 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-253-01283-8

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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