A rare book that ably combines historical edification with a moving narrative.

LAST TRAIN TO AUSCHWITZ

THE FRENCH NATIONAL RAILWAYS AND THE JOURNEY TO ACCOUNTABILITY

A historical account of how the French national railway company collaborated with the Nazis and of its contentious journey toward atonement.

During the German occupation of France during World War II, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, a state-owned railway firm, helped transport around 76,000 Jewish deportees to death camps. In the wake of France’s liberation, however, the beleaguered citizenry seemed to have little appetite for prosecuting its people’s war-related crimes; as author Federman, an assistant professor of negotiation and conflict management at the University of Baltimore, memorably puts it: “France emerged from World War II like most of Europe—too cold, hungry, and perhaps too disoriented to do much justice seeking.” During the occupation, she points out, the SNCF played a series of contradictory roles, variously assuming the mantle of a victim when the French government signed it over to the Germans; a hero of the Resistance, when some of its workers fought back; and a perpetrator of treason when it aided Nazi crimes. Later, when its collaboration became a topic of angry debate, the company retreated into legal technicalities and strenuously avoided acknowledging its moral transgressions or making any restitution. Partly because of protests in the United States, a 2014 settlement of $60 million was finally reached, including a considerable donation to Holocaust education and commemoration. The author furnishes a remarkably thorough account of the issues—historical, legal, and moral—as well as a rigorously lucid exposition of the “discursive landscape” surrounding them. Also, Federman astutely examines the debate as an illustrative microcosm of corporate responsibility at large, calling it “a rare example of what accountability looks like when a company…participates in a variety of transitional justice practices: commemoration, education, apology, and transparency.” The author’s analysis admirably combines scholarly scrupulousness with moral insight as she documents the personal stories of some who survived the Holocaust and others who did not.

A rare book that ably combines historical edification with a moving narrative.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-29-933170-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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