EUROPA, EUROPA

A standout wartime memoir, and the inspiration of the Golden Globewinning film of the same title. Perel, now an Israeli businessman, survived the Holocaust in a most improbable way. Facility with German and Russian allowed the teenage Solly, separated from his family, to be given shelter first at a Soviet orphanage and later, incredibly, in Germany's premier Hitler Youth institution. On the perilous way from one ideological extreme to another, Perel was rounded up by attacking Wehrmacht troops, passed himself off as an ethnic German, and was adopted as the mascot of a mechanized unit. The exquisite psychological drama of being a Jew in Nazi clothing intensifies when he is shipped back to Germany. The lonely boy, who took the name Jupp, found himself bonding with Nazi friends and learning—even teaching—loathsome Nazi propaganda about Jews. He was shaken from any confidence in his lucky angel whenever his circumcision or absent birth records came to the fore. But he risked all to visit the Lodz ghetto to search for his parents during his Christmas vacation. In a suicidal break from his usual self-control, he unburdened himself of his terrible secret to a couple of Germans. His parents died in a concentration camp, but with the help of two surviving brothers, Perel finally got to establish his true identity in the newborn state of Israel. As narrator, Perel constantly points out poignant ironies and flashes forward to postwar visits with the principal characters. We get to see many Nazis and Jews react after the war with disbelief when they discover that Solly/Jupp was, indeed, Jewish. An epilogue touches on Perel's cathartic, present-day encounters with Jews and Nazis (he now lectures about fascism), but the weight of this memorable psychological thriller lies in the interior drama. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 27, 1997

ISBN: 0-471-17218-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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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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