A timely, urgent call to revisit the past with an eye to correction and remedy.

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LEARNING FROM THE GERMANS

RACE AND THE MEMORY OF EVIL

A pointed demonstration of how Germany offers lessons for attending to polarizing issues of the past and present.

“It cannot be too much to expect the U.S. Congress to do in the twenty-first century what the German parliament did in 1952,” writes Einstein Forum director Neiman (Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age, 2015, etc.), in favor of legislation that would create a commission to investigate the possibility of reparations for the pains suffered by African Americans under slavery and by other populations, such as Native Americans in the way of so-called Manifest Destiny. In recognizing the necessity of making real amends for the crimes of the Third Reich, Germany has paid just such reparations in many ways—even though, as the author notes, most Germans opposed such payments in the years immediately following World War II, just as it seems that most white Americans oppose reparations today. The issues extend: Germany bans expressions in support of Nazism even though extreme right-wingers have been recently emboldened by the widespread controversy over immigration, another topic familiar to Americans today. Even with such outbursts, Germany holds a lead over the U.S. in dealing with errors of the past. Where the wartime generation tried to brush aside the legacy of Nazism, the present one exemplifies “how far Germany has come in taking responsibility for its criminal history.” While direct equations between, say, the American secessionists and the Nazis are problematic, there are plenty of points in common. Interestingly, it took the unification of Germany to arrive at full acknowledgment of past wrongs: The East took one view, the West another, each accusing the other of complicity. Today, Neiman writes, quoting a German scholar, “Germany is one of the safest countries for Jews in the world." Neiman’s account is long and at times plodding, but her examination of how that situation came about serves as an important lesson for those who seek to face up to the past wrongs in this country.

A timely, urgent call to revisit the past with an eye to correction and remedy.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-18446-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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