WALKING WITH THE DAMNED

THE SHOCKING MURDER OF THE MAN WHO FREED 30,000 PRISONERS FROM THE NAZIS

Tedious account of riveting events surrounding Count Folke Bernadotte's release of prisoners from German concentration camps and his subsequent assassination, by Schwarz (co-author, The Peter Lawford Story, 1988, etc.). This is a story of unlikely allies—the idealistic Boy Scout leader Count Folke Bernadotte and the sinister SS leader Heinrich Himmler—who join in an even more unlikely enterprise: the freeing of Jews from concentration camps during the final months of WW II. The problem here is that Schwarz isn't very good on people: he utterly destroys Bernadotte (even for his own uses) by failing to plant any seeds of greatness, or even growth: ``Bernadotte's even being a gofer seemed to tax Bernadotte's abilities''; he was ``a self-centered playboy''; his sister ``knew her brother was immature, a spoiled rich boy with limited intelligence.'' Bernadotte, says Schwarz, ``seemed to envision the SS a little like summer sleep-away camp counsellors gathering the children together for parents' day.'' But somehow this incompetent cut a deal with the Nazis, and Schwarz gives no clear sense of how the miracle occurred. Jumping hither and thither in a kind of quasi-epic style, Schwarz obscures his story with a good deal of retold, peripheral material on the Goebbels family, and on events like the assassination of Heydrich and the subsequent razing of Lidice. Nor is Bernadotte's ``maturing process'' very clear; it's been rendered virtually impossible by the early description. The fascinating Yitzhak Shamir, dominant presence in the Stern Gang (generally assumed to have assassinated Bernadotte), never really comes into focus either, but his motives do: Bernadotte, proceeding on the Wilsonian notion of self-determination, proposed an Arab state that would allow Jews ``special rights.'' Like Wilson, he irritated everyone, especially the Stern Gang. A huge drama full of players on the grand scale, none of whom comes alive within the confines of this treatment.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55778-315-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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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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