Vienna remains provincial and unimportant, Weyr writes, and “the city’s culture in the twenty-first century is all in the...

THE SETTING OF THE PEARL

VIENNA UNDER HITLER

In 1938, that year of Anschluss, Adolf Hitler promised that he would “give a proper setting” to the pearl that was Vienna. He remade the city indeed, writes Vienna native and now American journalist Weyr, but with far from lustrous results.

Vienna, Hitler and company knew, was a great Jewish center: Before the Annexation, Adolf Eichmann’s euphemistically named Central Office for Jewish Emigration estimated that “175,000 religious Jews had lived in ‘totally Jew-infested’ Vienna and at least another 120,000 ‘Nuremberg’ Jews—agnostics, atheists, or Christians but who could not muster the requisite number of Aryan grandparents.” One of the earliest acts of the new regime after Nazi Germany annexed Austria was to remove Jews from the city’s newspapers and other media so as to “get the Nazi message out to the world from day one.” Jews in other walks of life quickly followed. The Nazis, Weyr (Hispanic U.S.A., 1988, etc.) writes, also introduced sweeping changes to remake other aspects of Viennese life; for instance, the government decertified Catholic schools, cut support to churches, required religious teaching to be done in accordance with National Socialist dogma and exerted pressure on Catholics—who had tended toward the right wing, but a decidedly Austrian one—to leave the church. The anti-Catholic campaign was far less successful than the anti-Jewish one, Weyr documents, but it had far-reaching consequences. So, too, did Hitler’s determination that Vienna take second place to Berlin, which had been something of a backwater by comparison; with the removal of Jews from its cultural life, and thus the destruction of so much of its culture, Vienna became ever more provincial. Weyr cites his journalist father’s return to the city after the war, “appalled by what he found”: Though the non-Jewish people had the same names, they now looked “Alpine-Nordic” and “spoke a foreign language from which the magic of the Viennese dialect had totally disappeared.”

Vienna remains provincial and unimportant, Weyr writes, and “the city’s culture in the twenty-first century is all in the past,” another victim of a tragic time. A solid, well-written history of a city undone.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-19-514679-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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