Mazzeo chronicles a ray of hope in desperate times in this compelling biography of a brave woman who refused to give up.

The remarkable history of the “female Schindler.”

The story of Irena Sendler (1910-2008), who saved more than 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis, was buried for decades by the communist administration of Poland. It finally came to light in the 1990s, and Mazzeo (The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, 2014, etc.) has combed archives and interviewed the few survivors to tell the tale. Like so many who tried to save Jews from the Nazis, Irena would only say she could have done more. When she was 7, her father, a doctor, died working in the typhoid epidemic of 1916-1917, and her mother struggled to educate her. At the University of Warsaw, she rekindled her friendship with Adam Celnikier. He was a radical Jewish lawyer and the love of her life even though both were married. She supported and protected him in hiding throughout the war. In the community internship program at the Polish Free University, Irena met Dr. Helena Radlinska, the driving force behind the resistance of Warsaw. When the Nazis invaded in 1939, resistance quickly built up, led by older men, the Jewish community, and women. That resistance is a large part of the reason Poland was subject to such brutal repression. As a social worker, Irena and her colleagues were able to manipulate paperwork to create new identities. They were also granted passes to enter and leave the Warsaw ghetto, allowing them to smuggle in medicine and false papers and eventually help set up their network to free the children. Sometimes on their own or led by local teens, the children escaped through the filth of the sewers. Irena and her small band found safe houses and orphanages where the children could ride out the war. Her careful records were written on cigarette papers so children could be reunited with surviving family after the war.

Mazzeo chronicles a ray of hope in desperate times in this compelling biography of a brave woman who refused to give up.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7850-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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