A small but potent piece of work, up there with recent, influential banality-of-evil scholarship, such as Daniel Goldhagen’s...



Fragmentary portraits of quotidian life—at least life of a kind, as lived by less-than-ordinary people.

Lampert, an American writer resident in Berlin, works the margins of history, probing the fates of eight Nazi-era Germans who ended up on both sides of the barbed wire. The young woman called Mirjam P., for instance, tries in Lampert’s account to make a home in Palestine, does some modest swindling in Zurich, and ends up in a German mental hospital, where she meets her end through newly promulgated Nazi provisions for what was called “mercy killing of incurably ill patients.” More fully developed is a case study devoted to an endlessly complex author and political operative named Wilhelm K., who, even as a high official in the Nazi-occupied Russian province of White Ruthenia, can never quite figure out what he really believes in; he orders some Jews killed but many others saved to work in his palatial headquarters, and he professes to be bothered when his fellow Nazis kill them in an apparent effort to irritate him. Grandly, Wilhelm K. proposes that the bombed-flat city of Minsk be renamed Asgard: “It is of Gothic origin and has yet to be used as a city name.” Alas for Wilhelm, he is blown apart by a partisan grenade, and perhaps fortuitously: “Himmler is reported to have said that K.’s death was a blessing for Germany, since otherwise he would have had to put him in a concentration camp.” Fascinating, too, are Lampert’s other tales: of an elderly man in just such a camp, put there for having written anti-Hitler graffiti in a toilet stall; of a Jewish veteran of WWI made to organize a police unit at Theresienstadt, for which “war crimes” he is arrested after the Allied victory but then released, “shortly after several former members of the Ghetto Guard have been interrogated by authorities and described L. as a strict but just superior”; and of a vicious murderer who is only following orders.

A small but potent piece of work, up there with recent, influential banality-of-evil scholarship, such as Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996).

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-100716-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet