An unflattering examination of how political positions have shaped Israeli attitudes toward the Holocaust. Segev (1949: The First Israelis, 1986) covers world events for Ha'aretz, a leading Israeli newspaper. The ``seventh million'' is Segev's metaphor for the yishuv (the Jewish population of Palestine and, later, Israel), still grappling to come to terms with the memory of the six million Jews exterminated by Hitler. In his telling—based on thousands of archival documents and numerous interviews—the Holocaust became a political football in the hands of the various factions that continue to plague Israel. Few idols are left unscathed here—not Chaim Weizmann, not Ben-Gurion, not Menachem Begin. Zionists like Ben-Gurion, Segev says, had only scorn for the ÇmigrÇs who managed to escape from Germany to Palestine before WW II, and for Jews throughout the world who opted for what the Israeli leader considered the false security of their native lands instead of flocking to Palestine to build up the Homeland. Early settlers resented the ``yekkes''—their disparaging term for German immigrants—for their individualistic, capitalistic notions, so different from the communal, socialist ideals of the Zionist pioneers. Efforts to spirit Jews out of Europe during and after the war, Segev contends, were generally guided by political considerations as each faction shamefully focused on bringing in only those individuals who might strengthen its own position. Similarly, the trials of Adolf Eichmann and John Demjanjuk have become skirmishes in factional battles to gain advantage from the Holocaust. Segev concludes with the hope that the lesson of the Holocaust will, in the end, be a humanist one—accepting the need to preserve democracy, to fight racism, to defend human rights, and to refuse to obey manifestly illegal orders. But he acknowledges that this lesson will be difficult to learn as long as Israel must fight to defend itself and to justify its very existence. A powerful and disturbing book, sure to arouse heated debate. (Photographs)

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8090-8563-1

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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

Did you like this book?