An idiosyncratic work striving for sense and meaning from a family record of enormous loss and obfuscation.




A personal attempt to tackle emotionally the Nazi roundup of a 3-year-old relative to the concentration camps.

An American Jew whose family escaped the Nazi death machine when another branch of the family did not, Ripp (Pizza in Pushkin Square: What Russians Think About Americans and the American Way of Life, 1990, etc.) resolved to visit European Holocaust memorials in order to garner a visceral sense of what they expressed—and what they were unable to express. The death of his young cousin Alexandre Ripp, in Auschwitz in 1942, followed his “arrest” with his grandmother in Paris in July 1942 (“arrested suggests more force than needed to take a three-year-old into custody”). This served as a poignant reminder that the branch of the family in Berlin with money, the Kahans, was able to emigrate before the Nazis got them, while the working-class Ripps, namely Alexandre’s father, Aron, born in Grodno, Poland, and relocated to Paris, were relegated to hiding and eventual execution. The author visited many Holocaust memorials in Europe—35, he claims—many off the beaten path in Poland and Austria, and he is not easily impressed by the good intentions of famous artists. Above all, the author craved a “personal connection” to the memorials, a sense of being moved intimately and outside the institutional setting. “You have to find your proper place in the particular stretch of history that the memorial invokes,” writes Ripp. “Tenuously connected or deeply involved, it doesn’t matter which, as long as you are honest.” His father had come from Grodno, and his memories of the Poles were not generous; the author often scrutinizes and suspects his handlers and translators along the route for being emotionally expedient. Overall, his memoir is prickly and selective, occasionally haphazard, yet he maintains an emotional honestly above all.

An idiosyncratic work striving for sense and meaning from a family record of enormous loss and obfuscation.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-86547-833-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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

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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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