An intelligent and restoratively compassionate historical excavation.

The author of Hitler’s Furies returns with an account of how a disturbing Holocaust photograph turned into a humanitarian research project.

In 2009, Lower, the director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College, was on a mission to find documentation that would bring Bernhard Frank, “the highest-ranking SS officer known to be alive in Germany at that time,” to justice. During her research, she came across a photo showing a group of men executing a woman and a boy “at the edge of a ravine.” That discovery became the focal point for a seven-year investigative odyssey dedicated to tracking down and identifying the shooters as well as the photographer and, more importantly, the victims. Lower traveled to the scene of the crime, a forest on the outskirts of a Ukrainian town called Miropol. Research in Germany led her to ascertain that the victims “were the remnant of a [Jewish] community being destroyed after the first wave of [Nazi] killings in the summer of 1941.” Based on “hundreds of testimonies of Germans, Slovakians, and Ukrainians [who] passed through or resided in Miropol, and of the one Jewish survivor,” writes the author, “I was able to reconstruct events just before, during, and after the photograph was taken.” She later discovered that the photographer was a member of the Slovakian resistance and that the perpetrators were Ukrainian policemen who collaborated with the Nazis and met harsh fates. The author’s expansive research in Soviet archives and Jewish genealogical databases led her to identify and interview possible family members who had managed to escape the Holocaust. The profundity of Lower’s commitment to justice is both admirable and evident. Meticulously researched and thoughtfully written, her book is a testimonial to the power of countering ignorance with education and the importance of restoring the dignity of personhood to those erased by genocide.

An intelligent and restoratively compassionate historical excavation.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-544-82869-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


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


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005