AGAINST ALL ODDS by William B. Helmreich


Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They Made in America
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 The first book-length study to document and analyze the ordeals and successes of immigrant Holocaust survivors. After an animated dose of terminally neurotic survivors in Art Spiegelman's Maus, it's refreshing to encounter survivors like Congressman Tom Lantos of California. Helmreich (Sociology and Judaic Studies/CCNY; The Things They Say Behind Your Back, 1982, etc.) interviews scores of businessmen, housewives, civic leaders, and even a brigadier general to dash the stereotypical notion of broken people haunted by their nightmarish past. The survivors who emerge in this wide-ranging social, economic, political, and psychological study are far from a ``normal'' group, however. They are clannish and insular, feeling close only to other former denizens of ``Planet Auschwitz.'' They like to see large Jewish gatherings because only then do they ``know that Hitler did not win.'' The research points to variety, with some extremism, in their political and economic expressions. Many survivors also share an obsessive interest in their children's education and in Israel's well-being. While a minority have turned their backs on a God that had ``forsaken them,'' a surprisingly large percentage of those interviewed can ``see the hand of God'' in the events of the Forties. Helmreich is at his best with journalistic quotes and anecdotes from survivors struggling to make it in America, while his extensive sociological notes will be a boon to further research. A highly readable study that probes the unprecedented scarring and healing of some of this century's most remarkable victims.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-66956-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1992


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