What more can be said about the Holocaust? Much, but it is not said here, though Benz is one of Germany’s leading Holocaust scholars. Instead, this is a simple, straightforward account, chronologically told, of the central event of this fast-closing century. Touted somewhat alarmingly by its publisher as Holocaust history from the “German perspective,” this is by no means an apologist work. Benz (Antisemitism Research/Technical University of Berlin; The Jews of Germany, 1933—1945, not reviewed) clearly recognizes that the Holocaust was an event of a monstrosity unimaginable to most—though unfortunately not to the Nazis. He opens with the infamous Wannsee conference of January 20, 1942, correcting the common misapprehension that it was here the Nazis decided upon the Final Solution, which in fact had already been “settled.” Benz also elliptically alludes to the mass collusion of ordinary Germans, reminding us that people all over Germany could hear Thomas Mann’s radio broadcasts from London, which informed Germans what the Wehrmacht and Nazis were doing in occupied Europe. From the Wannsee Conference, the author retreats into the immediate past to examine Nazi policy toward the Jews and the increasingly difficult and dangerous conditions under which German Jews lived. He delineates the rapid and, in hindsight, inevitable progression from stripping Jews of their civil rights to sending them to the gas chambers. Benz also provides excellent coverage of the ghettos in occupied eastern Europe, the massacres carried out by the Einsatzgruppen on the eastern front, and the near-genocide of the Sinti and Roma people. He raises but does not address the “intentionalist” vs. “functionalist” debate (intentionalists believe Hitler always intended to exterminate the Jews, while functionalists believe the Holocaust was an exigency created by the chaos of war) and makes no mention of the euthanasia program that both chronologically and psychologically preceded genocide. Cursory, but competent.

Pub Date: April 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-231-11214-9

Page Count: 186

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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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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