A monumental recreation of a lost world. Eliach (Judaic Studies/Brooklyn College) is best known for the 1,500 photographs that make up the “Tower of Life” she created for permanent display at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Nearly 20 years ago, she experienced an epiphany while flying over Vilna during her tour of the “Holocaust Kingdom” of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Warsaw. Somewhere below her were the remains of the Polish shtetl where she began her life, one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe. That sudden realization led to a vow to reconstruct—as far as possible—the life of that unique yet representative place. Eliach calls Eishyshok a “paradigm” of the European shtetl. Seventeen years later, the final product of that vow is an exhaustively—yet lovingly—detailed chronicle of Eishyshok, that “small town with big-city aspirations.” Failing to find the proper documentation and records in official archives, she turned to oral history, private collections, family, and friends. The result is a painfully personal microhistory. This is a monument to a living, thriving community, not a memorial to death and destruction. Accordingly, humanity’s foibles and fantasies are recorded with equal vigor. The people of Eishyshok “were complicated, contradictory, multifaceted, and fascinating, true representatives of the family of man in all its complexity.” Founded in the middle of the 11th century, the town soon had a significant Jewish population. Under the successive domination of Lithuanians, Poles, Germans, Russians, and Soviets, it managed to survive even the Second World War; its Jews did not. Giving voice to those who suffered unspeakable loss, this unique document contains a glossary, demographics (birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates), and 430 b&w illustrations. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1998

ISBN: 0-316-23252-1

Page Count: 832

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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