Horrifying yet mesmerizing: the authors never overplay a potentially melodramatic hand, and no reader will fail to admire...




The true story of seven dwarves, a family of performers who survived the Holocaust.

The Ovitzes were one of only two families whose members all returned from Auschwitz, and to call that remarkable hardly does justice to their saga, related by Israeli journalists Koren and Negev in a number of different tones. It starts with the musicality of a fairy tale, recounting the life of Shimshon Eizik Ovitz, a dwarf born in 1868 to Jewish parents in Transylvania. Shimshon became a Badchan: “a merrymaker, a colorful, virtually indispensable figure at wedding festivals,” the authors explain, purveyor of “drollery, riddles, and anecdotes.” Of his ten children from two wives, seven were dwarves. Nine of them joined together in a vaudeville act called the Lilliput Troupe, expanding on their father’s repertoire to include love songs and local hits, broad jokes and comic scenes. In 1944 the family was shipped to Auschwitz. The narrative’s tone takes an emotional nosedive as the authors chronicle month by month the Ovitzes’ experiences in the camp, where they were taken under Dr. Josef Mengele’s protective wing (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one). Mengele considered the Ovitzes a eugenic gold mine: “Their desirability lay in their number and in their anomaly as an entire family.” They were abused and degraded, but they were also housed in one of the “family camps,” showcases for the Red Cross. They surrendered buckets of blood to Mengele, but each and every one survived, and here the story takes a more upbeat tone. After returning to an unfriendly Hungary, the Ovitzes traveled together, ultimately to Israel, where they resumed their careers and made a success despite the Yiddish character of their act “in a land where Yiddish was frowned upon, where the old culture was scorned and the folk traditions banished.” They were survivors all over again.

Horrifying yet mesmerizing: the authors never overplay a potentially melodramatic hand, and no reader will fail to admire the Ovitzes. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1365-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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