An engagingly written, if often speculative and flawed, biography of the Polish-German-Jewish youth Herschel Grynszpan, whose November 7, 1938, assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris served as the Nazis' pretext for Kristallnacht. Marino, a young British critic and screenwriter, has engaged in no original research, but relied almost exclusively on two previous biographies of his subject. Grynszpan apparently was motivated by short-term rage; his parents were among the 12,000 Polish Jews residing in Germany whom the Nazis ``dumped'' back in their native land in October 1938, and who suffered in a border ``no man's land'' when the Poles refused to accept them. In the hyperventilated and sometimes hagiographic prose that too often characterizes this book, Marino tries to transform the 17-year-old Herschel's deed into something far larger; he makes the utterly unsubstantiated and ludicrous claim that Grynszpan somehow intuited the Holocaust: ``Herschel saw into Hitler's black heart and knew what the dictator was planning.'' Marino does provide some interesting circumstantial evidence that vom Rath may actually have been cooperating with the French intelligence service, but he is unable to document anything conclusively. The second half of his book is the more interesting, for here the author looks at the strange series of bureaucratic accidents and foul-ups, historical contingencies and wild charges (such as that vom Rath had sexually exploited him) that caused the Germans never to try Grynszpan. In fact, his ultimate fate is unknown; the Gestapo may have murdered Grynszpan in 1942, after he spent time in the VIP section of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, or in 1945, a few months before the war ended. Rumors have even circulated that he survived under an assumed identity. Marino muses at length on this and a great deal more. Thus, what emerges is a padded, somewhat superficial biography that, from its subtitle on, makes highly inflated claims about its subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-571-19921-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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