A revelatory look at the “gangplank for the Holocaust.”



A powerful and disturbing portrait of a devastating chapter in the history of Nazi terror.

In the fall of 1939, Hitler began a program to cleanse Germany of those he deemed “unworthy of life”—particularly individuals diagnosed with mental illness, epilepsy, “feeblemindedness,” or alcoholism or engaging in criminal or anti-social behavior, however minor. Although an extensive sterilization project already addressed the problem of procreation, Hitler preferred killing, thereby saving the nation the cost of supporting “useless” individuals. Identified by eugenicist physicians and psychiatrists, the individuals were sent to a country mansion to be gassed with carbon monoxide. The euthanasia program had begun earlier with the killing of children identified by midwives as suffering from “certain conditions, including ‘idiocy and mongolism’ (especially cases involving blindness and deafness); microencephaly; severe or progressive hydrocephalus”; or physical “malformations of any kind”; some were condemned because their parents were Jewish. About 6,000 babies were murdered, either by injection or, often, starvation. As journalist and arts editor English reveals in an absorbing contribution to the horrific history of Nazi Germany, the program that began in 1939 was complicated by Hitler’s fraught connection to art. Rejected for admission to Vienna’s stodgy Academy of Fine Arts in 1907, Hitler portrayed himself as an artist for the rest of his life, and he saw art as a potent cultural force. Not surprisingly, he vilified modernist artists—such as Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Egon Schiele—who exalted the irrational, primitive, and mad. As a prominent theme in modernist art, insanity found a champion in the psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn, a leading intellectual in the 1920s who saw striking works among his own mental patients. Collecting samples from asylums, he published Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a volume celebrated by modernists. Many of the artists Prinzhorn discovered—men Hitler damned as “degenerates and lunatics”—became victims in the euthanasia program, which the author trenchantly brings to life.

A revelatory look at the “gangplank for the Holocaust.”

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51205-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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 cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.


Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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