A vivid, potent, decidedly idiosyncratic addition to the literature of genocide.



Gonzo meets the Shoah in this wildly irreverent—and brilliant—tour of Holocaust tourism.

Convinced that the history of mass murder and total war is being reborn in the age of Trump and his “whole destroying-democracy and damning-future-generations thing,” Stahl, best known for his drug-soaked memoir, Permanent Midnight, traveled to Poland and Germany. “I needed to go to Naziland,” he explains. What he found, apart from the expected horrors, was a simple assault on good taste—e.g., a cafeteria in Auschwitz where tourists suck down kielbasa, dressed in the usual shorts-and–T-shirts uniform that marks them as rubes for all to see. The ghost of Hunter S. Thompson (who’s invoked here) hovers in the wings, but Stahl is sui generis, with a refreshingly self-deprecatory edge (“Don’t be an asshole,” he tells himself) and a delightfully sharp tongue: “Hard not to imagine Steve ‘I Financed Seinfeld’ Mnuchin on Meet the Press: ‘Say what you will about the Third Reich, they were big on infrastructure!’ ” Stahl knows his Holocaust history, sometimes more than his guide (who muttered loud enough for him to hear, “I hope you’re not going to be my Jewish problem”), but he was also prepared to be surprised. When confronted with the enormity of Nazi crimes against humanity, he writes, “contemplation turns to paralysis, and you end up going nowhere, gripped by the moral equivalent of couch lock.” The author doesn’t hesitate to make pointed comparisons between Nazis and the members of the mob who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, “Trump’s fecal lynch mob [who] bore chuckly logos like Camp Auschwitz.” Stahl’s takeaway is worth pondering: The Holocaust was no exception in history; instead, “It is the time between holocausts that is the exception. So savor these moments. Be grateful. Even if the ax is falling.”

A vivid, potent, decidedly idiosyncratic addition to the literature of genocide.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63614-025-4

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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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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