Of the utmost importance. A trove for future historians and ethnographers seeking to explain the mechanics of genocide, and...

MACHETE SEASON

THE KILLERS IN RWANDA SPEAK

Frontline reportage from one of the world’s more recent genocides, as narrated by the foot soldiers who perpetrated it.

In the space of three months in 1994, some 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were killed by compatriots from the Hutu tribe. The Nazis, observes Libération reporter Hatzfeld, were never so efficient, “never attained so murderous a performance level anywhere in Germany or its fifteen occupied countries.” The agents of that efficient death-dealing were ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, and they threw themselves into their work, driven by several motives. Not least of the reasons, several of the now-imprisoned killers relate through the interviews collected here, is the simple fact that killing is easier than farming, more rewarding, with no discipline required; as one killer says, “Rule number one was to kill. There was no rule number two. It was an organization without complications.” Other of the perpetrators were driven by longstanding ethnic jealousy of the Tutsi, praised by early European ethnologists for their aristocratic features; one Rwandan remarks, for example, that considering parallels with the Shoah, “The Tutsis are not a people punished for the death of Jesus Christ. The Tutsis are simply a people come to misfortune on the hills because of their noble bearing.” Yet others were motivated by talk radio, which assured them that the Tutsis were cockroaches and snakes; remarks a killer, “The evil-mindedness of the radios was too well calculated for us to oppose it.” Most of the men relate that, whatever drove them, they felt very little guilt, very little of any emotion, as they were butchering Tutsis of whatever age or gender; only one or two admit to guilty memories or dreams after the fact, which prompts Hatzfeld to wonder whether it could be that “of all categories of war criminal, the perpetrator of genocide winds up the least traumatized.”

Of the utmost importance. A trove for future historians and ethnographers seeking to explain the mechanics of genocide, and eye-opening, sobering reading for the rest of us.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-28082-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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