A rare book that ably combines historical edification with a moving narrative.

LAST TRAIN TO AUSCHWITZ

THE FRENCH NATIONAL RAILWAYS AND THE JOURNEY TO ACCOUNTABILITY

A historical account of how the French national railway company collaborated with the Nazis and of its contentious journey toward atonement.

During the German occupation of France during World War II, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français, a state-owned railway firm, helped transport around 76,000 Jewish deportees to death camps. In the wake of France’s liberation, however, the beleaguered citizenry seemed to have little appetite for prosecuting its people’s war-related crimes; as author Federman, an assistant professor of negotiation and conflict management at the University of Baltimore, memorably puts it: “France emerged from World War II like most of Europe—too cold, hungry, and perhaps too disoriented to do much justice seeking.” During the occupation, she points out, the SNCF played a series of contradictory roles, variously assuming the mantle of a victim when the French government signed it over to the Germans; a hero of the Resistance, when some of its workers fought back; and a perpetrator of treason when it aided Nazi crimes. Later, when its collaboration became a topic of angry debate, the company retreated into legal technicalities and strenuously avoided acknowledging its moral transgressions or making any restitution. Partly because of protests in the United States, a 2014 settlement of $60 million was finally reached, including a considerable donation to Holocaust education and commemoration. The author furnishes a remarkably thorough account of the issues—historical, legal, and moral—as well as a rigorously lucid exposition of the “discursive landscape” surrounding them. Also, Federman astutely examines the debate as an illustrative microcosm of corporate responsibility at large, calling it “a rare example of what accountability looks like when a company…participates in a variety of transitional justice practices: commemoration, education, apology, and transparency.” The author’s analysis admirably combines scholarly scrupulousness with moral insight as she documents the personal stories of some who survived the Holocaust and others who did not.

A rare book that ably combines historical edification with a moving narrative.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-29-933170-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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