Tag Archives: Claudia Moscovici

The Jewish National Fund: Growing Zionism

The Jewish National Fund: Growing Zionism

by Claudia Moscovici

The Holocaust underscored for the Jewish people the necessity—and, many would argue, the historic right–of having their own nation. Deprived of full citizenship rights in many European countries and entirely stripped of human rights once the Nazis came to power, the Jews became ostracized and persecuted throughout Europe. They were branded as outsiders and eventually stomped out like “vermin” by the Nazis, even in countries they had inhabited for centuries. In a prophetic statement issued in 1898, Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, warned in his groundbreaking book, Der Judenstaat, that the Jews would continue to be persecuted and treated as second class citizens unless they reestablish their own nation:

“The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilized countries—see for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level” (Der Judenstaat, cited by C.D. Smith, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 2001, 4th ed., p. 53).

The author was only referring to the Dreyfus Affair here, a political scandal that erupted in France in 1894, when a Jewish French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was falsely accused of being a German spy. Though innocent, Dreyfus was exonerated only in 1906. Even Herzl, attuned as he was to anti-Semitism, could not have foreseen the extent of the human catastrophe of the Holocaust. But he did perceive the necessity of reestablishing a Jewish state for the Jewish people. In fact, Herzl’s book concludes with a hopeful message, that was eventually realized in 1948, but only after the Jews were nearly wiped off the face of the Earth:

“The Jews who wish for a State will have it. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity” (The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Jewish State, by Theodor Herzlgutenberg.org. 2 May 2008).

Realizing Herzl’s optimistic message, Israel has become a democratic leader in the world and America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. Though a sliver of a country, it is also a leader in innovation, rivaling that of Silicon Valley. Given its achievements, it is easy to forget that Israel has a population of a little over 9 million people, only one million more than New York City, and a large area of desert and semidesert climate (60 % in Southern Negev and Arava), with precipitation only 50 days out of the year. These geographic conditions make agriculture, access to water, and planting vegetation in general extremely challenging in Israel.

Despite these challenges—or rather, perhaps because of them–for well over a hundred years, the Jewish National Fund has combined the twin goals of planting and Zionism. Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund has repurchased and developed land for the Jewish people everywhere in the country that would become Israel. Its founder, Isaac Leib of Vilnius, purchased .20 km in 1903, a first parcel of land that became an olive grove. The JNF currently owns about 13 percent of land in Israel. Its mission is to grow green space even in areas, like Negev, which are inhospitable to plants and trees. The JNF has facilitated the planting of about 260 million trees (mostly pine and some olive trees), developed 1000 km of land, and created over 1000 parks in Israel. The organization is also committed to innovation, building 200 water reservoirs around Israel that provide 13% of water availability.

Russell Robinson, the CEO of the Jewish National Fund since 1997, has focused on the mission of developing solutions for Israel’s water crisis and on the sustainable development of the Negev and the Galilee. He has also been a leader in promoting Jewish education and pro-Jewish views around the world. As he stated in a recent interview with Fern Sidman in The Jewish Voice, “Jewish National Fund trains and supports pro-Israel college students from across America to promote Israel as a country striving to make the world a better place through the pro-Israel programing.” (https://thejewishvoice.com/2018/05/not-parents-jnf-anymore-russell-robinson-ceo-jewish-national-fund-tells-part-2/)

The Jewish National Fund also reaches out to non-Jewish students and teachers, running a 12 day trip for 80 students and 60 professors from U.S. campuses a year, who take this opportunity to travel and learn about Israel. Equally importantly, as Robinson signals in the same interview, the organization has undertaken a global mission of “teaching agricultural knowledge and skills to students from developing countries and building reservoirs for recycled water.” This is a mission that even Wonder Woman–the famous Israeli actress Gal Gadot–has gotten behind, as she expressed support for the Jewish National Fund’s way of growing Zionism, both in Israel and abroad.

 

 

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Review of Nancy K. Miller’s My Brilliant Friends

Nancy K. Miller’s My Brilliant Friends: An homage to friendship among women and to writing

By Claudia Moscovici

 

It is unspeakably sad to lose one’s best friends. Even more so, perhaps, when the bonds of friendship are interwoven with professional mentorship and mutual support, a deep emotional interdependency, and a time-tested solidarity as women and as feminists in male-dominated institutions. Within the span of a few years, feminist literary critic Nancy K. Miller lost three of her best friends, all of them close professional colleagues and confidantes: Carolyn Heilbrun, Naomi Schor, and Diane Middlebrook. As she states in the April 11, 2019 interview in Book Forum with Liz Kinnamon, she lost “Carolyn Heilbrun in 2003, Naomi Schor in 2001, Diane Middlebrook in 2007—and in a sense, I wrote the book to keep them alive. I’ve written memoirs before, but this one posed a particular literary challenge because I wasn’t sure how to write about friends, rather than parents or lovers. There were few models. It was also the case that these stories were indebted in different ways to second-wave feminism and I wanted to keep that context present”. (See https://www.bookforum.com/interviews/bookforum-talks-with-nancy-k-miller-21500)

All three of her brilliant friends were, like herself, stars in the academia and pioneers in the world of second-wave feminist theory. All of them paved the way for other women scholars in fields and departments that were (then) dominated by men. In My Brilliant Friends (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019) Miller remembers and recreates—for herself and her readers—some of the most poignant moments of these important friendships that shaped her personal life and her career. The retrospective look at the fabric of her life as interwoven with the lives of other women is as much an homage to her friends as it is an elegy to friendship itself.

Though perhaps occupying a less central space in mourning than the loss of close family members, Miller illustrates that the loss of close friends can be, in some respects, even more painful and unsettling. There is less social support for mourning one’s friends. Moreover, friends often occupy the optimal emotional distance from us, which makes sharing and helping one another possible. Sharing day in and day out one’s professional and personal challenges with close family members risks eroding those intimate bonds or, even worse, transforming them into burdensome therapy sessions. Not so with good friends, who are familiar with our lives without being so much part of them as to prevent the most intimate confidences. Which is not to say, as Miller herself observes in her narrative, that female friendships are ideal, or that they should be idealized. They too endure ups and downs, periods of tension, and even, at times, a sense of rivalry. The narrative indicates that they are best appreciated for what they are: fallible human bonds that are, nonetheless, absolutely essential to most women’s existence. Each friendship left its own unique imprint upon Nancy K. Miller’s life.

Carolyn Heilbrun tended to assume a mentor role in other female graduate students and professors’ lives, and Miller was no exception. Heilbrun was one of the first women to receive tenure in the English department at Columbia University. She is well known in the academia for her studies of modern British literature and particularly of the Bloomsbury Group as well as for starting, along with Miller, Columbia University Press’s Gender and Culture Series (in 1983). Heilbrun was also a prolific fiction writer. From the 1960’s until close to her death, she wrote a series of popular mystery novels, which were usually set in the academia, under the pseudonym Amanda Cross. Her critiques of sexism in the academia were thus powerfully voiced in several registers: in her institutional support of women faculty; in her brave critique of her own department’s double standards to women in their hiring and tenure policies during the 1970’s and 80’s; and in her support of feminism. While no doubt a brilliant scholar and writer, Miller recalls, above all, Heilbrun’s loyal friendship and hidden vulnerability. She describes little details like the manner in which Heilbrun’s usually confident voice sounded feminine and childlike when placing an order at one of her favorite restaurants; her underlying melancholia, which she rarely unburdened on others but which may have played a role in her resolute decision to end her own life on October 9, 2003, at the age of seventy-seven. While aware of Heilbrun’s long-standing desire to choose the moment of her death, Miller continues to feel ambivalent towards her friend’s decision and remains haunted by the shock of the loss.

With Naomi Schor, Miller oscillated between an almost sisterly complicity—both about the same age, both “second wave” feminist theorists, both French scholars (Miller studied the 18th century while Schor studied the 19th)—and the occasional moments of rivalry provoked by an academic institution that prizes and honors hierarchy. The background to their friendship and to their feminist scholarship is mostly hinted at in this autobiographical friendship narrative: namely, the French feminist “revolution” of May 1968. The Mouvement de libération des femmes, or Women’s Liberation Movement, started in France by Antoinette Fouque, Monique Wittig and Josiane Chanel in the late sixties. They were inspired by the Women’s Lib movement in the U.S. whose most prominent champion was Gloria Steinem, but also propelled by the particular sexism of French institutions at the time.

Until the French feminists fought patriarchy in their own country, French law deemed that the father and husband made all the legal decisions for a family. Women, like children, were considered minors under the law. They were also, de facto, barred from political power. During the Fourth Republic, only four out of the twenty-seven cabinet positions were occupied by women. As the French feminists made headway in championing women’s rights in politics and society, in the academia feminism became influenced by new currents of thought: structuralism, poststructuralism and deconstruction. French feminist scholars such as Monique Wittig, Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva adopted and adapted these theoretical methods to study what Cixous called “feminine writing” (écriture féminine) and to undermine, both textually and socially, the binary opposition between “masculine” and “feminine” which had organized the hierarchy between men and women.

Both Naomi Schor and Nancy K. Miller were very influential in disseminating French feminist scholarship in the American academia. Miller, a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, has published several books on women’s writing, biography and trauma. Her narratives interweave a careful textual analysis with personal reflections: a unique style that readers can also find in her book on friendship. Schor, the daughter of Jewish Polish-born artist parents who lived in France until their immigration to the United States after the war, would adopt not only her parents’ Francophilia, but also their underlying melancholia, which was no doubt related to the fact that they lost most of their family in the Holocaust. This sadness would sometimes tip Schor’s friendship with Miller into an asymmetrical relationship, where all too often Nancy had to do most of the listening and consoling. That played a role in their temporary fallout, one that Miller states in her book, and reiterates in her interview with Kinnamon, was unintentional. Sometimes distance—both geographical and emotional—creates a space that isn’t easily bridged. One doesn’t fully grasp the estrangement until it has already crystalized. As Miller explains in her Bookforum interview, “I didn’t try to absorb the moment as a difficulty that we might have moved through; neither of us did, and this remains to some extent a troublingly murky memory.” In early December 2001, at the age of 58, Schor suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed away. Her sudden death left no opportunity for reconciliation, only for grief and a sense of loss.

Fortuitously, life offered Miller another chance at close friendship in her rapport with Diane Middlebrook, a noted American writer and poet, known for her biographies of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Their friendship began later in life (both were in their 60’s) and deepened once Middlebrook was diagnosed with cancer only a year after they had met. Miller notes her friend’s health challenges and frailty as she has been living with cancer and enduring various treatments that took a toll on her body. She also emphasizes her resilience and continued passion for writing. During the last years of her life, Middlebrook was working on a creative biography of the Roman poet Ovid. As the poet left no journal, the biography was drawn by inference, from his poetry. Realizing that, as her cancer metastasized, she would not even get to finish the first part of this book, she asked Miller to help bring this project to fruition after she’s gone. Middlebrook succumbed to cancer in December 2007, at the age of 68. For Miller, the work sessions with her dying friend epitomized the best of both friendship and professional collaboration: a loyalty and dependability that were heightened by the sense that this book would be her friend’s legacy and, more subtly, an elegy to their friendship.

For the past several years Nancy K. Miller has herself been living with lung cancer. She states in her book that her doctor tells her cancer is treatable but not curable. None of us know how long we have left to live, but in the case of cancer survivors, each day entails a negotiation with the illness and a small victory. My Brilliant Friends is, in many ways, a survivor’s story. Her daily survival while living with cancer. Her survival as an intellectual and a writer, through her writing and mentoring other women. And, above all, her survival as a woman, a feminist and a friend, who offers as a gift one of her most important works: her unapologetic, unidealized yet moving homage to her brilliant friends.

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Adela Cojab Moadeb: Fighting BDS and anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses

Adela Cojab Moadeb: Fighting BDS and anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses

By Claudia Moscovici

In her article in the New York Post (December 14, 2019) about her fight against anti-Semitism on New York University’s campus, pro-Israel Jewish activist Adela Cojab Moadeb explains the difficulties she encountered due to a strong BDS movement that was gaining momentum on the NYU campus. BDS is a political campaign, popular on many college campuses, in support of the Palestinian cause. (See www.BDSmovement.net) It calls for countries around the world to disengage with trade with Israel by imposing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” upon Israel. The apparent logic behind this movement is to apply international pressure upon Israel to enter into discussions with the Palestinians and arrive at a more livable solution. The BDS movement found its inspiration in the antiapartheid movement and economic pressures applied on South Africa by the international community during the 1980s and 1990’s. The leaders of this movement claim to similarly use nonviolent means to apply pressure upon Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians, and ultimately withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza.

In reality, however, as Adela Cojab Moadeb and the Maccabee Task Force, the organization to which she belongs, point out, the BDS movement unfairly targets Israel rather than being a peace building mission in the Middle East and facilitating a more productive discussion among the Israelis and the Palestinians. (See https://www.maccabeetaskforce.org/) In her 2019 New York Post article and other interviews, Adela describes how uncomfortable she felt as a pro-Israel Jewish student on the NYU campus, due to the BDS protests that targeted Jewish students and groups on campus. Viewing these protests as creating an unwelcoming environment for pro-Israel Jewish students led Adela to sue the university for discrimination, invoking the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin on any program and activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance.

Adela, a Syrian-Lebanese Jew born in Mexico City, was raised in the U.S. in Deal, New Jersey. At New York University she studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in Diaspora Structures and Social Exclusion. But she didn’t study social exclusion only in her courses. She saw it with her own eyes and experienced it personally when she noticed that, as she puts it in the New York Post article, “diversity and inclusion applied to everyone except my community. After years of overt protests, boycotts and direct aggression toward Jewish students from NYU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the university honored the organization with the President’s Service Award for ‘outstanding contribution to NYU life.’”

Adela goes on to describe what SJP did to “earn” this honor from the university. They “organized a 53-group boycott against Realize Israel, a non-political student organization, depicting assault rifles on flyers calling for a revolt.” One of their members burned the Israeli flag and another assaulted a Jewish student at the 2018 Rave in the Park event, which celebrated Israel’s Independence Day. These activities created a hostile environment at New York University for Adela and other Jewish students. Instead of accepting this overt bias quietly, Adela decided to fight for the right of Jewish students to go to NYU and other universities without feeling discriminated against and harassed. She first tried to communicate her concerns to the NYU administration, but didn’t get far with that. As she recounts in her article, she “spoke with eight administrators from multiple NYU departments—the Office of Student Affairs; Center for Student Life; Office of Public Safety—about the rising hostility against the Jewish community on campus. My concerns were brushed off, and after the arrests, I was asked not to draw attention to this issue.”

https://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?c4837853/user-clip-donald-trump-adela-cojab-2019-iac-national-summit

Facing a dismissive attitude from the administration, Adela decided to file the Title VI lawsuit against the university as well as to attract national visibility to her cause. In December 2019 she triumphed. She stood next to President Trump on stage at the 2019 Israeli American Council (IAC) National Summit to call for—and celebrate–the protection of Jews on college campuses. In large part due to her activism, President Trump signed an Executive Order to include religion—and thus include Jewish students—under the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. In reality, Jewish students should have been covered by Title VI already at NYU and other public educational institutions. After all, Jews are not only a religion. They are also an ethnicity, a nation, a culture and even, according to some, a race. But to give President Trump credit where credit is due, this presidential decree made bias and discrimination against Jewish students, faculty and staff at public universities and colleges more difficult. For Adela and other Jewish students, it meant, in her own words, an affirmation of “the rights of Jewish students to a harassment-free environment on college campuses.” Since graduation, Adela has served as the official representative of Jewish Students at the United Nations and is Northeast Campus Coordinator for the Maccabee Task Force, an organization created in 2015 to combat the spread of anti-Semitism in American colleges and universities.

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A Literary Challenge: Balzac Versus Stendhal via Brombert

 

 

 

 

by Claudia Moscovici

The French literary critic of Romanian origin, Dan Burcea, issued a challenge on his blog, Lettres Capitales, to fellow writers around the globe: Which do we most identify with of the great nineteenth-century French writers, Balzac or Stendhal? Even though I write fiction as well as literary criticism, for me it became immediately obvious that I would have to answer this question mainly as a critic rather than as a novelist. Balzac and Stendhal are two of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth-century. They are not simply consecrated, but also canonized as essential parts of literary history: in countless countries, for centuries. The bar for receiving that kind of cultural consecration is so high, and the chances of getting it are so slim, that few contemporary writers can compare themselves to them.

 

Dan Burcea’s question, however, took me back to 1988, in a lecture hall at Pyne Hall at Princeton University, where as an undergraduate I first took Victor Brombert’s Comparative Literature course on 19th century fiction. Professor Brombert was not only a legendary scholar and an engaging teacher, but also, as I later found out, led the kind of life that rivaled that of literary heroes. It’s worth mentioning it in this context, because his life probably made possible not only his eloquence in several languages but also his cosmopolitanism and intellectual magnetism, which influenced countless students, including me, to pursue literary studies as a career.

 

Victor Brombert was born in 1923 in a Russian-Jewish family that fled to Germany to escape the Russian revolution. The Bromberts settled in Leipzig. Once the Nazis rose to power by the mid 1930’s, the Brombert family moved to Paris, where Victor attended the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly. Once Nazi Germany invaded Paris in 1940, the family was obliged to move yet again, this time settling in the United States. By then young Victor had achieved native fluency in three languages: Russian, German and French. He soon learned to speak perfect English as well and joined the military as an intelligence officer at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. He lived the kind of life that makes history, taking part in the Normandy landing in June 1944.

 

But Victor Brombert’s main affinity was not for a military career but for a rich intellectual life. He attended Yale University, where he obtained a BA degree and, later, a Ph.D. in Romance Languages. He eventually joined the Yale faculty before accepting a position at Princeton University in 1975, as Henry Putnam University Professor in Comparative Literature and Romance Languages and Literatures. He was a mesmerizing and inspiring teacher: cultured, animated, yet warm and accessible. He was also very welcoming to students, assuming a mentor role in encouraging their studies and talents.

 

Learning about French authors such as Honore de Balzac and Stendhal from Victor Brombert played a major role in why I majored in Comparative literature, with a concentration on 19th century French studies, and why I eventually pursued a Ph.D. in the field. In that large introductory seminar we studied Balzac’s Pere Goriot (1835) and Stendhal’s Le Rouge et Le Noir (1830). They were incomparable writers in so many ways. Balzac’s minutely realistic narratives of the pulsating life of French cities as well as his spot-on depictions of human types has rarely been rivaled. An obsessive, avid writer, Balzac barely had time to live, consuming enormous quantities of coffee to work all night and most of the day at breakneck speed on over 100 novels that created his huge literary canvas, La Comedie Humaine.

 

Although he wrote prolifically, Balzac was also a careful and masterful editor, changing the proofs a number of times before his novels finally went into print. He wasn’t a hermit, but he wasn’t a dandy either, devoting much more time to writing than to frequenting the French salons. Yet Balzac knew the literary masters of the day, including Theophile Gautier and Victor Hugo, and by the time he died in 1850, only five months after his wedding to his longtime friend, confidante and passion, Countess Ewalina Hanska, he was mourned by the Parisian elite and perhaps by the entire France.

 

Stendhal, or Marie-Henri Beyle, though a far less prolific writer than Balzac, rivaled his coeval in both fame and talent. Stendhal’s social portraits are filtered by a narrative voice that becomes an ironic commentary and a form of psychological introspection.  Le Rouge et le Noir (1830) captures the Napoleonic vision of masculinity, as Julien, the (anti)hero of the story, aspires to a kind of heroism that was already a thing of the past by the time Stendhal wrote this novel, yet which many older men were nostalgic about and young men still idealized. The forbidden love story between Julien and Mme de Renal reveals with sutlety and depth the internal tension of the Romantic ideal: between a deep appreciation and respect for women versus a heroic, masculine life that sacrifices everything, even love, to personal ambition.

The monumental talent and achievements of these two 19th century French authors have rarely been matched in literary history. It is nearly impossible to choose between them which one I prefer. In some ways, loving them both has influenced me to pursue a career in literary criticism. And both might have played an indirect role in me leaving that profession in 2008 to become a fiction writer.

 

I love reading historical fiction and, sometimes, writing it as well. Having been trained for so many years as a scholar, I research a given subject for several years, and often write a nonfiction book on that topic first, before trying my hand at fiction. To write my first novel Velvet Totalitarianism (2009), a love and family story about life in communist Romania and the anti-communist revolution of 1989, I did years of history research. Later, to write the novel The Seducer (2012) about a dangerous, predatory relationship I researched toxic relationships for several years and wrote the nonfiction Dangerous Liaisons first (2011). Lately, I have spent six years of research on the Holocaust to write a nonfiction book of reviews of about it, called Holocaust Memories (2019). Having become more familiar with the topic, I plan to write a novel about life during the Holocaust in the Warsaw Ghetto. My literary studies of Stendhal and Balzac, initiated by Professor Victor Brombert, one of the most inspiring teachers and scholars in the field, have influenced my taste for a realist approach to writing fiction that nonetheless retains traces of (and a nostalgia for) Romanticism.

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The Turning Point of the War: Review of 1941 by Andrew Nagorski

The Turning Point of the War: Review of 1941 by Andrew Nagorski

by Claudia Moscovici

 

We tend to think of D-Day as the turning point of WWII: the day the Allies landed in Normandy to liberate France, and the entire Europe, from the Nazi invaders. But Andrew Nagorski’s new book, 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War (New York, Simon & Schuster, 2019), persuasively argues that this crucial year was the beginning of the end for Hitler’s regime and the beginning of hope for the Allies. In fact, had Hitler not chosen to follow in Napoleon’s footsteps and replicate his mistake—that of invading Russia at the wrong time–it’s likely that the descendants of the Nazi victors would be writing a very different history today.

Nagorski points out that before he launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Hitler had Europe in the palm of his hands. He had swept through most of the Continent, while Britain found itself fighting the war almost alone. The United States, and especially President Roosevelt, was on its side. However, America hadn’t yet joined the Allied forces and the President was still struggling with isolationist tendencies in Congress. Furthermore, Germany was relatively safe from the danger of Soviet invasion thanks to the Nazi-Soviet (or Molotov-Ribbentrop) neutrality pact of 1939. Judging by Stalin’s shock and hesitation to retaliate when he first found out that Germany attacked his country, the Axis powers could have continued to trounce the Allied forces. But Hitler’s racial theories—which considered the Slavs to be an inferior people—coupled with his ideology of Lebensraum, or the conviction that the Aryan race would thrive if they vastly expanded their territory and resources by conquering the Soviet Union, led Hitler to make the same mistake in 1941 that caused Napoleon’s fall over a century earlier.

Catching the Soviet Union unprepared for war and with its army leadership decimated by Stalin’s Great Terror purges of 1936-1938, Hitler expected to conquer quickly the Soviet Union. He was especially interested in getting his hands on the natural resources of the Ukraine which is why, contrary to the wise advice of General Heinz Guderian, who counseled him to invade Moscow first, Hitler decided to make Kiev his immediate target in the early fall of 1941. This postponed the attack on Moscow to the late fall and winter (October 1941 to January 1942), with the Nazi soldiers unprepared for the extremely cold temperatures of the region and running out of supplies and energy. As Nagorski points out, both totalitarian rulers made big miscalculations during the war. But in 1941 they began to follow different paths. As Stalin started trusting and taking the advice of his key generals, particularly his ruthless and courageous Chief of Staff, Georgy Zhukov, Hitler, fueled by his previous easy victories and obsessed with directing soldiers and resources to the mass murder of the European Jews, began making big mistakes. “It was their calculations—and, more significantly, gross miscalculations—that were determining the trajectory of the war” (1941,143).

The prolonged battle of Moscow was not the only turning point in the war, however. The continuing rapprochement between Roosevelt and Churchill, the decrease in power of the main proponents of the “America First” isolationist movement (Charles Lindbergh and Joseph Kennedy, not accidentally, both Nazi sympathizers), and especially Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, all changed the fate of Europe and the direction of the war. “History is written by the victors,” Winston Churchill is often cited as saying. In the case of the Jews, and perhaps also the Slavs, it would have been not only their history, but also their very existence that would have been effaced had the Nazis won the war. Nagorski’s exceptionally well researched and magnificently written book reminds us of the pivotal importance of the year 1941. This book, along with Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968) and Alan Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (1991), should be an essential reader for anyone interested in Hitler, Stalin and WWII history.

 

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No Friends but the Mountains: Kae Bahar’s eloquent call for Kurdish nationhood

No Friends but the mountains: Documentary Filmmaker Kae Bahar’s eloquent call for Kurdish nationhood

by Claudia Moscovici

 

Documentary film director Kae Bahar’s No Friends but the Mountains is a must-see film for those interested in the issues of Kurdish Independence, the fallout from the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, and the plight of the Yazidis in the aftermath of these countries’ partial occupation by ISIS. This one and a half hour documentary, released in 2017, is available to watch internationally, including on Amazon Kindle. The film is not only educational—sometimes even overtly didactic–but also polemical, as it makes a compelling argument for Kurdish nationhood.

Right now, the Kurds are dispersed throughout several countries and regions. They comprise about 20 percent of the population in Turkey, 17 percent of Iraq, and 10 percent of Iran and Syria each. Moreover, as a result of oppression and civil war, close to 1.5 million Kurds have immigrated to Europe. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, when the latter disintegrated at the beginning of the twentieth-century, the Kurds, like the Armenians, were ethnic minorities that were perceived as a threat in Turkey. The nationalist Turkish movement “Young Turks” deported hundreds of thousands of Kurds. By the end of WWI, nearly 700,000 Kurds had been deported and more than half perished during this process of ethnic cleansing.

Not surprisingly given their history of oppression, the Kurds have been demanding their own country for decades. The Socialist organization PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has been most active in calling for national independence. While the PKK has been accused of terrorist activities, a more moderate party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP or PDK), under the leadership of President Masoud Barzani, pushes for a democratic and independent Kurdistan. Today, as the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming increasingly repressive and squelching moves for independence, the chances of Kurdish separation from Turkey look rather bleak.

The civil wars in Syria and Iraq, however, have created enough of a political vacuum for the creation of the independent region of Kurdistan. Comprising almost 20 percent of the Iraqi population, the Kurds suffered through a genocidal campaign run by Saddam Hussein, leading to mass murder, the use of poison gas on civilians, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Kurds. This genocidal policy led to the deaths of almost two hundred thousand Kurdish Iraqis. The UN condemned Hussein’s actions and established “safe havens” for Kurdish civilians in 1991 in Northern Iraq. When Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime was toppled, the Kurds celebrated the fall of the tyrant and welcomed American troops in the area. The Kurdish military forces, called the Peshmerga (literally meaning “before death” or “those who face death”), expanded their control over part of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, with a population of almost six million Kurds. Once ISIS took control over large parts of Iraq and Syria, the Peshmerga forces, remarkably comprising of both male and female soldiers, have been a crucial force in pushing back the terrorist organization and helping the resistance movements regain control of large parts of these countries. The Kurds have also been a source of aid to the Yazidis, a minority group in Iraq and Syria who have been targeted by ISIS for murder, pillage and—horrifically—the kidnapping, rape and sexual slavery of thousands of young women and girls. In fact, Bahar’s documentary features a scene where the Peshmerga help a group of Yazidis, comprised mostly of women and children, who managed to flee ISIS into the mountains populated by the Kurds. The scene is one of the most moving of the documentary: as very young children are crying from hunger and thirst, we see the Peshmerga soldiers, after doing a necessary security check, bring them life-saving vegetables, flatbread and water.

The title of this documentary says a lot. With “No friends but the mountains”, the Kurds have suffered oppression in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. Without their own nation, they are, like the Jews were for centuries, at the mercy of their host countries, where they are usually oppressed minorities. Showing the Kurds as a peaceful people who have even helped other suffering minority groups, like the Yazidis, Bahar makes a compelling humanitarian and political argument for Kurdish nationhood. This would grant the Kurds more international protection and legitimacy.

I think there’s no question that, morally, the Kurds deserve a nation of their own. The question I have after seeing this thought-provoking documentary is pragmatic: namely, is this the right time to assert the Kurds’ right to nationhood? As older nation-states in the Middle East—Iraq, Syria, and Libya—have been shaken by violent upheavals since 2011 from which they haven’t yet recovered, what would happen if Kurdistan created its own nation? Would it fall prey to the same upheavals or, as Bahar implies, would it be a stabilizing force in the area? Moreover, it seems that, in Turkey, Erdogan continues to veer towards increasingly repressive measures towards his own people and especially towards Kurdish separatist groups. No doubt, he would feel extremely threatened by the state of Kurdistan. What would happen to the Kurds in Turkey? Would they fall victim to increased oppression or even ethnic cleansing once again? It’s difficult to answer these questions in the abstract. But clearly the Kurdish people and their leaders feel that the time is ripe to seize the moment and establish the nation-state they rightfully feel they deserve. Bahar’s film suggests it is now up to the international community to give them recognition and help them fulfill their political dreams.

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A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian genocide and The Promise

Review by Claudia Moscovici, author of Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2019)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076187092X/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_3?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

As Peter Balakian points out in the Preface of his book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian genocide and America’s response (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), the Holocaust had a significant historical precedent: one which, unfortunately, is all too often ignored. The Armenian genocide, he states, “has often been referred to as ‘the forgotten genocide,’ ‘the unremembered genocide,’ ‘the hidden holocaust,’ or ‘the secret genocide’” (xvii). He adds that many historians—including Yehuda Bauer, Robert Melson, Howard M. Sachar and Samantha Power–rightfully consider the Armenian genocide as “the template for most of the genocide that followed in the twentieth century” (xviii). Over a century later, Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the systematic and premeditated mass killings of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Turks, even though this genocide, officially recognized as such by 29 countries, is very well documented: “In the past two decades, scholars have unearthed and translated a large quantity of official state records documenting the Committee of Union and Progress’s (Ottoman Turkey’s governing political party) finely organized and Implemented plan to exterminate the Armenians” (xxi). Balakian himself studied “hundreds of U.S. State Department documents (there are some four thousand documents totaling about thirty-seven thousand pages in the National Archives) written by American diplomats that report in depth the process and devastation of the Armenian Genocide. The extermination of the Armenians is also illuminated in British Foreign Office records, and in official records from the state archives of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey’s World War I allies. The foremost scholar of the Armenian Genocide, Professor Vahakn Dadrian, has made available in translation body of Turkish sources both primary and secondary” (xxi).

The genocide involved the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during WWI. The extermination started on April 24, 1915, with the deportation and execution of a few hundred Armenian intellectuals from Constantinople. It progressed to the forced conscription, imprisonment in labor camps and murder of able-bodied males. Soon thereafter, it led to the mass murder of women, the elderly and children, who were herded by Turkish military escorts for hundreds of miles across the Syrian desert, without sufficient food, water, medical care or sanitary facilities. The Turks periodically butchered entire villages and communities mercilessly driven on these death marches. Women and young girls were often subjected to rape and torture before being killed. Sometimes the victims were loaded on cattle trains for days, without any provisions, in a manner similar to the Nazi transportation of Jews to concentration camps almost three decades later.

Similarly to the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian Holocaust didn’t happen out of the blue. Like the Jews in many European countries, the Armenians were considered second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. Even during relatively Enlightened times, when the Ottoman rulers granted the Christian and Jewish minorities relative autonomy and minority rights, non-Muslims were still considered to be “gavours”: meaning “infidels” or “unbelievers”. In the Eastern provinces, Armenian villages found themselves subject to higher taxation and often invaded by their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors. Moreover, like the Jews in the Pale of Settlement region, the Armenians fell victim to periodic pogroms.

However, discrimination and subjugation don’t necessarily lead to wide-scale genocide. Consequently, just as the Jews couldn’t have anticipated the extermination of their people by the Nazis, nothing prepared the Armenian communities living under Ottoman rule for their ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Turks. In both cases, world wars were used as an excuse—and incitement–for genocide. The Ottoman Empire entered WWI on August 2, 1914, when it signed a secret treaty with Germany to fight on the side of the Axis powers. The Turkish leadership wanted the local Armenian population to act on their behalf. It called for their insurrection against the Russian Army. The Minister of War, Enver Pasha, launched an attack on the Russians. He attempted to encircle and destroy the Russian army at Sarikamish in order to reclaim Turkish territories occupied by the Russians since 1877. However, his plan failed and his troops were defeated. The Turks blamed their defeat on the local Armenian population, claiming that they were traitors who helped the Russians. Subsequently, able-bodied Armenian men living in the Ottoman Empire were discharged from active military service, disarmed, and sent to forced labor battalions, where many were executed by the Turks.

In a move that would prefigure the Jewish genocide in the Eastern Territories during WWII, on May 29, 2015, the Turkish Central Committee passed a law of deportation (the “Tehcir Law”) that gave the Ottoman Empire the right to deport anyone they considered a threat to “national security,” which, in their minds, included women and children. The mass deportation—in grueling death marches–of the elderly, women and children soon followed. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died from starvation, disease, and being butchered in mass shootings. To carry out genocide, the Turks formed a paramilitary organization that has been compared to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen. The Turkish Committee of Union and Progress founded a “Special Organization”, comprised mostly of Turkish criminals released from prisons, who were put in charge of the deportations and massacres of the Armenians. They killed countless helpless civilians, decimating their numbers through forced marches, shootings, mass burning, drowning and even poisoning. Like the Nazis, the Turks experimented with toxic gases and biological warfare (inoculating healthy Armenians with the blood of typhoid patients). After the Allies defeated the Axis powers, on November 3, 1918 Sultan Mehmet VI was ordered by the Allied administration to hold war trials for the Turkish leaders of the Armenian genocide, which included Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha and about 130 high officials of the Ottoman Empire.

The contemporary movie The Promise (2016), directed by Terry George, captures the trauma of the Armenian genocide in an epic drama reminiscent of War and Peace. The movie traces the love triangle between Mikael, an Armenian medical student who falls in love with Ana, an Armenian tutor educated in France, who is engaged to Chris, an American journalist covering the war for the Associated Press. A small town boy from a poor family, before meeting Ana, Mikael himself becomes engaged to a wealthier neighbor, whose family gives him a dowry (400 gold coins) to cover his expenses for medical school in Constantinople. At a party held by his wealthy uncle, Mikael is introduced to Ana, his nieces’ tutor, as well as Emre, the son of a Turkish official, whom he befriends. He’s smitten with Ana as soon as he meets her. The young woman captivates him with her beauty, culture and sophistication. But the beginning of WWI nips their romance in the bud. Mikael is sent to a labor camp, from which he manages to escape. In one of the most harrowing scenes of the film, Mikael rides on top of a cattle train, hoping to elude the Turkish army and make it back to his native village to help his family. Suddenly it starts to pour. He hears strange sounds emanating from the train: terrible moaning and cries. Hands emerge between the grates of the train, trying in vain to cup the drops of water. To his shock, Mikael discovers that hundreds of Armenian civilians are trapped inside, dying of thirst and hunger. Before jumping off the train, the young man manages to pry open the lock to one of the doors and save the trapped prisoners. He finally makes it to his parents’ house, where the family has an emotional reunion. However, realizing that it would be too dangerous to stay with his parents, Mikael and his fiancée get married in great haste and move to a remote area, where they live together in a rustic cabin. A few months later, his wife becomes pregnant and experiences health complications.

Meanwhile, his friends, Ana and Chris, visit Mikael’s parents trying to locate him. They are helping a group of orphans escape from the murderous Turkish troops. As Mikael joins them on the back roads to lead the orphans to a safer area, he watches helplessly as a group of Turkish soldiers carry off his own family and other inhabitants of his little village, Sirun. He runs to their aid but arrives too late: most of his family and neighbors lie murdered in a ditch. Only his young niece and his mother have (barely) survived, left for dead by the Turks. The rest of the beleaguered Armenian community decides that it’s better to fight to the death rather than be butchered like sheep by the Turks. Armed with rudimentary tools and a lot of courage, the refugees fight valiantly and manage to hold off the Turkish onslaught until a French ship, le Guichen, comes to their rescue. As Mikael takes a lifeboat of orphans to safety, Ana drowns when her boat is capsized by Turkish artillery. Despite their rivalry for her love, both Mikael and Chris mourn her death. This tragedy resolves the tension of the love triangle that had divided them.

The Promise, I believe, follows in the footsteps of War and Peace in depicting war on an epic scale through the optic of a personalized family drama and love story. It alludes to the Armenian genocide, and captures episodes of it, without becoming too didactic. While viewers seem to rate the film highly, the critical reception has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, reports that, so far, The Promise received an average rating of 5.7/10. Benjamin Lee, the film critic for The Guardian found the film “soapy” but well intentioned. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times concurred, calling it “corny” and “a derivative of better war romances”. The Nation’s film critic, Pietro A. Shakarian, rated it more highly, claiming “The Promise captures the magnitude of this history [of the Armenian genocide] that no prior film on the genocide has done before.” I agree in part with both perspectives. Like Shakarian, I find The Promise to be a moving epic drama that tackles an important and often overlooked subject. At the same time, I feel that the film sometimes privileges the love triangle at the expense of offering viewers more necessary background about the Armenian genocide. For instance, when depicting the friendship between Mikael and Emre (the son of the Turkish official, who is eventually killed because he didn’t turn against his Armenian friend), the movie may give viewers the false impression that Turks and Armenians peacefully coexisted before the beginning of the war. But, as my previous discussion has described, the status of the Armenians living under Ottoman rule was similar to that of the Jews in many European countries: they were considered (at best) second-class citizens and (at worst) enemies to be killed in pogroms. In both cases, the sociopolitical conditions were ripe for mass extermination. World wars were the catalyst, not the cause, of genocide.

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Survivors Club: A Family’s Legendary Tale

 

Survivors Club: A Family’s Legendary Tale

Review by Claudia Moscovici, author of Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2019)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076187092X/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_3?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

Michael Bornstein’s Holocaust survival story is the stuff that legends are made of. A few years ago, Bornstein ran across a photo of footage taken by Soviet troops of the recently liberated child survivors at Auschwitz. The documentary wasn’t actually from the day of liberation of the concentration camp. It was filmed as a reenactment a few days later. The children were asked to put on for the last time the striped, threadbare dingy clothes they wore in the concentration camp: only this time they wore them on top of the regular clothes they found in the “Canada” warehouse at Auschwitz, where the Nazis deposited the belongings of prisoners upon arrival. To his own surprise, Michael Bornstein, by now a grandfather, recognized himself in that photograph. He is the gaunt four-year-old boy with wispy, short hair standing in the front. It was miraculous that he had survived. The odds were heavily stacked against him.

Out of the millions of inmates at Auschwitz, fewer than 3000 were liberated by the Soviets and only 52 of them were children under the age of eight. Seeing this picture stirred something in him: not so much full-fledged memories, since Michael had been too young to remember the horrors of the Holocaust, as the desire to record his family’s incredible survival story. With the help of archival research, his father’s documents and interviews with neighbors and surviving relatives, Michael Bornstein and his daughter, NBC and MSNBC News producer Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, co-wrote his Holocaust memoir, aptly calling it Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). Although the title alludes primarily to the handful of children who survived Auschwitz, it also refers to Michael’s family. Out of the 3,200 Jews living in Zarki at the time of the Nazi invasion in September 1939, about 30 survived. Most of the survivors were members of the Bornstein family.

Historically, Michael Bornstein’s family and their neighbors experienced first-hand almost every stage of Nazi atrocities in Poland. Upon invading their little town, Zarki, the Wehrmacht burned it to the ground. They rounded up hundreds of Jews and shot them in nearby forests, in the streets and even in their own homes. Soon thereafter, the Nazis set up a Jewish Ghetto. Unlike larger ghettos throughout Poland, however, for most of its existence, the one in Zarki remained open, allowing some life-sustaining trade and interaction with the local Polish population. Michael’s father, Israel Bornstein, was elected Jewish Council President, a heavy responsibility that he reluctantly accepted. He and his resilient and courageous wife, Sophie, did their best to protect not only their own nuclear family—their older son Samuel and Michael, who was still a baby—but also the entire Jewish community of their town.

As in the case of the other Jewish ghettos in Poland, life for Jews in Zarki was a constant struggle to ward off hunger, forced labor, and the relentless waves of deportations to death camps. For awhile, Israel Bornstein managed to round up the resources to bribe the local Gestapo chief, Officer Schmitt, into giving their community more food and occasionally decreasing their burdens. Schmitt, though a callous man and a true Nazi believer was, fortunately, also venal. But small-scale bribery proved to be no match for the immense Nazi killing machine. By the end of September 1942, most of the Jewish inhabitants of Zarki were sent to die at Treblinka. Perhaps wishing to demonstrate his “humanity,” Schmitt made one exception. He spared Israel Bornstein and his nuclear family from death. They, along with Israel’s mother (Dora), were sent to a more lenient labor camp until they, too, were eventually dispatched to Auschwitz. As Michael was to find out later, his father and older brother both perished there.

Michael, by now a toddler, was placed in a children’s section of the concentration camp. Had his mother not managed to sneak him into the women’s camp after a few weeks, he most likely wouldn’t have made it. The older children, themselves starving, were constantly stealing most of his meager portions of daily gruel. Under the wing of his mother and grandmother, Michael managed to live in hiding from day to day. When his mother was reassigned to another labor camp, the little boy was left under the sole protection of his paternal grandmother. Ironically, it was illness that ultimately saved his life. Suffering from high fever, he was placed in the infirmary around the time the Nazis began to force the Auschwitz prisoners on the fatal death marches. From the infirmary window, Michael watched the beleaguered, freezing prisoners file away from the camp under the blows of the Nazi guards. The story of his liberation by the Allies a few days later is captured by the Soviet footage. But the inspiring tale of his survival—Survivors Club–has only now been told.

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A First-Class Experience: CEO Paul Glantz re-Emagines Movie Theaters

EmagineTheaters

A First-Class Experience: CEO Paul Glantz re-Emagines Movie Theaters

by Claudia Moscovici

Ten years ago, many thought that movie theaters would go by the wayside, the way the video rental industry has. With the rise in popularity of Netflix (founded in 1997), Hulu (founded in 2007) and other popular video on demand companies, which allows viewers to enjoy movies and shows in the privacy of their homes, it seemed as if going to the cinema would become a thing of the past.

A few years ago, Paul Glantz, CEO of Proctor Financial and Emagine Entertainment, Inc., based in Troy Michigan, proved this prediction wrong. He raised over 45 million dollars to create a high-end chain of movie theaters throughout the Midwest. Most are located in his native state, Michigan, and a few can be found in Minnesota and Illinois. This concept is bound to expand, as Emagine Entertainment becomes a highly successful national chain. What Glantz has created is a win-win situation: a greatly enjoyable experience for the viewers that creates great profits for the company. “Whenever I put the interest of those on task to serve ahead of my own, it always turns out beautiful for both of us,” Glantz stated in a recent interview with Laurence Technological University. While regular movie theaters did, indeed, lose some business as a result of video on demand companies, Glantz’s venture shows that, as far as movie going is concerned, people prefer to fly first class rather than economy, so to speak.

The analogy fits. Watching a movie at one of the luxurious Emagine theaters is a similar experience to flying first class. You lean back in luxurious leather seats and enjoy a glass of wine—or a beer—with your movie, and perhaps even a delicious, warm dinner. Snacking is more delectable too. Emagine Theaters not only have a wide array of flavored popcorn options—the most popular American movie munchies since the Great Depression—but also serve pizza, pretzels, and other treats. The soda machines are upgraded too. With the push of a button you can flavor your favorite cola however you wish. The theater space is elegantly appointed in a contemporary design that includes plenty of comfortable seating—and even a fireplace—to enjoy conversation with friends while awaiting the beginning of a film. But this is where the analogy stops: you don’t have to pay premium prices for this first class experience. Movie tickets at Emagine Theaters sell for about ten dollars, only three dollars more than at regular movie theaters. The price is so economical, the movie experience so enjoyable, and the food so enticing, that you might be tempted to just move into the theater for good. (But don’t get any ideas…)

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Advance Praise for Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

CoverHolocaustMemoriesBook

 

 

Advance Praise for Claudia Moscovici’s

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076187092X/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_3?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1

 

The screen that portrays the horrors of the twentieth Century is fading more rapidly than its audience can bear. Claudia Moscovici’s book will go far to help keep it lit longer.

 

Rabbi Joseph Polak, Author of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring, Winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award

 

This book fills a present and mounting need for all readers interested in the Holocaust, including scholars and teachers.  With the literature about that unprecedented crime becoming steadily more extensive, Claudia Moscovici’s work offers a valuable and well-written guide to key works on various aspects of the Holocaust or on its entire history.

 

Guy Stern, ​Distinguished Professor Emeritus Wayne State University Director, International Institute of the Righteous Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Center, Farmington Hills, MI

 

Holocaust Memories is a morally urgent book, an encyclopedia of mourning, remembrance, and compassion, an invitation and a behest to keep memory alive and to resist unwaveringly any form of authoritarian temptation. It is particularly recommended to high school and college students, but also to a general audience. I learned a lot from it and I am convinced that many others will share my superlative endorsement.

 

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park), author of The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

 

A well-written series of book reviews that can be used as a solid tool for those who want to study the Holocaust.

 

Radu Ioanid, Author of The Holocaust in Romania and The Ransom of the Jews

 

Intended for a wide public and a new generation of readers, this bold and ambitious book forms an overview of the Holocaust from a myriad of sources – historical, philosophical, or literary works and films. More than sixty lucid and concise essays (usually two or three pages long) introduce various circumstances of human cruelty in Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Soviet Russia, but also in Cambodia and Rwanda. These focused readings comprise an invaluable source book for anyone seeking to understand the horrors of totalitarian regimes, constantly reminding us that moral courage must prevail over politics.

 

Edward K. Kaplan, Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities Emeritus, Brandeis University, author a two-volume biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)

 

Holocaust Memories provides a wealth of reviews and summaries of major memoirs, histories, biographies, novels and films related to the Holocaust. In the breadth of its coverage it provides an important and much-needed resource for teachers and students of all ages who are exploring the record of a tragedy so extensive and horrific it defies understanding. In bringing together testimonials and perspectives from many different voices and a range of genres, Moscovici provides a nuanced and multi-faceted approach that will allow readers to begin to register the unfathomable pain and loss brought about by the Nazis’ decimation of Jews, Gypsies, Poles and other groups. The clarity and vividness of the writing make the reviews intense, each capturing a sense of the impact of the source being described. And since the anthology also covers works about other genocides, such as those in China, Cambodia, and Rwanda, it underscores that genocide is not just a matter of history; it is sadly also a matter of the present.

 

Natalie McKnight, Dean and Professor of Humanities, The College of General Studies, Boston University

 

The Holocaust is much more than a historical event; it is a continuing story playing out in the lives of survivors, their descendants, their communities and entire societies. It is a seminal presence that provokes reflection and alerts us to the risks of falling into the abyss of inhuman depravity – of what could happen because it did happen. In Holocaust Memories, Moscovici has given us a panoramic view of the Shoah and framed it with other modern genocides. This book is at once much broader than virtually any other work I know, deeper than most in its gentle insistence that we persist in wrestling with the most fundamental moral questions. Those questions are as pertinent today as they were in 1945. Holocaust Memories will be an invaluable resource as I write my own memoirs as a survivor.

 

Martin Heisler, Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park

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