Tuesday, 3 March 2009

48 Hours of Kristallnacht. Night of Destruction/ Dawn of the Holocaust - An Oral History (Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D.)

I read this book on a short trip to Dublin last week. As I sat on the plane reading there was a Jewish family that came and sat in front of me. Momentarily I felt ashamed. I felt like I was sticking my nose in to something I could never understand having never had such heinous experiences occur to myself or my family. Quickly following this feeling of shame though, I felt a satisfaction, that I was interested because I understood that this event mattered and shaped the world as it is today and the people within it. If we can learn from the strength of the people who gave their time to speak with Mitchell G. Bard and understand a little of what happened at the start of the Holocaust then this book is worth more than gold.

As I began the book I was entranced by the image of a family, the universal image of protection and values being shattered by those believed to be friends. The first line of the introduction, “Imagine you are nine years old, sleeping soundly in your bed” evokes such memories, and places you in that position. As a reader you may not have experienced having your world shattered but you will have experienced being nine. A powerful beginning to a very moving book.

My journey through the book took me through a range of emotions, and has led to a very basic understanding of what occurred at this time. I accept that there is so much more to learn on this subject but this book serves as a very interesting start and I do feel that my knowledge of this matter has been driven forward. I must admit that my experience of World War Two has mainly been an Anglican view, concerned with the effect it had on our own country, especially living in Plymouth where the scars of bombs are still clear to see. I have always been interested in the Jewish persecution and how it could occur and this book is an excellent insight offering first hand experiences. I want to build on the foundations this book has given me, and am looking forward to reading more books in the same vein. I personally think that the aim of the book, to raise awareness of these experiences has been perfectly achieved. A voice has been given to survivors who have kept these memories locked for decades.

The layout of the book helped the compelling nature of the read. The one line headings for each statement aid in browsing (if that is what you chose to do) and the plays on words every now and then help humanise the situation and added a personal touch to the paragraphs, reminding the reader that these are peoples stories and lives and that each one has a rounded character. The chapter structure also draws you in structuring the events within the time frame used.

This book would be an excellent start up for anyone interested in the events of WW2 and indeed, the references and statistics would enable this to even be used as a reference book for essays. The marvelous use of primary sources means that this book stands out in a sea of history books and work well as a research text for possibly anything connected with this era.

overall I would be happy to recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this period, it is a difficult subject that has been sensitively approached and functionally presented . Two things that would be essential for this subject.

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