Don't come looking to these books for your Monday pick-me-up…unless a good cry really does a lot to lift your spirits. Seriously, we warned you.
|Author||Wiesel - Elie Wiesel|
|U.S. History||World War II: 1939-1945|
The important thing to remember is that, no matter what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad <<mah-mood
...these works, and the Holocaust they recount, aren't fiction.
Let's start with Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night. Wiesel was deported to Auschwitz in 1944,
along with every other Jew in his hometown.
Wiesel, however, not only survived Auschwitz, but a death march to Dachau<<da-COW>>. Eventually,
he became a journalist. The first version of Night was published in
Yiddish and was over 900 pages long. Just be thankful you don't have to read that version...
Wiesel later edited his memoir down to a much, much shorter text. Granted, even the abridged
version of Night didn't sell many copies at first, because the Holocaust makes for a depressing
By 1997, however, Night was selling about 300,000 copies a year, and that was before
Oprah picked it for her book club and passed out copies to her audience.
In 1986, Weisel also won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against violence and racism.
Another famous memoir was written by Primo Levi<<Pree-mo leh-vee>> who was born in Italy
in 1919. Levi was extraordinarily smart and, despite rampant prejudice against Jews, he
was allowed to study chemistry at the university in Turin.
Unfortunately, by the time Levi graduated, Italy had officially become the sniveling
minion to Germany's big, nasty bully. In 1943, Levi joined the Italian resistance
movement. He was really bad at it...
...like, really bad...
...and was quickly arrested by the Germans. He admitted to being Jewish in order to avoid
being shot, and was sent to Auschwitz.
The end result was his memoir Survival in Auschwitz, which he wrote shortly after his
release from the camp in 1945. Maus, by Art Spiegelman, is different from
both Night and Survival in Auschwitz in two major ways. Its author was never in a concentration
camp... and Maus is a graphic novel.
Spiegelman's parents were Polish Jews, who came to New York after World War Two. Their
story is the one Spiegelman relates in Maus. Originally a three-page strip for an underground
series of comics called Funny Animals, the first volume of Maus came out in 1986. It
proved incredibly popular, and a second volume came out in 1991.
In 1992, Spiegelman won a special Pulitzer Prize for Maus. Since then, the graphic novel
has become a serious form of art, helped along by Spiegelman's success in tackling a topic
as difficult as the Holocaust. Another memoir was written by Simon Wiesenthal<<wise-en-thall>>,
Nazi hunter. Seriously... that was his job.
After World War Two ended and Wiesenthal was released from Mauthausen<<mout-house-en>>,
he immediately became involved in tracking down, arresting, and trying Nazi war criminals.
He also founded the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, which has tracked down hundreds
of Nazi war criminals, many of whom escaped to places like South America.
His memoir, The Sunflower, is probably less factual than some of the other books you're
going to read...
...but when fact is as gruesome as the Holocaust was...
...sometimes a little fiction can be a welcome device.