A powerfully moving narrative that reveals the deepest thoughts and feelings of 13 travelers during the summer of 1996.... Without overpowering his readers, [Gilbert] juxtaposes the histories of the places visited with descriptions of what they look like today. The overall effect is to make the past live by transferring it to the present, where it can be handled and evaluated anew.
Documents a 1996 journey that Gilbert (Holocaust studies, U. College, London) took 13 of his graduate students on to the places in Europe that were the settings for the Holocaust. He juxtaposes the experiences and reactions of his students with the stories of the victims and survivors from the ghettos and camps, on the run from Nazi terror, or in revolt against it. Black-and-white photographs and detailed maps support the narrative. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A travelogue, spanning two weeks, of the essential sites of the Holocaust, by the venerable historian and author of many books, including The Boys, an oral history of concentration camp survivors. Gilbert, professor of Holocaust studies at University College (London), guides one of his classes on an extraordinary field trip: to Berlin, Prague, Zilina, Cracow, Auschwitz, Zamosc, Lublin, Warsaw, Piotrkow, Konin, and the rail stations and villages in between. He lectures at the most significant sitesof desecrated synagogues, book burnings, and gas chambersbringing in local historians with their archival letters and diaries.
To these moving testaments Gilbert adds the voices of his fellow travelers, both Jews and non-Jews, who draw closer as the trip progresses and they relive the terrible history. Gilbert does not simply chronicle atrocities, however, but brings into his narrative the history of Jewish settlements prior to their decimation; of labor and political movements; and of WW I's effect on Germany and the rise of the Nazis. In Berlin, for instance, he lectures his students on the murder of the Communist Labor leader Rosa Luxemburg. At the same time, he weaves in telling details, such as the story of an old, dignified man, newly arrived at Auschwitz, who somehow held onto a pouch full of diamonds. Daily, he negotiated with his brutal foreman, trading diamonds for potatoes. The passages concerning Birkenau are moving in an immediate way: Gilbert quotes the Nuremberg testimony of a doctor who watched as starved women undressed and filed into the gas chambers, even as his students walk in their steps. Yet there is irony: Auschwitz is an internationaltourist destination now. The very best book for any Jew, or any human being, planning the same soul-searching trip.