Holocaust dilemmas

29th June 2001 at 01:00
THE HOLOCAUST: Survival and Resistance. By Pat Levy. THE HOLOCAUST: After the Holocaust. By Sean Sheehan. pound;11.99 each. Hodder Wayland Available from TES Direct pound;10.99 each.

These books conclude Wayland's excellent Holocaust series, which began with Causes and The Death Camps (reviewed in TES Friday magazine January 12, 2001). Survival and Resistance covers such well-known episodes as the breakout from Sobibor and the rising in the Warsaw ghetto, and also gives welcome prominence to less well-known Jewish partisan groups, such as the Bielski Otriad in Russia.

There were real dilemmas here: German reprisals were so savage that many Jews regarded resistance as tantamount to treason. Survival itself was a form of resistance, as was keeping a diary, or even burying human teeth among the ashes of a death camp crematorium in the hope that one day they would be found. Oskar Schindler features both here and, in his Hollywood persona, in After the Holocaust, which also examines the question of the media's role in what has been called the "holocaust industry".

The significance of both the Eichmann and the Irving trials is well brought out, and the book does not flinch from uncomfortable parallels with the later history of Israel and the Palestinians.

The authors' frankness in confronting such a wide range of difficult issues within a consistently accessible writing style is impressive. This series is one of the best treatments of this important and difficult topic available to schools.

Sean Lang Se n Lang is head of history at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

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