Home / News / BooksRSS Feed
Summer Reading: Dershowitz, Brown offer ‘profound’ works
August 28th, 2008
After reading books I like, I often tell my daughter that the book was “about something.” This is my way of telling her that this book is more profound than other books I’ve read.
“Just Revenge,” (Warner Books, 1999) a novel by Alan Dershowitz, is a book “about something.” Familiar with Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel,” I was drawn to this book because of its thought-provoking title.
Set during the Holocaust, the novel begins in Lithuania, when that country’s fascists rounded up Jewish families and killed them, beginning with the youngest. An elderly man asked to be killed first so he wouldn’t see the deaths of his family members, but the request was denied.
Max Menuchen managed to escape but his young son, pregnant wife and the rest of his family did not. He immigrated to the United States, as did Marcellus Prandus, a Lithuanian death squad leader from whom Max had escaped.
When these two characters meet again, the revenge begins.
This book brings readers through periods of joy and closure and leads them to discussions about religion, law and basic human feelings. I almost cried when I read about a letter written by Sarah (Menuchen’s sister whose raped by a Ukranian soldier led to the birth of her son) about her deep love for her son in spite of the conditions of his conception.
Though this story is not as pleasant as some, I feel it is an important one. As my late father-in-law used to tell me, it bothered him very much to talk about the Holocaust, but he forced himself to do so in order not to forget.
Another book worth reading is called “Courage: Eight Portraits” (Bloomsbury, 2007) by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which is similar to John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage.” Two people who exhibited extreme courage, according to Brown, were Raoul Wallenberg and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
These two men helped Jews during the Holocaust and put themselves in great danger. They stuck to their humanitarian missions and in the end suffered greatly.
Though their courage is not directly related to the Jewish people, the other men and women profiled in “Courage” lived inspiring and important lives. Their stories deserve our attention.
Since Brown is the author of other profound books, I know what to take out of the library next and I’m sure it too will be “about something.” With so many books and so little time to read them, I advise that we reach for the profound ones whenever we can.
A Milwaukee native, Etta Ottenstein holds a degree in education from Wisconsin State College (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and was a substitute teacher for 24 years in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. She retired in 1994 and is the ‘bubbe’ of 11 grandchildren.