A Chosen Few, by Mark Kurlansky
Before World War II, Europe was the cradle of Jewish life; today, Israel and the United States have become the two largest constellations in the Jewish universe. Yet despite the calamity of the Holocaust, some 1.8 million Jews continue to reside on the European continent. With its highly varied composition and even larger geographical stretch, postwar European Jewry remains a galaxy that richly deserves a close view. Mark Kurlansky, a journalist by trade, is to be commended for providing one, though regrettably his book only skims the surface of the subject, distorting some of its most important aspects and leaving others wholly unexplored.
A Chosen Few revolves around a single question Kurlansky posed to Jews whom he interviewed in his travels across Europe: “Why are you still here?” The question was not meant to imply skepticism but rather its opposite: a sense of wonder at the “strength and courage” of those who have chosen to “rebuild, remarry, and raise children” in the Holocaust’s aftermath. Indeed, throughout this highly readable narrative, Kurlansky’s deep sympathy shines forth for these “brave and tenacious people who . . . rebuilt their lives in the face of incomprehensible horror.”
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