When Light Pierced the Darkness, by Nechama Tec

April 19, 2011 at 15:20 (Book Reviews, Highly Rated Books, Historical, Second World War, Twentieth Century) (, , , , )


Remarkably well-researched, in this book Tec does an admirable job of walking the line between publishing meticulously-recorded interviews and presenting a survey-based thesis with no possibility of a control group under trying circumstances on a massively controversial issue.

The largest criticism to be applied to this book strikes at its stated goal, and is Tec’s lack of differentiation between the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘Pole’; somewhat cynically, Tec admits to using both terms interchangeably. Although this does not really weight the conclusions she comes to, it certainly makes the book’s subtitle extremely misleading (although some distortion is inevitable, such as her somewhat naïf and contradictory description of hardcore Communist Atheist Christians!).

This book is certainly more of an academic work than a retelling of wartime events for an amateur audience, and while her rendering of personal stories is both lively and dramatic, there is a clear bias towards analysis of data and the preeminence of statistics in her study. It is a little disappointing that her focus is so utterly Polish (though she cannot be faulted for attempting even that mammoth task), and that the results of her study can only be of limited use in determining the motivations, challenges and successes of rescuers in the Third Reich. It is probably true that any frustration with this history’s limited scope simply demonstrates how well Tec has performed her task. At times traumatic, at times dull and at times lively, this is nonetheless a valuable addition to holocaust literature

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