Martyrs To Madness

Written by Ted Gottfried

Editor-at-Large: Jean Reynolds
Senior Editor: Laura Walsh
Art Director: Judie Mills
Publisher: The Millbrook Press
Publication date: Fall, 2000

Designed and Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn.
Technique: mixed media on paper



This is a fascinating study of World War II, aimed at young Americans for whom it is almost ancient history. The book is a real page-turner, from how and why the war began, how Hitler was able to focus his countrymen's feelings of insecurity and paranoia and turn them into hatred, to how the German war machine became an instrument of mass murder. Gottfried's matter-of-fact style makes terribly clear that Jews were not the only group that the Nazis targeted for systematic destruction. Homosexuals, both male and female, were nearly at the top of the list. Catholics, Gypsies, Communists, the physically handicapped, the mentally "challenged," or disturbed, trade unionists, the elderly, and even the "weak," the non-fatally-ill hospitalized, were all included, as were members of ethnic groups like Poles and Slavs, political rivals, and prisoners of war. They were all considered something less than human‹"untermenschen." All wars involve killing, Gottfried reminds us, and World War II was no exception. But genocide‹the slaughter of a specific ethnic group‹made this war especially terrible. By the end of the war, ten million civilians were dead. Six million of them were Jews. Photos speak of the army, prisoners, concentration camps, and the dead. Alcorn's illustrations are nearly as moving as the text.

-Judy Silverman
Children's Literature

Gr 7 Up-Gottfried has put a fascinating spin on the Holocaust by writing companion volumes in which one is devoted to the rise and fall of the tyrants and the other to the vastness and complexities of their victims. Martyrs follows the plight of minorities as the Nazis implemented their plans for the Final Solution. The first half of the book concentrates on the Jewish plight. The second half presents entire chapters chronicling the fate of the "other Untermenschen," including Aryan Gypsies (one to four million died), homosexuals (the Pink Triangle), the physically and mentally ill (as defined by the Nazis), enormous numbers of civilians and prisoners of war, and the many who resisted. Nazi Germany traces the origins of both Hitler and the National Socialist Democratic Party through the years of rejection to the years of tyranny. Students will see how the tangle of Hitler's erratic upbringing and narcissistic personality, the humiliating German defeat in World War I, and the easy scapegoating of Jews and other minorities combined inexorably to create the monster that was the Third Reich. Chapters in both titles are clearly organized and relatively short, with subsections creatively labeled: "The Flip-Flop Flunky" provides a startlingly clear image of Joseph Goebbels, for example, and "Lists and Lies" describes the careful choreography involved in convincing deportees that death did not await them. Replete with maps, photographs, dramatic graphics, and well-organized and visually accessible texts, these books also contain parallel thought-provoking afterwords and extensive chapter notes. Fine additions to Holocaust collections.-Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

- School Library Journal

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