John Hersey’s The Wall is a story of the Warsaw ghetto. Unlike many holocaust novels, The Wall focuses primarily on the Jews’ fight to overcome their human natures. Their resistance to the Nazis comes out of that fight.
In 1939, the Jews are being squeezed into a small section of Warsaw, and the Poles who had lived and worked among them are being squeezed out.
The Nazis order the Jews to set up their own governing council. Political parties from before the war continue their squabbles. As conditions in the ghetto worsen, the Jews turn on their leaders.
Even in the ghetto, someone with the right currency and connections can get almost anything he wants. Gradually, the pre-war social and economic leaders give way to a new set of leaders: smugglers, blackmarketeers, resistance operatives. Families are broken up; those who remain form new families of unrelated people.
Hersey presents his story as a series of documents written during the ghetto years and buried for posterity. The story, however, has no need of literary tricks to make it plausible. The behavior of the core characters is so realistic that readers will accept the story as representing the Warsaw ghetto.The Wall By John Hersey Alfred A. Knopf, 1950 632 pages 1950 bestseller # 4 My Grade: A-
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni