2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction
2003 J. Anthony Lukas Prize for nonfiction
2002 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction
Synopses & Reviews
A New Yorker
“Beckerman recounts the historic trajectory of this grand assertion of human rights with passionate clarity and pellucid conviction.”—Cynthia Ozick
AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, NEARLY THREE MILLION JEWS WERE TRAPPED INSIDE THE SOVIET UNION. They lived a paradox—unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, Well Be Gone is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue. Drawing on newly released Soviet government documents and hundreds of interviews, Beckerman shows how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989 and forced human rights into the center of American foreign policy. In cinematic detail, this multigenerational saga, filled with suspense and revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.
“Fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched.”—Anne Applebaum, Washington Post Best Nonfiction 2010
“A riveting work of reporting and a magisterial history of one of the twentieth centurys great dramas of liberation.”—Commentary
"Nothing less than a masterwork of contemporary journalism....Extraordinary....An angry, brilliant, fiercely useful, absolutely essential book." The New Republic
"The emotional force of Power's argument is carried by moving, sometimes almost unbearable stories of the victims and survivors of such brutality....This is a well-researched and powerful study that is both a history and a call to action." Publishers Weekly
"A well-reasoned argument for the moral necessity of halting genocide wherever it occurs, and an unpleasant reminder of our role in enabling it, however unwittingly." Kirkus Reviews
“Avoids partisan finger-pointing [and] is a clarion call for America to remain an engaged moral power.” Weekly Standard
"Gal Beckerman has written the definitive account of what might be the most successful human rights campaign of our time. This is a wonderful book: The narrative is thrilling and propulsive; the writing is beautiful; and the research absolutely authoritative. The movement to free Soviet Jewry will be studied for years to come as a model of non-violent civil disobedience, and Gal Beckermans book will be read years from now as the masterwork on the subject."
—Jeffrey Goldberg, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, and author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror
"Gal Beckermans book shines a long-needed spotlight on one of the great human rights struggles of the past century. It is dramatic, revelatory and deeply inspiring."
—Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars
"Among the great liberation strivings of the twentieth century — civil rights in America, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the independence of India — one of the most painfully achieved was the exodus of Jews from Soviet oppression. Gal Beckerman recounts the historic trajectory of this grand assertion of human rights with passionate clarity and pellucid conviction. His tireless persistence in pursuit of a stirring heroic chronicle is itself a form of heroism."
"Gal Beckerman has written the Parting the Waters of the Jewish experience. In this stirring epic — intellectually brilliant, historically authoritative and emotionally heartfelt in equal measure — he has chronicled one of the great liberation struggles of modern times. And he has placed himself at the apex of his generation of nonfiction writers."
—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew
"A beautifully written book with both depth and cinematic qualities."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutantes Handbook and Absurdistan "A fascinating, deeply researched, and revealing account of the brave Jews in the Soviet Union and of those in the West who worked tirelessly on their behalf."
—Sir Martin Gilbert, author of Churchill: A Life
"At last, the Soviet Jewry movement has found its chronicler. To read this book is to relive the heroism and the heartache, the desperation and the jubilation that marked the long struggle to free Soviet Jews. This is a moving, reliable and memorable narrative of one of the greatest human rights dramas of our time."
—Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History "Colorfully fleshes out personal stories within the headlines . . . A comprehensive, contextually rich study." -- Kirkus Reviews "Absorbing and inspiring . . . An outstanding chronicle of a great effort conducted by determined and courageous men and women." -- Booklist, starred review "Enthralling . . . A must read." -- Russian Life "Masterful and highly readable history."' -- The Forward"Comprehensive and readable . . .it's Beckerman's intimate portrait of the U.S. and Soviet outsiders that makes us care about their struggle." -- Newsday
"Remarkable... The author is gifted at weaving this very human and very political tale together." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A brief review can scarcely compass the breadth and richness of Beckerman's narrative or do justice to the unimaginable physical and moral courage and the resourcefulness of the dissidents and refuseniks crowding his pages. His honest recounting of their human failings and rivalries makes their achievement all the more remarkable. Beckerman also reminds us of the extent to which contemporary American Jewry was shaped by this history. Struggles create leaders and the Soviet Jewry movement was no exception. His book constitutes a veritable who's who of American Jewish leaders, who early in their professional lives came of age, in one way or another, in the movement." -- Jewish Review of Books
"Wide-ranging and often moving." -- The New Yorker
"Beckermans riveting and important book shows that it took the grass-roots efforts of Jews around the world, as well as the power of the American government, to bring this story to a happy ending. If the movement to 'save Soviet Jewry' is not well remembered, Beckerman writes, it is because 'it is a victim of its own success.' Now that he has told the story so well, however, it will surely take its rightful place as one of the greatest dramas in modern Jewish history." -- Tablet
"When They Come for Us will be a standard text about the Soviet-Jewry movement for scholars, students, and general readers alike." --The Jewish Week
"Fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched... Beckerman wants to ensure that the story of this epic struggle isn't forgotten, and I hope that, with this excellent book, he succeeds." -- Anne Applebaum, Washington Post
“A superb analysis of the US governments evident unwillingness to intervene in ethnic slaughter…” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Agonizingly persuasive.” New York Review of Books
“[A Problem From Hell] challenges our conscience and should influence what we do in the future. Lawrence H. Summers, President, Harvard University
“Magisterial.” The New Yorker
“Disturbing...engaging and well written…will likely become the standard text on genocide prevention.” Foreign Affairs
“Compelling…Power leads her readers on a long and often gut-wrenching journey…. Powers book raises vital questions.” Reason
“[Power] is one of the most striking talents to emerge in the human rights field in a long time.” Aryeh Neier, founder of Human Rights Watch
“One of those rare books that can change ones thinking...very painful reading, but it has to be read. Former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
“A history of our country that has never before been told... it should change the way we see America..” Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
“This is a moving account of how millions of lives were lost.” Former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine)
“A serious and compelling work... should be read by policy makers everywhere.” Paul M. Kennedy, Dilworth Professor of History and Director, International Security Studies, Yale University
“Groundbreaking... Power elegantly makes her case.” Newark Star Ledger
“Brilliantly conceived, superbly researched, mixing passion and erudition--it must be placed in the ‘must read category.” Denver Post
“A damning indictment of American passivity in the face of some of historys worse crimes. Newsweek International
“Forceful… Power tells this long, sorry history with great clarity and vividness.” Washington Post
“Power writes with an admirable mix of erudition and passion... focuses fiercely on the human costs of indifference and passivity....” Stanley Hoffmann, Buttenwieser University Professor, Harvard University
“Samantha Power has written one of those rare books that is truly as important as its subject.” Philip Gourevitch, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
“Bracing...Power [is] the new conscience of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.” Time magazine
A Problem from Hell is a path-breaking interrogation of the last century of American history. Samantha Power poses a question that haunts our nation's past: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to marhsal the will and the might to stop genocide? She provides the answer in the form of the suspenseful story of courageous individuals who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act. Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policymakers, access to thousands of pages of newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power shows how those who urged U.S. action were thwarted again and again by ignorance, indifference, and, above all, a failure of imagination.
In this pathbreaking interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power draws upon declassified cables, private papers, exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy-makers, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields to tell the story of American indifference and American courage in the face of the worst massacres of the 20"th" century.
Power shows how and why Americans have rarely marshaled their might to stop genocide. She tells the suspenseful story of those who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the U.S. to live up to the promise of "never again." By paying particular attention to the last 30 years of world carnage, Power shows how the lessons of the Holocaust can co-exist with an American diplomatic and military policy of inaction. "A Problem from Hell" makes a riveting case for why, as both great power and global citizen, we must renew our vigilance against genocide.
Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize For General Nonfiction National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
In her award-winning interrogation of the last century of American history, Samantha Power -- a former Balkan war correspondent and founding executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy -- asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Drawing upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policy makers, access to newly declassified documents, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Power provides the answer in "A Problem from Hell" -- a groundbreaking work that tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -597) and index.
At the end of World War II, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradoxunwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. When They Come for Us, Well Be Gone
is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue. Drawing on newly released Soviet government documents, as well as hundreds of oral interviews, Gal Beckerman shows not only how the movement led to a mass exodus in 1989, but also how it gave the American Jewish community a renewed sense of spiritual purpose and taught it to flex its political muscle. In cinematic detail, this multi-generational saga, filled with suspense and packed with revelations, provides an essential missing piece of Cold War and Jewish history.
The untold story of the twenty-five-year struggle to free Soviet Jews, drawing on newly released Soviet government documents as well as hundreds of oral interviews, and told from the perspective of the individuals on the frontlines.
About the Author
Samantha Power teaches human rights and U.S. foreign policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. From 1993 to 1996 Power reported on the wars in the former Yugoslavia for the Boston Globe, The Economist,and The New Republic: Moving from Inspiration to Impact.Born in 1970, Power immigrated to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, and she lives in Winthrop, Massachusetts.