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Hatikvah (Israeli National Anthem) -Jewish - National Military Band.mp3 - National Military Band : Hatikva was played by Dolek Berson with his concertina in The Wall.

The Wall by: John Hersey

Biography of John Richard Hersey (go to http://www.herseyhiroshima.com/hersey.php for more information)


Literary information

Plot Synopsis

Criticism and Recommendation (go to http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Wall/John-Hersey/e/9780394756967 for more recommendations)

Why The Wall was placed on the "Outstanding Books for the College Bound" list

Biography of John Richard Hersey:


John Richard Hersey was born in Tienstin, China on June 17th, 1914 to his missionary parents Roscoe and Grace Baird Hersey (Wikipedia contributors). At the age of ten, John Hersey and his parents returned to the United States and he attended Hotchkiss Highschool (Wikipedia contributors). After he finished high school he went to Yale University and then went on to graduate study at Cambridge University (Rothman). In 1937, he entered his main professional occupation which was a Correspondent for Time Magazine (Simkin). A couple years later he transferred to Time

As a professional writer, he wrote many articles and some books. His earliest articles that he wrote for a living were his articles for Time, Life, and The New Yorker. During the World War II Era, his writings included "Men on Bataan," "Into the Valley," and "A Bell for Adano," (Wikipedia contributors). These included some of the fighting that he
covered in Europe and Asia (Wikipedia contributors). "Hiroshima," was his most notable work and it was about the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on that Japanese city (Wikipedia contributors). He also wrote The Wall, which is about the Warsaw Ghetto. He didn't just write about World War II, but he wrote about the dullness of grammar school readers in a 1954 issue of Time and continued his criticism of the school system with "The Child Buyer," (Wikipedia contributors). Some more pieces of his work are The Algiers Motel Incident, A Bell for Adano, and A Single Pebble (Wikipedia contributors).

Another one of Hersey's professions was being a professor. As well as being a professor, Hersey participated in several writer's organizations and committees formed to promote public education and he became the master of Pierson college from 1965 to 1970 (Rothman). As Master of Pierson College, when Hersey taught to the undergraduates he subsequently hosted his old boss and first mentor Henry Luce. Hersey taught two writing courses, in fiction and non-fiction (Wikipedia contributors).

Hersey lived in Vinalhaven, Massachusetts for a longtime, but that wasn't where he died (Wikipedia contributors). On March 24th, 1993 Hersey died in Key West, Florida at the compound he and his wife shared with his friend, writer Ralph Ellison (Wikipedia contributors). Thanks to his wife, Barbara, Hersey's five children, six grandchildren, and others, the history of John Richard Hersey's life lives on (Wikipedia contributors).

John Hersey received a few honors. One of the honors he received was the Pulitzer Prize, in 1945, for his best selling book,
A Bell for Adano. Another honor he received was in Arlington Heights, Illinois where a high school was named after him in 1988 (Wikipedia contributors). There was even a stamp created with his picture on it. He was one of five journalists honored of the 20th century times with first-class rate postage stamps (Wikipedia contributors).



While Dolek Berson is the second most important character in The Wall, Noach Levinson is the most important character. Levinson finds out many things from different people and records them, with those records The Wall is created. Some of the other important characters in The Wall are who Noach Levinson considers to be his adopted 'family'.

  • Noach Levinson is a famous writer and a famous scholar who wrote books entitled The Disapora and The Customs. He is a lonely man, an outsider, and an observer of life. "Most accounts agree that there was actually something repellent about his looks. His stature was small. He had a face of an intellectual, narrow and drawn out forward, and upon his unruly nose sat a pair of steel-rimmed glasses whose lenses were so thick that Levinson's eyes seemed, to one who looked into them, far larger than most human eyes. These glasses, and the piscine eyes gave him, made him look, they say, like a snooper," (Hersey 7). He was born into a lower-middle-class orthodox family (Hersey 7). He went religious schools in Skierniewice and went on as a Yeshiva student until he was about eighteen (Hersey 7). "He ran away from home, rebelling, as many of his generation did, against the rigidity of his devout parents," (Hersey 7). He then lived in Warsaw, Poland, working as a poor shoemaker, writing poems and stories, and educating himself (Hersey 7). "In 1928, or thereabouts, he went to work for the Yiddish paper, the Togblat, but resigned four or five years later in some sort of disagreement with the editor," (Hersey 7). He was also a clerk in a capmaker's shop in the early 'thirties he took work in the secretariat of the Kehilla, the Jewish Community council, which was under the Germans, transformed into the Judenrat (Hersey 8). Levinson began writing his notebooks in the late 1935 and in the ghetto, they had become, in a sense, his career (Hersey 8). When Levinson lost his inhibitions about his work, he came to feel that anything that happened to any Jew belonged in his notes and with this feeling he began asking a lot of personal questions (Miller 8). He also might be seen taking notes in the midst of most commonplace conversations (Miller 8). He was a queer man, but was loved by the 'family' that he joined (Hersey 9). Levinson died of lobar pneumonia in March, 1944.

The Ghetto Heroes' Memorial in Warsaw

The original adopted 'Family' Members:

  • Dolek Berson, in the eyes of Levinson, likes to argue, is disinterested in affairs, honest about his confusion, has good instincts, has a powerful physique, and is both strong and qualmish
(Hersey 13). He is also referred to as a drifter throughout the novel by Levinson and what Levinson means is that Berson lets life carry him along in its stream. Levinson is very fond of Berson, which is a big influence as to why Berson is the second most important character in The Wall. The things Berson does to oppose the Nazis and save his and Levinson's 'family' are also what makes him the second most important character.
  • Stefan Mazur is the brother of Rutka and the son of Reb Yeichiel Mazur and Froi Mazur.
  • Mordecai Apt Marries Rutka Apt and is the brother of Rachel, Halinka, and David.
  • Rutka Mazur marries Mordecai Apt and is the sister of Stefan Mazur and the son of Reb Yeichiel Mazur and Froi Mazur.
  • Symka Berson is married to Dolek Berson.
  • Rabbi Goldflamm is the most popular Rabbi in Warsaw.
  • Rachel Apt is the sister of Halinka, David, and Mordecai Apt.
  • Halinka Apt is the sister of Rachel, Mordecai, and David.
  • Reb Yechiel Mazur is the father of Rutka and Stefan Mazur and is the husband of Froi Mazur.
  • Froi Mazur is the wife of Reb Yeichiel Mazur and is the mother of Stefan and Rutka.
  • David Apt is the brother of Mordecai, Rachel, and Halinka.

Literary Information:

Setting: Warsaw, Poland from 1939 to 1943.

Genre: Historical fiction

The Wall is formatted like a diary. It is formatted like a diary because the novel is a suppose to be collection of entries, that were made by an editor with all of Noach Levinson's notes from his archive. "In the case of each note, the reader will find first the date of the events therein described, and then the date of Levinson's entry. Levinson was careful in every note to designate his source, and these attributions have been kept. Where the note was based on his own observation or opinion, he used and this volume uses, the initials N.L," (Hersey 10).

Point of View: First person (narrated by Noach Levinson)

Hersey, as written on the back of The Wall from The New York Times, breathed warmth, compassion, and humor, into what a historian would necessarily have pictured as a stark, hopeless, tragic, series of events. The warmth, compassion, and humor make the tone very friendly.

Prologue summary:
Noach Levinson is a fictional Jewish archivist who narrates the lives of his adopted "family" through entries, created by the editor, with Levinson's notes from his archive, of their life events taken place between 1939 to 1943. All of these entries put together create the story of forty men and women who escape the Warsaw ghetto.

Plot Synopsis:

The Wall portrays the life of some of the people who were put into the Warsaw ghetto, how they got there, and the depths they are willing to go to in order to survive. The editor, begins with Levinson's entry of the events of November 11, but then switches back to the earliest events which take place on November 4th, 1939. On this day, the incident that sets up the novel takes place. Dolek Berson was walking along Gzybowska Street and he saw a knot of about 20 agitated men so he walked towards them drawn by curiosity and was accosted by Noach Levinson, who was an employee of the Judenrat. As a Judenrat employee, he got Berson to fill in the position for an absent Judenrat employee because the Nazis called a meeting of the Judenrat and told them that they needed to have the full 24 members there. At the meeting, Berson finds out just how serious the situation is between the Jews and Germans with a threat and a trip to jail. The Nazi persecuted characters in The Wall face many trials. Their trials include conflicts with family, friends, Judenrat employees, the Jewish police, and Nazis. In

Jews building the ghetto wall, Warsaw, October 1940

this novel many Jews were deceived by the Nazis and started realizing the deceptions a little too late. As a result of some of the deceptions, some of the Jews went against other Jews when all of the Jews should have concentrated on opposing the German Nazis. Levinson predicted this in his entry on December 11th, 1939 by writing, "I see fighting ahead. And of the bitterest sort: Jew against Jew. Why is it that whenever men are in danger and have a clear cut adversary, they turn on each other in hatred? Thus they defer preparations to meet the enemy, and they meet him, when they do, divided and inwardly rancorous," (Hersey 52). Once they realized the deceptions though, they started coming together and it eventually lead to the ghetto uprising. Almost all of the members of the "family" were involved with a Jewish political group. The Judenrat was an important Jewish political group for the German Nazis because they would use that political group to get their plans fulfilled. As a result, many members working in the Judenrat didn't have to go to a concentration camp, except for a couple times like when the German Nazis threatened them that if they didn't gather about five people to be deported to a concentration camp they would be deported. Stefan Mazur did this and the most pathetic thing about it was that Stefan tried to get his dad to go to the concentration camp. Most of the 'family' isn't like this though. Most of them never worked at the Judenrat or they quit because it wasn't for the benefit of all the Jews. Dolek Berson was one of the people that quit Judenrat and then later in the novel, he became a member of the Jewish Fighter Organization. Rachel Apt also became a member and at one of the meetings she was chosen to be a leader for one of their fighter groups. By this time the 'family' lost some of the original family members. The original members of 'family' are listed just above the literary information and they formed the 'family' when the Nazi persecuted people needed to form groups to live with because the German Nazis made the ghetto smaller, and a smaller ghetto means a smaller living space. The 'family members' really looked out for each other and with some of the in the Judenrat they were able to get a heads up when the Nazis were going to check their section of the ghetto. At times like these Dolek would take charge and find protection for the 'family'. Without the 'family' there would be no book because the book is about how they got stuck in the ghetto, what their life was like in the ghetto, and the depths some of them are willing to go to survive.

Criticism and Recommedation:

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a heart gripping historical novel. The way John Hersey wrote this book makes the reader feel as if they were a character inside The Wall. Levinson is a big factor in this because it is like he becomes your friend, who tells you his life stories and his thoughts about different things. The Wall can be confusing though. In the book some of the characters are referred to as a Froi or Pan and this is like Mrs. and Mr. in english, but if someone didn't know this, than they might think that Froi and Pan are part of that person's full name. For example, Froi Berson and Dolek Berson are one and the same, but someone might think that they are two different people. It is also a bit confusing when the author makes it so that Levinson's entries are not always in order. As a result, the reader might have to take a glimpse back in the book to figure out what the author is talking about. The Wall is also very eventful and educational. If you do not know much about the Jewish culture you will know a lot by the end of this book. You will also learn about the method the German Nazis used to deceive the people forced into the Warsaw ghetto. John Hersey's method of writing The Wall worked in a sense that it drew the reader in and made them thirsty for hungry for more. As it said on the back of the The Wall, "Riveting and compelling. The Wall tells the inspiring story of forty men and women who escape the dehumanizing horror of the Warsaw ghetto John Hersey's novel documents the Warsaw ghetto both as an emblem of Nazi persecution and as a personal confrontation with torture, startvation, humiliation, and cruelty-a gripping and visceral story, impossible to put down."

Why The Wall was placed on the "Outstanding Books for the College Bound" list:

The Wall was placed on the "Outstanding Books for the College Bound" list for a few reasons. One reason is that the author includes some symbolism in The Wall. The main example of symbolism, is the title because it doesn't just stand for the Warsaw ghetto wall, but it symbolizes the dividing point between Jews in The Wall. The Jews put up many barriers that prevented them from coming together to fight the German Nazis up until they realized the barrier needed to come down. When Bertain played the Jewish National Anthem Hatikva, he wasn't playing it just because he liked the song, but he played it because it symbolizes the hope running through many Jews in the ghetto.

Another reason why this book is an outstanding book for the college bound is because it can be a challenge reading it. As I said above, it has some confusing parts. It is a also long read with 632 pages. Lastly, the author also puts some words in
The Wall that most high school students wouldn't know.

This book is also outstanding because the author made light of a dark period in Warsaw's history. In the ghetto the characters still fell in love and joked around. The author also made the novel an inspiring story. It showed that there are some people who even in dark times, don't give up hope and choose to oppose the injustice rather than join it. The characters also have celebrations, where even though they have very few things to celebrate with, they still manage to have a smile on their face.

Works Cited:

BOOKRAGS STAFF. "The Wall". BookRags. 2005. 19 October 2008. <http://www.bookrags.com/shortguide-wall/>.

Hersey, John. The Wall. New York: Random House, 1950.

John Simkin. "John Hersey". Spartacus Educational. 6 October 2008. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWhersey.htm>.

Steve Rothman. "About John Hersey". Homepage. 22 June 2003. 6 October 2008. <http://www.herseyhiroshima.com/hersey.php>.

Wikipedia contributors. "John Hersey." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 8 October 2008. 6 October 2008. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Hersey&oldid=243890800>.

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