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Joseph Sherman.
Ottawa, ON: Oberon Press, 1989.
96pp., paper, $10.95.
ISBN 0-88750-752-2. cloth, $21.95. ISBN 0-88750751-4. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Wallenberg, Raoul-Poetry.
World War, 1939-1945-Jews-Rescue-Hungary-Poetry.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Alan Thomas.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

Sherman's sixty-five poems give Wallenberg's life and work in a series of briefly observed scenes and comments from various voices ranging from his girlfriend, members of his family, and prominent bankers in Sweden to nazi officers and nameless members of the Hungarian fascist organization, the Arrow Cross - friends and enemies, in short, who had something to say about the man who worked hard and successfully to save many Jews of the Hungarian community from deportation to the death camps.

Using his position as secretary of the Swedish legation, Wallenberg provided Jews with Swedish passports and he further exerted influence on other neutral diplomats to help save, it is estimated, one hundred thousand lives. Sherman's poetic biography honours Wallenberg's courage and ability during the period from July 1944 to January 1945, in which Wallenberg took on himself this extraordinary, difficult mission. Sherman suggests that this short passage of heroic activity gave meaning to a life which had to that point appeared somewhat aimless.

Poetically, the strong sections of this work lie here as Sherman summons up in dramatic fragments the hate, fear, deceit and cruelty that often dominated humans in those desperate months and against which Wallenberg struggled, through persuasion and bribery, it is said.

The foreword and afterword, both brief, provide some guide to the political history of a confused period. Even the best high school students may find the politics difficult to follow, but the colour, drama and feeling are here to win them over.

Sherman's poetry, tight, restrained and elliptic, is a tribute to a man who has never known just reward. Wallenberg was arrested by the Russians - an episode not yet fully understood - and disappeared at the moment when he might have received world-wide recognition.

Alan Thomas, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
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