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The Last of the Just

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  749 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
On March 11, 1185, in the old Anglican city of York, the Jews of the city were brutally massacred by their townsmen. As legend has it, God blessed the only survivor of this medieval pogrom, Rabbi Yom Tov Levy, as one of the Lamed-Vov, the thirty-six Just Men of Jewish tradition, a blessing which extended to one Levy of each succeeding generation. This terrifying and remark ...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by The Overlook Press (first published 1959)
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Community Reviews

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“ It is said that at all times there are 36 special people in the world, and that were it not for them, all of them, if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. The two Hebrew letters for 36 are the lamed, which is 30, and the vav, which is six. Therefore, these 36 are referred to as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim. This widely-held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous "greet the Shechinah," the ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Lawyer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Sheer Happenstance
"THE LAST OF THE JUST," Andre Schwarz-Bart's novel of remembrance

As an under grad at the University of Alabama, I often spent my time between classes at a college bookstore, Malone's, or at The Alabama Bookstore. Malone's was ultimately gobbled up by their competition. However both stores offered shelves of literature that frequently caught my eye and my meager funds.

The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart was one of the many books I bought during my college days. I skipped lunch that day to
Grasped in Thought
Jul 28, 2012 Grasped in Thought rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite pieces of realistic fiction, Schwarz-Bart's book is nothing less than a masterpiece. The book examines antisemitism throughout historic Europe up to WW2. The story goes through several pogroms throughout Europe's history and ends with the worst act of evil to ever befall the Jewish people of Europe, the Holocaust.

The story is heavily based on the Tzadikim Nistarim, a notion prevalent within mystical Hasidim. Having some background knowledge about Europe's history after establ
Feb 02, 2014 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shoah
How common is a phase of Shoah exploration? I found it rather odd and off-outting when I fell into a period in my early 20s, I was nearly obsessed and read constantly from scholarly analyses, memoirs and novels. I found the subject nearly untenable for most people in Southern Indiana: why would you want to read about that? Since then I have encountered a half dozen kindred souls who likewise went inexplicably overboard on this darkest of subjects.

I read this novel in 1994 and was ripped as if by
Apr 26, 2009 Gaye rated it it was amazing
it is difficult to find words to describe a book that i look back upon as one of the most brilliant yet difficult reads of my life. andre' schwarz-bart, winner of the Prix Goncourt, is an author extraordinnaire. a genius of a writer who might not appeal to the "average" reader (please forgive the sound of arrogance) yet will titillate the juices of the discriminating, deep reader. i cannot say too much nor do i want to write so-called "spoilers." this work of genius and art ranks as one the more ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
All I can say is that this book made me weep. Literally. If you read this book and are unmoved by the terrible inhumanity we are all capable of exhibiting, you may not have experienced a healthy dose of love in your life and therefore have no heart. Seriously. This book follows the Jewish experience through pograms to an entire family's extinction during the Holocaust. It examines anti-semitism and an all-too-human reaction to atrocity of "not my problem." It is tough to read, but worth it.
Kressel Housman
Jul 30, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Amongst the literature of the Holocaust, this is an absolute masterpiece. It's based on a twist of the Chassidic legend that there are 36 righteous people hidden in the world whose very existence justifies the existence of the rest of it, even evil. The author made mistakes with the concept, though. In his book, the status of being one of the righteous is passed from father to son, which is NOT part of the Chassidic tradition. Also, they seem to know that they are the hidden righteous, which is ...more
Sep 02, 2008 James rated it it was amazing
An absolutely essential read for anyone who has any interest whatsoever in trying to understand the Holocaust. It is a singular work and one of the most powerful novels I have ever read. The ending is something that I will never get out of my mind. Devastating.
Ted Hovey
Jun 25, 2012 Ted Hovey rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book. The story of the persecution of Jews is structured with the legend of the 38 Just Men. From the death of Rabbi Yom Tov Levy in York, England, in 1185, to the end of Ernie Levy's life in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, we follow the sufferings and joys of Jewish people over the centuries, through the lineage of one of the Just Men.

Schwartz-Bart created characters that drew me into the story. He shows human suffering so effectively that I found myself pulling out of the
Jul 06, 2008 Isabelle rated it it was amazing
The legend says that there are 36 just men who take on the world suffering onto their own shoulders, a kind of pact with God whereby He allows the world to continue.
Ernie Levy is one of those Justs, and while the book nominally covers eight centuries, Ernie's destiny is at its center, a destiny that will set him adrift through WWII Europe with an inevitable ending in a concentration camp.

This is one of the great books of my life, so powerful, moving and shocking that I literally had recurring dr
Jan 21, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing
God only knows why this book isn't taught in every school. Okay, so on the surface, it's a story of Jewish oppression in WWII, but it's so much more.
Jim Fonseca
Sep 06, 2015 Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-authors
This book, written in 1959, was one of the early accountings of the atrocities inflicted on Jews in Europe during World War II. The novel caused a sensation in France when it was released just five years after the end of WW II and the blurb says the Prix Goncourt was awarded early specifically to recognize this book. The author, who just became a teenager as the war began, lost both of his parents in concentration camps. The main character is a young boy who is so humiliated by his teachers and ...more
Aug 19, 2015 Dov rated it it was amazing
"Our eyes register the light of dead stars. A biography of my friend Ernie could easily be set in the second quarter of the twentieth century, but the true history of Ernie Levy begins much earlier, toward the year 1,000 of our era, in the old Anglican city of York. More precisely, on March 11, 1185."

So begins "The Last of the Just," a novel in the form of a biographical accounting of the life of Ernie Levy. It opens and ends with a tale of massacre and survival, to the tune of the sad, mystica
Sep 15, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing
this is a hard book to characterize. it begins in the 11th century with a Pogrom against the Jews. The family Levy who have one man each generation called the Just Man, travels all over East Europe searching for a place to call home and finally settle in Zemyock, Poland and find peace for a few generations. When the last son of the family, Ernie is born, it is the beginning of the 20th century, and most people knwo what happened to the Jews in the thirties in Germany and other countries invaded ...more
Mark Drew
Mar 01, 2012 Mark Drew rated it it was amazing
This is one of the greatest books that addresses the Holocaust. The book is the generational story of Ernie Levy, who is one of the 36 Lamed Vav Tzadikim (just men) that exist at any and all time that keeps the world from ending by justifying the purpose of mankind (unknown as such by Ernie himself). A tall metaphysical order when facing life under Nazi Germany. Of course Ernie's existence is both difficult and very different from other men as he tries to relate to the world in general and final ...more
Agnes Kelemen
Mar 30, 2012 Agnes Kelemen rated it it was amazing
All I can say that after that one has read this novel, one can not be the same as had been before.
Aug 17, 2007 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who want to understand Jewish persecution
This is an epic book. Okay 383 pages isn't that epic but it covers a long period of time, from the 12th through to the 20th centuries. I have to say, from my point of view, the Jews vanished from history by the end of the first century and then reappeared just in time for the Holocaust. I never had any idea what happened to them and I was never that interested. This book redresses the balance. I would not pretend for a moment that it's an easy read but I would say it is a necessary one.
Kim Guisness
Feb 18, 2012 Kim Guisness rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautifully written novels of all time So sad, but one of those books you must read in your lifetime.
Apr 03, 2016 Tena rated it it was amazing
In too many ways, the history of Europe is the history of Jewish suffering. Impossible beauty and impossible horror mix on every page of this book. The Holocaust seems like a bottomless source of inspiration for art and "art" alike, and there is a fine line between wanting to explore the subject and being exploitative. This book is a masterpiece on so many levels: the beauty of the language, the finesse of guiding the last of the Just to his destiny and the unspeakable evil looming like a dark c ...more
Aug 17, 2013 Ana' rated it it was amazing
"There is no room for truth here" p.376

I just finished reading this beautiful novel, crying and I am once reminded how almost impossible is to accept, understand, grasp : yes, indeed, an Holocaust occurred in our mist.

I discovered this novel through an Holocaust online class offered by (can't recommend it enough!).

This is a very unique novel enrapt of figurative narrative giving a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

How did the author accomplish such mission? By sharing the leg
À part de sa significance culturelle et historique, ce roman est incroyablement bien écrit. Et je pleurai beaucoup, c'est ne pas humainement possible de ne pas le faire. Pourtant je pris du temps pour lire cette livre, et les dernières pages étaient les plus dures à lire. Des semaines et des semaines pour lire la part Plus jamais. Et je vais le relire, une fois, deux fois ou encore plus.
Sep 17, 2016 Lynnnadeau rated it it was amazing
The story of one man caught up in the Shoah, sent to the gas chamber. One man, one of the lamed vavs ... one of 36 special people who are chosen by God in each generation to experience the world around them fully - as if they have no particular ego but become the container of all that happens to those around them.
Apr 13, 2014 Pgricchi rated it it was amazing
This book narrates the life of Ernie Levy, who in 1942 turns up at a concentration camp where Jews are being processed for extermination and seeks admission. But the novel starts more than 800 years before his birth. Out of necessity it is long, and it sprawls; but in its English translation from the French, the prose is beautiful, and the story accelerates. To me the book is timeless and perfect. I know that the impression it made on me is indelible.
Aug 10, 2016 Fishface rated it liked it
A thought-provoking story that places one of the 36 Just Men of Hebrew legend in a WWII concentration camp.
Aug 14, 2016 david rated it it was amazing
A great book that I must re-read.
Thomas Kiernan
Apr 10, 2016 Thomas Kiernan rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book. Reading it I learned a lot about the long history of Jewish persecution and martyrdom. Beautifully written and a compelling read it teaches as well as entertains (can a history of persecution be entertaining?). A story must be well told, otherwise no one will listen and if they do listen out of politeness they will not remember very much, so perhaps in that regard the book entertains. Above all in the telling, it instructs. Even non Jews like myself gain in human unde ...more
Barbara Ab
Feb 22, 2015 Barbara Ab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bellissimo questo libro basato sulla leggenda dei 36 giusti “Ogni generazione conosce l'avvicendarsi di 36 uomini giusti (lamedvavnikim), dalla cui condotta dipende il destino dell'umanità. «Al passaggio della bufera, l'empio cessa di essere, ma il giusto resterà saldo per sempre.» (Proverbi, 10:25)”. La leggenda permette allo scrittore di fare un excursus sulla storia di una famiglia ebrea e poi di concentrarsi sulla storia di questa famiglia durante il periodo nazista. Avendo finito Giobbe di ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Larry rated it it was amazing
I came to this classic latterly -- as in a few months ago (mid-2014). Great, great ending. Painful but characters written with such humanity that it earns the right to be on the bookshelf of those titles capable of changing a life.
Jan 05, 2014 Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This difficult novel, which laboriously documents 1,000 years of Jewish suffering, ends with the notable remark, "...the Jews, who for two thousand years never bore arms and never had missionary empires or coloured slaves..." One can't help thinking, due to the behaviour of the modern state of Israel, that that is no longer the case.

There are translations and translations - this one seems to pay a certain tribute to the original writer's ability, although you can never be sure. But the material
The first third of the book is dedicated to the Levy family’s ancestry, an ancestry filled with legendary Lamed-Vovniks throughout the generations. The reader is shown how they have martyred themselves in the name of suffering for mankind. The last two-thirds of the book concerns itself with one person, and his name is Ernie. We watch Ernie grow from a child into a man, and through overwhelming imagery, see him suffer for mankind during the Holocaust.

Antisemitism runs rampant throughout the page
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André Schwarz-Bart (May 28, 1928, Metz, Moselle - September 30, 2006, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe) was a French novelist of Polish-Jewish origins.

Schwarz-Bart is best known for his novel The Last of the Just (originally published as Le Dernier des justes). The book, which traces the story of a Jewish family from the time of the Crusades to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, earned Schwarz-Bart the Prix
More about André Schwarz-Bart...

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“It is night at the front, a shadow, a shot. The Jew who has just fired
hears a moan...
"And then, mother, the hair stands up on his head, for only a few feet from him in the darkness the enemy voice is reciting in Hebrew the prayer of the dying. Ai, God, the soldier has cut down a Jewish brother! Ai, misery! He drops his rifle and runs into no man's land, insane with shame and grief. Insane, you understand? The enemy fires at him, his comrades shout at him to come back. But he refuses; he stays in no man's land and dies. Ai, misery, ai...!”
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