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The Wall

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,515 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Riveting & compelling, The Wall tells the inspiring story of forty men & 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 & as a personal confrontation with torture, starvation, humiliation & cruelty--a gripping, visceral story, impossible to put down.
Paperback, 640 pages
Published March 12th 1988 by Vintage Books (first published 1950)
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Fifties Fiction Favorites
46th out of 85 books — 72 voters
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WWII Historic Fiction
293rd out of 688 books — 643 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jun 20, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Emily by: My grandma, Friedl Bartek
I am not surprised if you have not heard of this book, but please, please read it. It's one of the most incredible pieces of literature I have ever picked up. It is the archives of a man named Noach Levinson who lived through the Warsaw ghetto and chronicled in minute detail his experiences and the lives of those around him. It is both fascinating and terribly heartbreaking to see the way in which the Jews in Warsaw were systematically destroyed through the eyes of one of their own. I have never ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
Author John Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, best known for his small first person account of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, called Hiroshima.

And when he writes historical fiction, as he does in The Wall, it is very close to actual events. Based on the real documents found buried inside the destroyed Jewish ghetto of Warsaw after WWII ended, it tells the story of the Jews who were trapped there by the Nazis who took over Poland in 1939, and the escalating determination to
Dec 15, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
In my ever increasing interest in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I've been gathering books from various libraries to try and wrap my brain around the perilous and courageous act of the Jews of Warsaw during 1943. One of the books in my pile was The Wall by John Hersey, a 640 page novel that I honestly wasn't sure I'd get around to any time soon. But then I read the first few pages and I was hooked. It was a lot to take in. I feel like I need to read it a few more times to fully understand everythin ...more
Jul 29, 2010 Lacey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-again
I first read this book as a 16 year old almost 40 years ago. Although I have read literally thousands of books since then, this one I remember to this day. It was the book that personalized the Holocaust for me as much as, or even more than Flowers in the Attic, much as Schindlers List has done for so many more recently, and sparked a life long interest in the Jewish culture as well. I have added it to my read again list, something I rarely do.
Stephen Glenn
Sep 22, 2014 Stephen Glenn rated it it was amazing
So far, the best novel I have ever read. The strength of the book lies in its character development, which is deep and has a very authentic feeling. Some reviewers were critical because the story is slow, but that is because the author is willing to take the time to let the reader really get to know the characters. When they go through the horrific events of the story, the reader will feel compelled to stay with them, and when the book ends, some readers will feel like they had to say goodbye to ...more
S.B. Lerner
Dec 03, 2011 S.B. Lerner rated it it was amazing
This is written in an unusual style, as if a historian was keeping a diary of the events he witnessed in the Warsaw Ghetto, along with interviews of the inhabitants. The preface refers to the Levinson Archives, discovered after that war. Of course, that's just part of the fiction, but it was so believable, I didn't realize it at first.
Despite the terrifying situation, most of the book is about relationships and personalities. Levinson, a recluse, finds a spirit of camaraderie and a "family" as
Aug 28, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
A surprisingly engrossing, and lengthy, book of historical fiction about the Warsaw Jewish ghetto, the largest such ghetto established by the Nazis in Europe during World War II. The book is written as if it were an organization and compilation of notes and interviews written by the fictional historian and ghetto resident Noach Levinson. While historical fiction, it is based on all too real events of the period in which Germany isolated Jews in a Warsaw ghetto, a ghetto surrounded by a massive w ...more
Heather Nelson
Jul 12, 2014 Heather Nelson rated it liked it
This was a strange book. Because it is written as the archival records of Noach Levinson, there are large sections that are boring and dry. While that is the author's purpose, that particular style (the style of a recordist at governmental meetings) doesn't float my boat. However, some of the story is captivating and horrifying. I cried over some characters' deaths (however, typical of the author's style throughout the novel, the author would mention thee deaths in passing, giving some less impo ...more
Evelyn Fox
Feb 18, 2016 Evelyn Fox rated it it was amazing
I read this book in college. It is one of the best book about the holocaust that has been written.
It takes place in Warsaw, Poland during the invasion of the Nazi's. Forty people made a stand
against the Nazi's occupation of their city. The book lets you into their lives and what it was like.
I visited Warsaw a few years ago and found what was left of the ghetto. There was part of the wall,
that the Nazi's erected to keep the Jews separate from the rest of the population, that was still
standing. Th
Abhranil Bhowal
Nov 22, 2015 Abhranil Bhowal rated it it was amazing
An interesting account of life in the Warsaw ghetto, albeit delivered in a slightly unusual 'diary-like' manner. Much like the Ghetto must have been on a crisp April morning in 1942, the reader is introduced to a crowded group of characters, who, at points, seem overwhelming. Nevertheless, as is expected for a novel of this size, the fog soon lifts and it is not difficult for the reader to quickly become absorbed in the day-to-day activities of each character.

The descriptions of living conditio
Sep 01, 2009 itpdx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fictional account of the Warsaw ghetto uprising during WWII. This was the largest Jewish uprising against the Nazis. The story follows a "family" of Jews thrown together by various circumstances including an archivist. I have wondered what the Jews felt and thought as the Nazi's herded them into a ghetto surrounded by walls that the Jews themselves had built. Why it took until over 400,000 Jews had been killed, died of starvation or illness or had been sent to Treblinka before the resi ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it
This book is completely fictional, but is based on true event of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. The book is written as a "journal" or "archive." Hersey worked as a journalist and his gift of journalism is evident in this fictional piece. The format of the book takes a little getting used to, entries are not always in chronological order and they are written with some initials or abbreviations. Once I was able to get into the style of writing, I was caught off guard by the depth and the meaning o ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Marcia rated it really liked it
Shelves: more-like-this
I read this many years ago and was completely pulled into the story. I found the pull when re-reading it.

One of its main strengths are the characterization of the people and the relationships between them. Another is its historical accuracy.

It reminds us of what can happen when we allow evil to reign; but it also reminds us of the good in people that can come out in the midst of evil.
Jun 18, 2014 LauraW rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was in 8th grade (approximately 1961), so I don't remember much about it. It was motivating enough, though, that I read all 640 pages for a book report.
dead letter office
Nov 30, 2008 dead letter office rated it really liked it
john hersey has always been one of my favorites. he writes about all kinds of stuff. race relations in the algiers motel incident and letter to the alumni, the dropping of the atomic bomb in hiroshima, the commodification of children in the child buyer, a good soldier in a bell for adano, and the uprising in the warsaw ghetto in the wall. he has the unusual ability to be morally outraged while seeing the good in people. even as an old man, he seemed willing to tear the world down to make ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Shannon rated it liked it
A pretty decent read, but nothing special. Overall, I liked this book, but there were some quirky things. It was difficult to keep characters straight for about the first 1/3, until the story really picked up in pace. The diary type writing was both interesting and distracting to me. There were very interesting moments, yet also many slow moments that caused me to force myself to focus.
Aug 24, 2012 Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
We probably all read Hiroshima in Grade School or Junior High; and while that is definitely a good book, having to read him for school may have turned you off of John Hersey. If that's the case, I urge you to reconsider, and pick up The Wall.

This fictional account of the Warsaw Ghetto covers the implementation, construction, governing, and revolt; all from the perspective of journals written by a member of the central group of characters. The characters are wonderfully crafted, engaging, and bea

Mar 20, 2016 Davis.Alanegmail.Com rated it it was amazing
This is a book I will absolutely never forget. Honestly, everyone should read it.
Margrit Belfi
Aug 09, 2014 Margrit Belfi rated it really liked it
Geweldig maar ook tragisch maar een must
Pam Henline
Dec 28, 2014 Pam Henline rated it really liked it
Day-by-day dissolution of Jewish life in Warsaw told through the eyes of a prolific writer in the Ghetto. Took me a while to realize it's fiction.
Dec 06, 2015 Craig rated it it was amazing
I read the title and the author a few thousand times as this book sat on my mother's bookshelf (I grew up in a living room lined with books, a library built by my grandmother and her daughter). I finally read the book, probably 50 years later; I picked it up at a used bookstore for 2 dollars so I'd have something to read on a flight. So a great book under my nose for years and I finally read it.
Aug 07, 2012 Allison rated it it was amazing
This is the third time I've read this; my grandfather (an English teacher) suggested this to me when I was 7 or 8th grade, telling me, "the first 150 pages are slow, keep going. It'll be worth it." On my 3rd reading now, 16 years later, I can only say:

He is right. It gets better. In fact, it gets breathtaking.

Still one of my all-time favorites.
Jun 20, 2015 John rated it really liked it
I have read many books on the Warsaw Ghetto, too many. to make it worse, I had seen the movie made from this book. A great work but a difficult book to read without being brought down by. Of course the world must never forget what happened in WW11 and with books like this, that will not happen as long as we keep reading them.
Oct 15, 2014 Harry rated it it was amazing
Excellent novel describing the Nazi ghetto in Warsaw, Poland. The reader has to be of the right mindset to work his way thru this horrible time in history.
Feb 15, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star, ww-ii
I was led to this author through Orson Scott Card who calls him one of his favorite aouthors. Hersey's book is a powerful study of human nature and a thorough literary depiction of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. One of the best WWII books I ever read.
Apr 24, 2009 N rated it did not like it
I got about 100 pages into this 700+ page book, and gave up. The writing style (translated) is interesting, but it's a very detailed and slow-moving account. Great to have for historical posterity, but not an entertaining read.
Feb 05, 2015 Yak rated it really liked it
I almost didn't get into this -- the diary style where everything is "attributed" but ultimately told from a single viewpoint is rather off-putting, but the story and characters shine through.
Oct 08, 2009 Susie rated it really liked it
You have to totally be interested in the time period, but it brought the whole Warsaw Ghetto experience to life. It was really really good!
Dec 19, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it
Will remain one of the most influential books on the Holocaust that I have read. Perhaps because it was the first
Mar 13, 2008 Bap rated it really liked it
Count this as a 4.5. Warsaw ghetto for the Jews in World War II and later the uprising. Very intense.
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John Richard Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist considered one of the earliest practitioners of the so-called New Journalism, in which storytelling devices of the novel are fused with non-fiction reportage. Hersey's account of the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was adjudged the finest piece of journalism of the 20th century by a 36-member ...more
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“You're not impatient any more. Then you were in a hurry, because you thought you could encompass everything in your life. You wanted to learn everything and experience everything and be everybody. In a way, that was charming and delightful in you: I used to write in my notebooks that you were zestful. But it also made you seem confused. You did things in fits and starts. You learned as a stammerer talks ... Today, you are not in such a hurry. I think you have decided that you can do only a few things at all well, and they are more than enough.” 1 likes
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