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The Wall

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,778 ratings  ·  55 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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Violet wells
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the Warsaw Ghetto there was an underground group of archivists known as the Oyneg Shabbes. Their function was to chronicle the Nazi atrocities for posterity. These journals were famously buried in parts of the ghetto. Some were later discovered; others weren't. John Hersey writes this novel in the form of one of these fictitious journals. He reports the conversations he has with a group of disparate characters, including a Jewish Policeman, members of the Jewish council, smugglers, Gestapo in ...more
Mar 28, 2008 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
Lewis Weinstein
Brilliantly written ... the part I've read so far forces the reader to feel the relentless closing of the ghetto
Mar 04, 2009 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
Sep 17, 2015 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
Stephen Glenn
Sep 21, 2014 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
Jul 29, 2010 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.
S.B. Lerner
Jul 07, 2011 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
Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star, ww-ii
I was led to this author through Orson Scott Card who called him one of his favorite writers. Hersey's book is a powerful study of human nature and a literary depiction of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. One of the best WWII books I ever read.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tremendous. Hard to read, as any novel set in the Warsaw ghetto should be. And yet I could not put it down.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
One of the best and most important novels I've read.
The story follows the lives (if you can call it life) of a dozen of the half million Jews trapped in the Warsaw ghetto during the war, their struggles to cope, to live life, to survive, as the wall is built, conditions steadily worsen in the face of hunger, disease, and Nazi "manhunts," and fellow citizens are "deported." Some try to persevere, some try to escape, some try to fight back, some just give up.
Though this is a fictional novel, it
Dennis Gardner
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Several months ago I read The Zookeeper's Wife. An ok book but what I remember about it was the work done by the Polish resistance during the Nazi occupation. I've since read the Polish Resistance was the fourth largest army in WWII. I wanted to read more about these people. Did some research and read this book as I was familiar with the author from the book Hiroshima. This is a powerful, intense and heartbreaking book. The author created several amazing characters which I will have a hard time ...more
Ernst G.
I read this book a long time ago. It created many pictures in my head that won't go away. Since I am going to visit Warshaw in may 2017 I decided to read it again. My opinion onthe Polish people has been influenceer by this book and the upcoming travel has force me to read about the Poles in the second world war. I have been surprised by what I read. A formidable underground army, a special bataillon to help the Jews, a decisive Roel in the Battle of Britain, strong présence in the Arnies that l ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book difficult, at first, to read due to many characters/honorifics/streets/locations/ in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew. After fighting my way past this hurdle, this book is riveting. I've read many accounts of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but the way that Hersey presents as a day by day account adds to the realism.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book that tells the story of the Warsaw ghetto from the very beginning to the heartbreaking end. If you are interested in WWII literature, don't miss this one. It is a work of fiction that is well researched and told in a non-fiction format.
Jack Goodstein
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, re-read
Not at all what I thought I remembered from my first reading mote than 50 years ago--almost clinical in its structure.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Very similar to Mila 18 but this is based upon actual historic notes from people in the ghetto. Uris' book is brilliant but this book is based on real life recording of events.
Aug 26, 2015 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
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG! Everyone needs to read this book. It is an old, a true story.
It is very important to know that although this book is a novel,
it is based on true events, not loosely. Read the preface and you will see what I mean.
There is an archive in existence that validates ALL of the factual information.

This is a very, very important piece of history. There was also a movie and Broadway play
many years ago. The movie is still floating around out there. It did not lend itself well
to the live stage. The s
Abhranil Bhowal
Feb 01, 2015 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
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is in my top ten book list of all time. I return to it often and when I read it, I feel like I'm listening to a best friend whispering quietly.
Aug 22, 2009 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
Heather Nelson
Jul 10, 2014 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
Jan 05, 2009 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
dead letter office
Mar 27, 2008 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
Aug 08, 2012 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

Evelyn Fox
Feb 18, 2016 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
Apr 28, 2015 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.
Jun 15, 2015 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 01, 2012 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.
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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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“Mankind must destroy anti-humanity before it becomes extinct itself.” 1 likes
“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.” 0 likes
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