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Different though these three books are, their common thread is that each is a response to the Holocaust of World War II. Eva Fogelman discusses those who made the difficult moral choices to rescue Jews under the Third Reich. Joseph Persico relates the history of a legal response to the Holocaust, the Nuremberg trials, which sought to bring the enormity of the Nazi ''crimes against humanity'' into some kind of relation to justice and the law. And James Young explores the outward forms of public memory, the ways different communities around the world have memorialized the Holocaust with monuments, museums, and public art.
CONSCIENCE & COURAGE: RESCUERS OF JEWS DURING THE HOLOCAUST, by Eva Fogelman (Anchor Books, 393 pp., $23.95). A particular value of a book like this is that it brings the vastness of history to a human scale, to questions of individual conscience, individual decisions. How would I have done? one asks oneself, and it is a useful question.
The stories of ''Righteous Gentiles'' (the author prefers the term ''non-Jewish rescuers'') are obviously among the more appealing elements of Holocaust history. But it would be simplistic to think of these heroes as beams of pure light piercing the unimaginable darkness: It was all more complex than that.
Tradition has it that once one has saved the life of another, one has responsibility for that one's life ever after. The bonds between rescuers and those rescued are as complicated as the rescuers' motivations and mind-sets.
Fogelman explores all this in detail, starting with the touching story of the rescue of a Jewish baker by his Russian boss. On the morning the Germans were rounding up Jews in the town of Illya in what is now Belarus, the boss hid his employee in the bakery's attic until danger had passed. Fogelman's interest in this story is understandable: The baker was her father.
NUREMBERG: INFAMY ON TRIAL, by Joseph E. Persico (Viking, 520 pp., $25.95). The lesson of the Holocaust was supposed to be ''never again,'' but it is happening again today in Bosnia, Rwanda, and elsewhere, and as calls mount for a war-crimes tribunal in some of these places, Nuremberg is the model people have in mind. Joseph Persico's book explores the big questions of Nuremberg: ''Was it victors' vengeance or the authentic pursuit of justice?'' and ''Why were only those on the losing side tried?''
The book is a good read -- heavily researched, but written like a novel, with characters sketched in enough detail as to come wonderfully alive. After an oblique reference in the introduction to ''recent controversies and court actions'' and ''heightened sensitivity to the authenticity of words and thoughts attributed to figures in words professedly of nonfiction,'' Persico asserts, ''The account is narrative supported by historic fact.'' Every once in a while there is a little clunk in the prose where a r esearch factoid fits less than perfectly smoothly into the flow of the story line, but that only shows how thoroughly Persico has done his homework for this book.
THE TEXTURE OF MEMORY: HOLOCAUST MEMORIALS AND MEANINGS, by James E. Young (Yale University Press, 398 pp., $20 paper). Memory of the Holocaust ''is finally as plural as the hundreds of diverse buildings and designs by which every nation and people house remembrance,'' James Young writes at the beginning of his book, which is now out in paperback. He surveys memorials in Germany, Poland, Israel, and the United States.
Memorials focus on different aspects of tragedy and heroism: Some emphasize helplessness, some the resistance of those who rose up in defiance of the Nazis; some memorials, notably those in the US, focus on the military liberators who freed the death camps.Young has interesting things to say about the art and the politics of public spaces. His book would be a worthy contribution even if it were about war memorials in general. That he writes about memorials of an event of such emotional intensity gives his work additional significance.