Edited by Jonathan Rose. Univ. of Massachusetts, $39.95 (432p) ISBN 1-55849-253-4

"The story of the Six Million is also the story of the One Hundred Million... the mass slaughter of Jews was accompanied by the most devastating literary holocaust of all time," notes Rose, director of the graduate program in book history at Drew University. He has compiled 15 sound works of scholarship that explore reading as a conscious act of resistance and the vital importance of books to the preservation-or in this case, the complete extermination-of a society and its identity. Historian Stanislao G. Pugliese discusses how the contents of Rome's renowned Judaica libraries-including rare manuscripts and books documenting the community's history-were burned by the Fascists and later by the Nazis, allegedly with the help of the Catholic Church. Communications expert John Rodden presents a thoughtful essay on "reception history" (or the response of readers) during Hitler's regime, specifically how the Nazis twisted the teachings of Friedrich Nietzsche to advance their cause and the present-day revival of interest in the philosopher in Germany. But the most compelling articles recall firsthand how both Jews and other Europeans attempted to maintain their dignity with books during WWII. Vilna Ghetto librarian Dina Abramowicz delivers an unemotional yet powerful description of her patrons and what they wanted to read: some sought historical analogies, such as books about WWI; others wanted to read about social issues, but most checked out escapist books-detective stories, romance and suspense novels. Jewish scholars and students of modern history will find this volume to be a significant and unusual supplement to Holocaust research and a convincing argument for the centrality of books and reading as subjects for historical research. (Jan.)