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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2014
This is an amazing and heart wrenching book. It documents the life of Michel Thomas and the many experiences he had during his lifetime. As a student who uses his language CD's I can verify that element of his brilliance. You will note that 1 of the 3 negative reviews on here are by a writer who wrote an article about Michel which was later the subject of a court case, to this day he still tries to discredit Michel with little effect and the ruling was not one against Michel and for the paper but merely stated the newspaper had a constitutional right to its opinion, so read this book on your own judgement not his and remember above all that even if there are slight discrepancies or a hint of bravado that he absolutely deserved that right and that most of what is written is provable fact.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2001
This has to be the one of the best examples that we are all put on this earth for a reason. What Michel Thomas has endured and the person he has become is inspirational! The insight into life in Nazi war camps and how luck and your own belief can affect the outcome was riveting. I could hardly put it down and only relented when I had to do some real work.
I held my breath at each of his lucky escapes and was moved by his reflections throughout his life. You had to keep reading because it just didn't seem possible that the situations that he found himself in allowed escape but somehow he managed to. The desperation to live that seemed to keep him going is as powerful as the passion that he now has about his teaching of language.
It is now doing the rounds of my friends and will be well read by the end. I have now decided that I too can learn a language as his philosophy on learning is one that I can relate to and hope that in time educational institutions will too.
A truly inspirational read!!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2007
This book includes much about war criminals being given new lives in other countries rather than being held accountable for their atrocious crimes - and sadly, those who won the war are in many instances responsible even when it went against official policy. So is it any wonder there is some controversy here? Any man who managed to survive the war by moving from one country to another, one camp to another, one language to another and one identity to another is bound to have some issues around being able to fully prove everything that happened.

The book is incredibly engaging, informative and inspiring. Rather than being overly reverent, it is as direct about Michel's stubborn personality as his legendary talent for languages and visionary hopes - only partially realised.

Michel's innovative (and rather wonderful) language teaching methods met with a hostile reception from many educational institutions because they outstripped current methods dramatically, but not by stressing out students. Instead the theory was that students should relax while teachers took greater responsibility - obviously that wasn't going to be popular, and that response encapsulates the controversy about Michel's war years: The most accepted or promoted version of anything is not necessarily the whole truth.

This book reveals some very uncomfortable details about many war criminals who were given rewritten war records, new identities, emigration and in some instances even returned to power almost immediately . . . usually in return for favours.

Of course such a book will be controversial. Of course it's details will be picked at. Of course some individuals will not want this book to be read. Of course records might contain contradictions - such is often the case when national security or personal security are at stake. These are not reasons to avoid reading this book.

Why pick over whether the guy was in a battalion officially or not if he was there and working closely with them, anyway? Why worry if he gave various accounts of where he was born in earlier years (the man was on the run for so long . . . is it really fair to even expect the total truth from him during years in which he was still adjusting). And of course, since when is the press the ultimate truth-teller? Surely more than enough lies have been printed for us to know that verdicts and reports can be distorted to political ends on occassion and to varying degrees. Indeed, isn't discrediting an opponent one of the most powerful and often used political weapons. I fully respect anyone researching such matters, but also know that the truth can be twisted in SO many ways. And let us not forget that wiping the records of war criminals clean in return for favours or wealth is a matter of international tension.

In the end it is up to the reader to discern what feels right and true. What matters is the overall picture and journey that comes across and make no mistake, Michel's story is utterly riveting and inspirational.

Crucially, this new edition is backed up with a chapter and final words from Michel detailing how a Journalist by the name of Rivenberg hounded Michel, failed to understand or distorted all of the documentation provided, very insensitively insisted on opening an envelope whose contents informed Michel that his family had all died in the war, but which Michel had never been emotionally able to open, how numerous witnesses verified Michel's whereabouts but were misquoted in the original Rivenberg article (much to their anger) and how Michel's final emotionally charged court appearance (after years of visualising facing torturer Klaus Barbie once more) was actually a farce when Barbie failed to even appear. Oh and a brief look at the cover will reveal a medal received from the US Army.

It's a magnificent read.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2004
The Test of Courage is simply one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. I first came across Michel Thomas through a British TV programme of the 1990s showing his method of language tuition and persuaded by his approach and results, have used his French tapes effectively myself. I am convinced that the events of Mr Thomas's life are depicted completely truthfully by Christopher Robbins in this biography and salute Michel Thomas for his immense courage, resourcefulness and moral strength in that most harrowing period of modern history. I am incensed on his behalf by the attempt at character assassination by the LA Times and support his campaign to redress the wrong done to him. His refusal to give up in the face of this injustice, despite all that he has suffered and lost during his life, is entirely consistent with his life story. A self-evident truth that seems to have been missed by the LA Times is that a less remarkable man would have been swallowed up by the terrible ordeal the Nazis forced all European Jews to endure; it was Michel Thomas's exceptional qualities that enabled him to survive. This is the story of an exceptional man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2013
An incredible story of an incredible man, in equally incredible times. It is perhaps a sign of the times that such a clearly well documented and eminently well supported story should be questioned for its credibility. No doubt there are frauds. Such is life. But not this man. RIP Michel Thomas. For every one person that doubts your story there will be a million who don't!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2014
This is an account of a very interesting guy who founded a foreign language method of teaching that I have tried and many hundreds of thousands have found to be far easier to absorb than others.

It is extremely interesting to see how through his knowledge of languages he avoided the fate of many Jews in the 40s and managed to work with the French resistance whilst staying alive under Nazi rule.

Like most REAL heroes, he never boasted about what he had done and kept his efforts to himself knowing that many were not so lucky

Well worth reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2009
Michel Thomas has proved himself in war, and his language courses do what is claimed of them. From my experience of learning French and German from the audio courses, the free-market availability of the audio courses has motivated institutions such as the Open University to introduce elements which would have been part of their more advanced courses, into their level 1 courses. So Michel has caused academia to change its ways.

As for the Los Angeles Times article by Mr. Rivenberg, my sense about this, is that Michel became 'fair game' for those with a vested interest in the $350-billion education industry who utilised the delicate subject of the Holocaust, to besmirch Michel's reputation. When this happens, there is the judicial route, which is fraught with risk, even if a judgement would have been in Michel's favour. Which leaves--if one has the courage to allude to it--the Richard Pryor riposte: Who're you gonna' believe, me or your lyin' eyes?.

Thus, it would probably have been better to ignore the The Los Angeles Times article, in the same way as the belligerent group of Afro-American students, so that the truth would ultimately prevail.

Useful further reading is: College Is For Suckers: The FIRST College Guide You Should Read and No Sucker Left Behind: Avoiding the Great College Rip-Off.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2000
Five stars is not enough for this gut wrenching biography. This book has offered a true and great insight to in-humane crimes during World War II, not only by the Germans, but France and USA in parts. The horror of having ones entire family wiped from the face of the earth can only be imagined, and the constant evasion of Michel Thomas's percecutors who wanted to take away his last breath, make this an awe inspiring read, which really puts ones own meek trials and tribulations into perspective.
He goes on to become one of the most astonishing languague teachers the world has seen, and i look forward to going on one of his courses where he can teach a languague in 3 days(michelthomas.com), finances permitting. Not bad for a man who still has an understandable bitter taste in his tounge.
The final chapter has a quote, "Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live." This sums the book up.
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on 26 August 2014
I really enjoyed reading about Michel Thomas. I have to confess to being a big fan of his teaching style and have his Spanish and French CDs and am intending to purchase an Italian course shortly. I often wondered who and what was behind this man and how he acquired his extraordinary knowledge of languages and his ability to develop teaching ideas to get you up and running in a language.

When I got a mail from Amazon to say there was a book about him, I didn't hesitate. And what an interesting story it is. In his earlier life he inhabited a world that few of us born after the end of WW2 can really understand, especially if we are British and never suffered occupation under the Nazi regime. The reviews will tell those thinking of buying this book all about the key stages in Michel Thomas' life so I won't repeat them here. Suffice to say, it is a fascinating account and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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on 12 May 2013
I was interested to read this biography as I have used Michele Thomas course to learn Italian. His methods are vastly in advance of the way languages were taught when I was at school in the 70s and are still little better today. This is the story of a amazing man living life on the edge during Europe's darkest years in the 20th Century. It is remarkable amongst many other things as it contains a rare exposé of the awful collaboration of Vichy France with the Nazi regime and the almost forgotten history of its shameful persecution and murder of many thousands of its Jewish people. The wartime story is one of panache, courage, initiative and humanity combined with an element of luck that was needed for any young Jewish man to survive at that time. Characteristics that were entirely consistent with the pioneer that he continued to be in peacetime.
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