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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
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...
Published on 22 Feb 2001

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too little detail about his language teaching method
This book is a detailed biography of MT's life as the cover says. However I found the book spent too much time talking about his WW2 experiences. Not to say he doesn't deserve respect for his bravery and determination in the French Resistance, he does, but the book doesn't really detail how these experiences helped him create his unique language learning system. The whole...
Published 1 month ago by peter


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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, 22 Feb 2001
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Controversial . . . unsurprisingly!, 23 Aug 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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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Read, 1 Mar 2004
By A Customer
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable in more than one way, 20 Jan 2014
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Believable, 28 April 2013
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This review is from: The Test Of Courage: Michel Thomas: A Biography Of The Holocaust Survivor And Nazi-Hunter By Christopher Robbins (Kindle Edition)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Too little detail about his language teaching method, 17 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Test Of Courage: Michel Thomas: A Biography Of The Holocaust Survivor And Nazi-Hunter By Christopher Robbins (Kindle Edition)
This book is a detailed biography of MT's life as the cover says. However I found the book spent too much time talking about his WW2 experiences. Not to say he doesn't deserve respect for his bravery and determination in the French Resistance, he does, but the book doesn't really detail how these experiences helped him create his unique language learning system. The whole reason I picked up the book was to learn about how he developed his learning method, the book is about 80% of the way through before him teaching languages is even mentioned, and even then I found a frustrating lack of detail!

To my partial disappointment I found this book more of an education on WW2 and the French Resistance rather than on languages and the psychology of learning.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With your head above the parapet, you're Vogelfrei., 7 Sep 2009
By 
S Smyth (Belfast, Co Antrim United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Gut churning account of one mans brush with life and death, 8 Feb 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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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary story of an extraordinary life, 10 Dec 2003
By 
AK "AK" (West of the Atlantic Ocean) - See all my reviews
Hats off to Chris Robbins for telling the story of this man's extraordinary life.
The story of Michel Thomas life, in particular his astonishing -- but thoroughly documented -- WWII experiences, is one of the last great untold stories from that era. Amazingly, Thomas lives today, still productive, still fighting, in New York, with his revolutionary language-teaching method finally having been discovered by the world, thanks to his putting it on tapes and CDs just a few years ago. They have become best-sellers in the UK, topping all the competition.
And while Robbins weaves a gripping tale in this book, few realize that Thomas's most historic achievement is one that is given only passing mention in this biography. For it was Thomas who rescued the Nazi Party's worldwide membership card files from destruction by the SS at the end of the war. The ten million members of the NSDAP would have been able to hide their affiliation with the most notorious political movement in history, but for the determined efforts of Michel Thomas. And the defendants at the Nuremberg war crimes trials would not have been presented with such incontrovertible evidence of their crimes, were it not for Thomas's efforts in rescuing and preserving these crucial records.
The NSDAP Master File became the heart of the collections of the Berlin Document Center, an enormous archive kept under US Military Police guard on the leafy street of suburban Wasserkafersteig in Berlin until 1994, when the US State Department turned the collection over the German Bundesarchiv.
[..]Robert Wolfe, the pre-eminent expert in the world on captured German war documents, has publicly attested to the fact that Thomas was the original rescuer of these crucial files.
Thomas also escaped Klaus Barbie -- the "Butcher of Lyon" -- in 1942 and testified against Barbie more than 40 years later.
His work in the French Resistance and US Counter Intelligence Corps won him praise in the Resistance and a nomination for a Silver Star by the US Army -- an award that may yet be bestowed on him.
Thomas' biography has been re-issued in 2003 by Hodder & Stoughton, with a new final chapter about his battle against the LA Times. It is a story of one man's relentless will to overcome overwhelming odds in a fight against ignorance and media arrogance in the 21st century, having done the same in the 20th century fighting the evils of genocidal Nazism.
In an era that celebrates clever expedience over commitment to basic convictions, Thomas's life story is an enduring one of inspiring courage and indomitable will.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring Tale of a Life-Long Warrior, 14 Feb 2012
By 
AK "AK" (West of the Atlantic Ocean) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Test Of Courage: Michel Thomas: A Biography Of The Holocaust Survivor And Nazi-Hunter By Christopher Robbins (Kindle Edition)
The story of Michel Thomas's life, in particular his astonishing yet thoroughly documented WWII experiences, is another of the searing stories of that awful era, in which life-or-death moral choices -- or the lack of them -- defined people and nations for generations to come.

Christopher Robbins has related this story in a copiously-footnoted biography, first published in 1999, and updated in 2007 as "Courage Beyond Words". The updated version includes a new final chapter describing Thomas's "final battle" -- a multi-year effort during which he thoroughly discredited the false implications of a long profile about him published in the Los Angeles Times in 2001, which suggested he may have invented or exaggerated several of his key wartime experiences.

After his loss of a defamation case in US courts -- which led a prominent First Amendment law professor to describe Thomas as a "sacrifice on the altar of free speech" -- Thomas's surviving wartime comrades rallied to his cause, and provided testimonials and original historic documents from official US and European archives, documenting Thomas's wartime heroism, to Republican Senator John McCain and New York Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. They forwarded this to the US Army's Decorations Review Board, which researched his war record and awarded Thomas the Silver Star for valor in combat in France in 1944, where he fought with US troops as a former maquisard of the French Resistance. WWII veterans Senator Bob Dole and John Warner saw fit to pin the medal on Thomas in the shadow of the Atlantic Wall of the WWII Memorial on the mall in Washington, DC during the week of its dedication -- Memorial Day 2004. Eli Rosenbaum, the head of the US Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which deports Nazi war criminals from the US, and the Ambassador of France joined several of Thomas's wartime comrades standing by with an honor guard of Army Rangers. The following day he was honored as a Dachau liberator with a standing ovation before a large crowd at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, during their "Salute to Liberators" event, (the Times article had suggested Thomas lied about being among the camp's liberators on April 29, 1945.)

The editor of the Los Angeles Times declined an invitation to cover these ceremonies, having told an audience at UC Berkeley a few months earlier that he was "proud" of his paper's article, which "had a little fun at the expense of" a then-90 year-old Holocaust survivor and soon-to-be decorated WWII veteran.

Thomas was a Zelig-like figure, who was involved with many notorious people and episodes of the war, including a perilous 1942 encounter with Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon" whom Thomas testified against in France in 1987, when Barbie was convicted of crimes against humanity. But Thomas's most historic wartime contribution, briefly mentioned in this biography, was his role in the rescue of the Nazi Party's worldwide membership card files, which had been shipped by the Nazi leadership at the end of the war in a convoy of trucks to a paper mill outside Munich to be pulped. The ten million members of the NSDAP, in Germany and throughout the world, would have found it far easier to hide their affiliation with the most notorious, genocidal political party in history, and the defendants at the Nuremberg war crimes trials would not have been presented with such incontrovertible evidence of their crimes, were it not for Thomas's efforts in rescuing and preserving these crucial records.

The NSDAP Master File became the heart of the collections of the Berlin Document Center, an enormous archive kept under US Military Police guard on the leafy street of suburban Wasserkafersteig in Berlin until 1994, when the US State Department turned the collection over the German Bundesarchiv. A microfilm copy resides in the US National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

US National archivist Robert Wolfe, the pre-eminent American expert on captured German war documents, authored a monograph in 2002 documenting the facts demonstrating that Thomas played a crucial role in the rescue of these historic files. Thomas's role in the rescue of the files was also documented by US Justice Department historian Gregory Gordon, a senior trial attorney in the Office of Special Investigations, (United States Attorney's Bulletin, February 2006 "Taking the Paper Trail Instead of Memory Lane: OSI's Use of Ancient Foreign Documents in the Nazi Cases").

In an era that often celebrates clever expedience over commitment to basic convictions, Thomas's life story is an enduring one of inspiring courage and indomitable will. His fortitude in his last years to fight back against those who would deny the truth of his life experiences is a stirring tale of stubborn refusal to allow documented historical facts to be distorted.
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