A fairly technical study featuring some riveting revelations about the diverse makeup of the notorious Nazi organization.



An in-depth examination of the elite group of soldiers originally designed as Hitler’s bodyguards and carefully groomed and trained by Heinrich Himmler for murderous duty.

British military historian and broadcaster Gilbert (Challenge of Battle: The Real Story of the British Army in 1914, 2014, etc.) offers a nuts-and-bolts, chronological study of the Waffen-SS, from the time of Himmler’s assumption of its command in 1929 through training, successes, atrocities on the Eastern and Western fronts, and to its bitter defeat in 1945 (and resurrection in a postwar loyalists’ group). After Hitler’s elimination of Ernst Röhm and his thuggish SA (the “brownshirts”) in the so-called Night of the Long Knives on June 29, 1934, the elite Schutzstaffel became the “prime arbiter of violence in Nazi Germany.” Himmler envisioned a group with “a confirmed Aryan pedigree and a high level of physical fitness”—education was not a priority—forged into “a vanguard of political soldiers for the Nazi cause.” Of course, the men would be inculcated in racial doctrine and develop an intense sense of comradeship. Gilbert explores the competitive dynamic between the Germany army and the SS and the army’s attempts to undermine the SS and its various splinter groups. While Himmler pursued his vision of an ever larger role for the SS—as the racial war against the Jews and Slavs progressed—Hitler “did not favor diluting its special character through mass recruitment.” As Nazi expansion continued, so did the widening makeup of the SS, and the group began to incorporate mercenary Dutch, Finns, Norwegians, and Danes. With the Germans increasingly desperate, “the once fixed racial lines were also becoming…blurred, something not lost on bemused Waffen-SS veterans.” Ultimately, the organization fought until the bitter end. Of the “more than 900,000 men [who] passed through its ranks,” writes Gilbert, “...300,000 were killed or died of their wounds.”

A fairly technical study featuring some riveting revelations about the diverse makeup of the notorious Nazi organization.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-306-82465-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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