A chilling examination of the SS makeup, structure and ideology.



Riveting look at the formation of the Schutzstaffeln (aka the SS), from Hitler’s early private bodyguards to Heinrich Himmler’s elite extermination squads.

Weale (Patriot Traitors, 2001, etc.) plots the evolution of the SS as the embodiment and implementation of the Nazi racist ideology. Organized in 1925 as a personal security detail for the National Socialist leader on the rise, the SS was conceived as a self-conscious elite force set apart from the party’s thuggish, ill-disciplined paramilitary force, the Sturmabteilung, or SA. Once the young Bavarian Nazi-organizer Himmler took over the restructuring process, the SS was soon imbued with new discipline, uniforms, recruitment and ideological framework that embraced the pseudo-science of eugenics current at the time. Weale breaks down the criteria for SS selectivity, which required not only absolute political loyalty, but a kind of physical perfection, including height restrictions and proof of “strictly Nordic German” blood; marriage by SS officers had to be approved by the Race Office. By 1933, Hitler was chancellor, and tension among the German army, the SA and the SS was eliminated by the Night of the Long Knives of July 1934, when Himmler’s SS became the fully independent organization within the Nazi party in charge of security and policing—soon to be armed and sent into invasion action in Poland and elsewhere. Step by step, Weale delineates the consolidation of Himmler’s power, including the implementation of the concentration camp system, first at Dachau, then in the “special task groups” sent in to mop up after Nazi invasion in Eastern Europe as the SS soldiers evolved into instruments of genocide.

A chilling examination of the SS makeup, structure and ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-451-23791-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: NAL Caliber/Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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