For World War I and modern European history enthusiasts, this is a comprehensive work that ably conveys the disintegration...

RING OF STEEL

GERMANY AND AUSTRIA-HUNGARY IN WORLD WAR I

A British historian examines the desperate ethnic divisions roiling the Austro-Hungarian Empire that both propelled it to war in 1914 and undermined its success.

From the first decision to go to war after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the peace signed in Versailles in June 1919, Watson (History/Univ. of London; Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914-1918, 2008) sifts carefully through the thinking and actions of the main Central Powers, the Habsburgs and the Germans, in provoking a European conflagration against enemies of superior numbers and military might (the Russians, British and French). Punishing Serbia for the assassinations meant bringing in its powerful ally Russia, but Watson argues that the sprawling multiethnic Austria-Hungary had largely lost control of its nationalist pockets and feared a “domino effect” if this insurgency was not violently crushed. Indeed, the empire’s dangerously paranoid statesmen promoted war out of “a profound sense of weakness, fear and even despair.” Germany was also operating from a place of deep insecurity regarding France, Russia and Britain, and Watson shows how Chief of the German General Staff Helmuth von Moltke was rather more “defensive and reactive” than saber-rattling. Thus the Central Powers were able to sell the war to the people as a defensive action, surrounded as they were by hostile enemies—“a ring of steel.” The “pervasive sense of threat” to the community translated initially into a patriotic spur to mobilization, but it morphed into suspicion and vigilantism as refugees from the eastern war zones of Galicia flooded into the interior and provoked ethnic hostilities and anti-Semitism. The German atrocities in Belgium and Russians’ in Galicia, the Ottomans’ treatment of the Armenians and the ultimate claim that “security” was the German Reich’s ultimate goal—all of this paved the way for Nazi genocide.

For World War I and modern European history enthusiasts, this is a comprehensive work that ably conveys the disintegration of empire.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0465018727

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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