A monumental history accessible to a mass audience. “Crude” was how Goethe described the city of Berlin in 1778, while Stendhal wondered why anyone would construct a city in such a desolate place. When it was named the capital of the new nation in 1871, other Germans grumbled that Berlin was too Prussian, militaristic, Protestant, and new. Lacking the shine of Paris or the glory of Rome, Berlin nonetheless has been at the center of European history no less than its more glamorous cousins. Although remembered more for Bismarck and Hitler—whose ghosts still hover over the city—Berlin was also the home of the Enlightenment in Germany and a creative art scene in the 19th and early 20th centuries, until such pursuits were stamped out by National Socialism. Richie, a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, is a descendent of the Von Moltke family, which has been a major protagonist in the city’s history. Critical to understanding Berlin is the municipality’s conception of itself as the City of German Destiny, a conception that has perhaps done more damage to the metropolis than any foreign occupying army. Equally critical for modern Berlin has been the way German unification was achieved—through “blood and the sword” in Bismarck’s memorable phrase, rather than noble ideals. Epigraphs from Goethe’s Faust appropriately open each chapter. Richie dwells at length on the Weimar Republic and doesn—t fail to examine German Expressionism, architecture, cinema, theater. But this art history is merely part of a sweeping canvas that succinctly covers several centuries of changing politics, economics, and social conditions, from absolutism to romanticism; from nationalism to socialism and, tragically, National Socialism. Richie weaves a colorful tapestry and, in the process, adroitly separates fact from fiction, myth from history. The illustrations are plentiful and illuminating, and the writing is a pleasure. Historians should take note: This is the way to reach a mass audience.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-7867-0510-8

Page Count: 984

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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