A harsh and unconvincing look at FDR's foreign policy. The subtle and secretive FDR irritates many historians, but he seems to utterly infuriate Perlmutter (Political Science/American Unversity; The Life and Times of Menachem Begin, 1987, etc.), who decries the ``myth of FDR's far-seeing diplomacy'' that is protected by ``praetorian guards'' (Arthur Schlesinger et al.), and accuses FDR of a ``total absence of statecraft [and of] perverse collaboration'' with and ``appeasement'' of both Hitler and Stalin- -and of preferring ``the partnership of the cunning, machinating, and ruthless Stalin'' over that of Churchill. Perlmutter also charges FDR with isolationism, which most historians see as a cornerstone of US thinking that was displaced largely by FDR's efforts. Still, the author's descriptions of events at Teheran and Yalta are clear and effective. The overriding facts of FDR's desperately failing health and of his Wilsonian devotion to the UN are points well made, but they're not new. Perlmutter adds the notion that FDR's refusal to deal in balances of power and territory proves his lack of a realistic vision, but the author fails to consider the historic grounding for Stalin's fears: the invasion of Soviet territory by Western allies after WW I, and again by Germany in 1941. Condemned here for ignoring Churchill (a notorious Russophobe), FDR, quite aware that Russia was carrying the brunt of the war effort and its casualties, was certainly dealing with the real power. How well did he deal with it? A crucial appended note by Litvinov to Stalin, Malenkov, and others reveals both Russian insight into what Roosevelt would accept (e.g., the fait accompli regarding Poland) and a revisionary line regarding Russian diplomatic isolation, even suggesting ``a body for permanent military-political contact'—possibly with the West. Who knew that Truman would enact Churchill's belligerent anti- Soviet policies? (see Frank Kofsky's Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948, p. 839). Superficial, vituperative treatment of a complex subject.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8262-0910-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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