Despite few revelations and though dominated by the immense war between two unsympathetic evil empires, this is a lively,...




A new history of a “decisive year” in World War II.

Because Nazi Germany lacked the means to win a prolonged war, each year of the war could qualify as significant, but few readers will object to this expert history of 1941, a year when Hitler made a flurry of stupid decisions. Award-winning former Newsweek journalist Nagorski (The Nazi Hunters, 2017, etc.) emphasizes that when Hitler’s advisers warned that his targets—France, Britain, and the Soviet Union—could mobilize much greater resources, he concluded, paradoxically, that Germany must go to war immediately while its military held the advantage. Conquering Poland in 1939 was relatively easy, but the 1940 defeat of France (considered the world’s strongest military power) flabbergasted everyone and did nothing to discourage Hitler’s megalomania. At the beginning of 1941, Germany had become massively powerful, and by spring, Winston Churchill’s campaign to involve the United States was slowly advancing. President Franklin Roosevelt had revived the draft the previous fall. The Lend-Lease Act passed Congress in March, and the Destroyers-for-Bases agreement was finalized in September. Most readers will be surprised when Nagorski points out that Hitler’s plan to invade the Soviet Union was no secret thanks to talkative Nazi officials and Soviet spies. Allied diplomats sent repeated warnings, but Stalin, as deluded as Hitler, dismissed them as capitalist disinformation. When the invasion began in June, everyone knew that the war had entered its critical phase, but it was winter before Allied leaders stopped worrying that the Soviet Union would collapse. Popular histories extol Allied lend-lease aid, but little arrived during 1941, so the Red Army pulled itself together on its own. The author ends with Hitler’s bizarre declaration of war on America after Japan’s December attack on Pearl Harbor. For much of the last half of the book, Nagorski concentrates on the Russian front, where over 90 percent of the fighting occurred, a figure that diminished only modestly in later years.

Despite few revelations and though dominated by the immense war between two unsympathetic evil empires, this is a lively, opinionated account of a critical year.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8111-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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