An engrossing study of the times made more fascinating and incredible in retrospect.




A contextually rich look at the buildup of Nazi power, revealing the feebleness of Americans’ assessment of the future danger.

In these seemingly casual impressions recorded in newspapers, letters, magazines, diaries and diplomatic reports, many Americans rooted in interwar Germany failed to see the menace in the increasingly inflammatory Nazi rhetoric, as Nagorski (The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow that Changed the Course of World War II, 2007, etc.) depicts in this well-marshaled study. Or if they did—e.g., Chicago Daily News correspondent Edgar Mowrer or Foreign Affairs editor Hamilton Fish Armstrong, who interviewed Hitler on Apr. 27, 1933, and recorded, “So completely has the Republic been wiped out”—they were not believed. On one hand, most well-clad Western observers were approving of the German sense of method and order; on the other, the Americans were appalled by the enormous discrepancy in wealth between rich and poor and the Weimar Republic’s reputation for sexual licentiousness, especially homosexuality. Nagorski looks at the first wave of fawning observers, if not admirers, of the brash young agitator who engineered the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, including U.S. Envoy Alanson B. Houghton, an industrialist who threw grand parties and blamed America for Germany’s economic woes, and Karl Henry von Wiegland, reporter for Hearst, who described Hitler as a “man of the people.” Some of the more shameless hangers-on included Ernst Hanfstaengl, a half-American, Harvard-educated aristocrat who became enamored of Hitler and served as his publicist; Charles Lindbergh, who shared aircraft secrets and a ringside box at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and young Martha Dodd, good-time daughter of the American ambassador in Berlin. Few spoke out against Hitler’s virulently anti-Semitic message, and many sheepishly covered over their early lapses in later memoirs.

An engrossing study of the times made more fascinating and incredible in retrospect.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9100-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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