A comprehensive, insightful one-volume study of World War II that relentlessly pursues the question: Why didn’t the Axis win?

British historian Roberts (Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945, 2009, etc.) captures the vigorous momentum undertaken by Hitler when it seemed to the world that the Nazi engine could not be stopped. Hitler was a devout student of military history, and the use of tactical surprise was carried out with repeated stunning success. Yet—and here Roberts returns frequently—there were crucial mistakes: Hitler’s halt order given at Dunkirk on May 24, 1940, allowed the British Army to flee by sea; his inability to “grasp the fundamental principles of air warfare” over the English Channel led to the defeat in the Battle of Britain; he departed from the strategic principle of “concentration” by embarking on a two-front war; he resolved to invade Russia, despite the historical evidence of this folly and the reservations of his own general, in order to fulfill the Nazi worldview; and the subsequent harsh treatment of the captured ethnic groups in Russia sealed resistance to the Nazis. In the excellent chapter titled “The Everlasting Shame of Mankind,” Roberts cogently analyzes the Nazi policy and system of extermination. Other important chapters treat the “Tokyo Typhoon,” and battles at Midway, El Alamein, Stalingrad and Sicily; the cracking of the Enigma code; and the controversial uses by the Allies of carpet bombing and the atomic bomb. The author masterly shows how the Allied victory was never assured, while the Nazi defeat was the result, first and foremost, of its pernicious ideology. An energetic, elegant synthesis of enormous research—with lots of maps!—that will prove a valuable resource for students of European history.


Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-122859-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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