A modest but important account of a heroic movement.

RED ORCHESTRA

THE STORY OF THE BERLIN UNDERGROUND AND THE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS WHO RESISTED HITLER

Inspiring history of Germans who risked and mostly lost their lives to oppose the Nazis.

Journalist and playwright Nelson (Murder Under Two Flags: The U.S., Puerto Rico, and the Cerro Maravilla Cover-Up, 1986) emphasizes that the famous 1944 bomb plot by disaffected Army officers obscures the existence of substantial, ongoing resistance in the broader population. She tells their story through the eyes of Greta Kuckhoff, a rare survivor whose 1972 memoir of her antifascist activities was mangled by the dogmatic alterations of her East German editor. (Nelson got a look at the original manuscript.) Kuckhoff spent years 1927 to 1929 doing graduate work in economics at the University of Wisconsin, where she befriended several other German students later prominent in the resistance. All returned home to experience the Depression and the spectacular rise of the Nazi Party, which struck many of them as wildly irrational. Opposition was always strongest in Berlin, a vibrant city whose intellectuals and artists thought for themselves and whose millions of factory workers had more leftist sympathies than those in other cities. Kuckhoff and her friends struggled to make a living while meeting and plotting with likeminded comrades. A substantial number joined the civil service or the military and rose to high positions while passing information to the local underground or foreign diplomats. Kuckhoff fell in love with a popular writer and participated in groups dominated by intellectuals. Their sexism shunted her into minor tasks such as typing, which may have saved her life when her husband and most of their friends were caught, tortured and executed in 1942–43. Nelson admits that many resistance activities, such as printing and distributing leaflets, had no noticeable effect on the German war effort, and the Allies ignored a surprising amount of the information dissidents risked their lives to convey. Nonetheless, their courage and sacrifice deserves a permanent place in history books.

A modest but important account of a heroic movement.

Pub Date: April 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6000-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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