THE FALL OF BERLIN

A kaleidoscopic portrait of the last days of the Nazi Reich, narrated in the best apocalyptic style by British historian/journalists Read and Fisher (Kristallnacht, 1989, etc.). The bloody final days of the bloodiest European war in history provide a spectacle that, in its stupefyingly tragic depth, could have overwhelmed a Tolstoy—although Read and Fisher manage to hold up pretty well. They set their scene carefully, starting in 1936 with the opening of the Olympic games in Berlin and guiding us along the complex route that led inexorably to the eruption of war three years later. This is preeminently a history of the German capital (rather than of the German nation) during wartime, and, as such, it possesses a clarity of focus that few other accounts of the war have achieved. As Read and Fisher see them, the Berliners as a whole were vastly unenthusiastic about Hitler and his war, suspecting from the start that the Nazis were gambling with their lives. Hitler himself seems to have requited their affections in full: For all of his grandiose dreams of rebuilding the capital into an imperial showplace, the FÅhrer obviously hated Berlin and (until the end of the war) never stayed there more than a few days at a time. When the Nazi regime finally collapsed, its end was just as Wagnerian as its rhetoric had been, and it is here that Read and Fisher manage best to convey the tenor and shape of the war's intrusion into urban life: the endless procession of refugees; the increasing chaos and lawlessness; the progressive disappearance of basic goods and amenities—and, in the midst of everything, the insane survival of Germanic traits of loyalty and duty, which led thousands to die for a doomed cause they had long since lost faith in. Splendidly researched and admirably constructed, this stands as one of the best accounts yet of the war and its terrible toll.

Pub Date: April 26, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-03472-0

Page Count: 524

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...

NIGHT

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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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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