Richly detailed, gracefully written: a wrenching reminder that evil wears a human face. (16 maps, 49 b&w illustrations,...



“Few things reveal more about political leaders and their systems than the manner of their downfall,” states military historian Beevor (Stalingrad, not reviewed, etc.), a sturdy thesis abundantly supported in his chronicle of the Third Reich’s last days.

Beevor musters a powerful array of evidence: documents, diaries, interviews, books in English, German, and Russian. He begins this riveting account during Christmas 1944. Berlin, experiencing round-the-clock bombing from American and RAF crews, was a city in ruin. Its leaders were hunkered down in bunkers, its people reduced to the most severe austerity. Beevor focuses much of his attention on the Soviets advancing from the east—after all, they were the first to enter the city—but moves easily from their forces to the Allied camps in the west to the Nazis. Along the way, he displays a dazzling command of fact and facility with detail, describing in one incredible sentence the motley Soviet forces advancing in tanks, on horseback, and in Lend-Lease Studebakers and Dodges. Beevor notes that the Soviets were interested not just in defeating but in harshly punishing the Nazis for their ferocious invasion of Russia four years earlier; they wanted, as well, to capture and whisk back to Moscow those German nuclear scientists and rocket experts who might help the USSR close the atomic-bomb gap. Terror was perpetrated by all the war’s participants, the author reminds us. He describes the Danzig Anatomical Medical Institute at which Nazi technicians made soap and leather from human beings, the liberation of Auschwitz, widespread looting and destruction by the advancing Americans, and—in compelling and excruciating detail—the brutal rape of tens of thousands of German women and girls by the Soviets. Nor does he neglect a thoughtful examination of the author of it all, Adolf Hitler, whose mad refusal to surrender cost countless lives on all sides.

Richly detailed, gracefully written: a wrenching reminder that evil wears a human face. (16 maps, 49 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 13, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03041-4

Page Count: 475

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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