A story of disgusting people doing disgusting things, told with relish and undisguised disdain.

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SWASTIKA NATION

FRITZ KUHN AND THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GERMAN-AMERICAN BUND

The author of Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing (2009) returns with the disturbing story of the pro-Nazi movement that grew in 1930s America—until legal troubles and Pearl Harbor destroyed both the mad dreams and the dreamers.

Bernstein begins with a moment almost impossible to imagine: a 1939 pro-Nazi rally held in Madison Square Garden to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Tens of thousands were involved, including some 17,000 cops to keep control of the 100,000 protestors outside. (The author returns later with much more detail about the event.) Bernstein focuses on Fritz Julius Kuhn, born in Munich, a young man at the time Hitler began his improbable ascent to power. The author follows Kuhn to the United States, where he eventually became a citizen, and tells about his employment with Henry Ford, another who was dazzled by Hitler and besotted by anti-Semitism. Kuhn joined the Bund, worked his way into the position of Bundesführer and thereafter lived with blithe disregard for social conventions. The Bund found lots of supporters—on both coasts and in between—in Depression-era America, though it had some high-profile opponents, as well, including columnist Walter Winchell, who regularly blasted them. They founded publications and youth and women’s groups—in the youth camp, it seems, there was some sexual activity along with the canoeing and propaganda. Bernstein tells us about the odd outreach to Native Americans and reminds us of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here (about a fascist takeover of America). Eventually, the authorities in New York—Fiorello La Guardia and Thomas Dewey among them—decided they’d had enough and went after Kuhn. They got him, and he spent some jail time and ended up in Europe, dead and forgotten.

A story of disgusting people doing disgusting things, told with relish and undisguised disdain.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00671-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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