An engrossing academic taxonomy of evil.

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THE GESTAPO

POWER AND TERROR IN THE THIRD REICH

A measured yet chilling overview of the organization and politics of Nazi Germany’s notorious core.

Dams (Police Sciences/North-Rhine Westphalia School of Public Management) and Stolle (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) offer a rigorously researched account that’s familiar in its broad strokes, but their focus on the words and career arcs of key perpetrators, and the Gestapo’s paper trail, illuminates disturbing new facets. The Gestapo (from Geheime Staatspolizei, or “Secret State Police”) was essentially created by Heinrich Himmler (who would commit suicide in Allied custody) and his ruthless deputy Reinhard Heydrich (assassinated by partisans in 1942), and its aggression was forged by competition for influence with other factions like the army: “The first Gestapo Law…meant that the Gestapo was largely detached from the interior administration.” Prior to World War II, Himmler focused on restructuring domestic policing “according to National Socialist principles,” persecuting Jews, homosexuals, the “work-shy” and other enemies of the state. After 1939, Gestapo units generally followed the army’s movement into Europe. The authors emphasize how bureaucratic complexity was promulgated at every level of the Gestapo’s operation. Somehow, this eased the transition from domestic spying to active participation in genocide, initially in Eastern Europe, where they oversaw the infamous mobile killing squads. This transition from abstract clerical management “turned the officers into active enforcers of the National Socialist war of extermination…[which] then became perceptible in their service on the ‘home front.’ ” Dams and Stolle are restrained in their detailing of the accelerating narrative of mass murder and cruelty, but their emphasis on Nazi philosophy and ambition remains disturbing, as is their conclusion, where they document how initial efforts to hold Gestapo members accountable tapered off by the early 1950s—“heavily incriminated war criminals found jobs” in intelligence and other fields.

An engrossing academic taxonomy of evil.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-19-966921-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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