Right to the nail-biting end, this book captures your attention in alternating dread, fear, and hope.



An uplifting, exciting story of the extraordinary actions of one family during World War II.

Bailey (Black Diamond: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England, 2014, etc.) tells the story of Fey von Hassell (1918-2010), who, at age 12, moved to a villa in Italy, where her father, Ulrich, was Germany’s ambassador. Though appointed by the Weimar government, Ulrich never trusted Hitler and worked with German resistance leaders. The Nazis distrusted him, as well, posting spies throughout the household. After marriage to Detalmo Pirzio-Biroli, an aristocrat from one of Italy’s oldest families, Fey lived at Brazzà, the family estate in northern Italy. She remained there, maintaining the estate while her husband escaped the Italian army and ended up in Rome, working for the Americans. In July 1944, the attempt on Hitler’s life caused the Führer to release his vengeance on anyone even slightly connected to the plot. This included Ulrich, who was tried and executed. Then the SS rounded up their family members, wives, parents, and other relatives. Fey and her two young sons were taken to Innsbruck, where the SS seized the boys and sent them to one of the Nazis’ orphanages. The propulsive narrative traces Fey’s frightening transfers from grand hotels to infamous camps such as Buchenwald and Dachau. The other prisoners became her family, and she was told nothing of her children, worrying that she would never see them again. These high-profile hostages, including royalty and former government leaders, were kept alive and well fed as Heinrich Himmler’s insurance policy against his war crimes. Until the end of the war, they were under imminent threat of execution. Throughout their time as prisoners, they wrote—heavily censored—letters, and many kept journals. Bailey’s access to those journals and SS records attests to the historical accuracy of this tale, and she relates the entire suspenseful story like a novel.

Right to the nail-biting end, this book captures your attention in alternating dread, fear, and hope.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55929-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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