A little-known tale whose significance the author trumpets a bit too brassily.



Infuriated by the ousting of Mussolini in July 1943, Hitler ordered his minions to plan and execute the kidnapping of Pope Pius XII and the plundering of the Vatican’s treasures.

Kurzman, who specializes in war and disaster (No Greater Glory, 2004, etc.), believes he has found the key to understanding Pius XII’s reluctance to condemn the Holocaust. Although no official Nazi documents have emerged to confirm the story, numerous interviews of the principals leave little doubt that Pius XII was concerned that his active opposition to the Germans would seriously threaten the Church (especially in Germany), the Vatican and his life. Although Kurzman does not specify when he conducted his interviews, he mentions them frequently, especially key ones with SS General Karl Wolff, a man whose hands dripped Holocaust gore, but who nonetheless recognized the folly of Hitler’s seize-the-Vatican order and who realized that Germany was going to lose the war and was hoping to accommodate himself to the ensuing new world order. He initially hoped to broker a separate peace—to convince the Allies (the Western ones) to focus on the Soviets, whose post-war imperial designs were evident. That initiative went nowhere, but Wolff did surrender the entire German army in Italy two days after Hitler’s suicide. The author at times relates this story in a sort of breathless prose (using exclamation points in case we miss the urgency), and he seems oddly hesitant to denounce outright Pius XII’s behavior (including his failure to speak out when the Nazis rounded up the Jews of Rome and shipped them to Auschwitz), leaving that job to other historians whose judgments he records. Of greatest interest is Wolff’s delicate dance: appeasing the ever-impatient, impulsive and dangerous Hitler; finessing the frightened Pope; protecting himself and his family.

A little-known tale whose significance the author trumpets a bit too brassily. 

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-306-81468-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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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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