A highly learned but problematic examination of Nazi decision-making.




In a sweeping historical reappraisal, Cesarani (Disraeli, 2016, etc.), who died in 2015, asserts that the Nazi extermination of Jews was not inevitable but rather a consequence of Germany’s military losses.

What the Nazis wanted was to rid Europe of Jews through “a combination of forced emigration and expulsion” to a conquered territory: Poland, French-controlled Madagascar, or Siberia. Only when Germany suffered military failures did rampant, virulent anti-Semitism result in a plan to kill Jews. That plan was abetted by “local populations” eager to lay their hands on Jewish property and possessions in economically “straitened, uncertain” times. “Greed not anti-Semitism motivated many people to align themselves with the German occupiers,” writes Cesarani, who claims that Hitler was not made chancellor due to anti-Semitism, although “it was essential to the core activists of the Nazi party.” The author follows Nazi policy before and during the war to reveal confusion, within Germany and among the international community, about Hitler’s “domestic policy, the economy, and international relations.” Before the full-blown war, Nazi degradation and intimidation of Jews, including pogroms, made the front pages of American and British newspapers, but those nations held back from offering visas for Jews, which would have afforded refuge. Cesarani insists many pogroms were spontaneous, “ill thought out and counterproductive,” resulting “in a backlash at home and abroad.” When civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois visited Germany in 1935, he wrote publicly that Nazi racism against Jews “surpasses in vindictive cruelty and public insult anything I have ever seen; and I have seen much.” In 1939, Hitler predicted that a world war would result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe,” but Cesarani insists this rhetoric did not result in a plan for death camps until much later. When mass killings became government policy, they were crude and haphazard, countering the myth of “genocidal technology.” Cesarani’s overwhelming evidence of brutality makes this book unbearably painful to read and makes his analysis hard to accept. Even before an official plan, Hitler’s anti-Semitic rants inspired his army and his nation.

A highly learned but problematic examination of Nazi decision-making.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-00083-5

Page Count: 992

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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