An excellent contribution to sports—and political—history.

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NAZI GAMES

THE OLYMPICS OF 1936

The Olympics are supposed to transcend politics, but this fine study reminds us that the Berlin Games were nothing but political.

The 1936 Games were also a victory for the Nazis in several senses apart from medal count. They had long reviled the Olympics, whose apolitical ideals and independence from ethnic, religious and racial considerations were anathema to a party founded on racism, whose leaders believed “politics guide everything, and . . . politics is already inherent in sports.” Nonetheless, Hitler was convinced that an Olympiad in Germany would serve his purposes by showing off the Nazi state. He spent huge sums of money refurbishing the capital and building a massive stadium complex; he provided government subsidies so that German athletes could train for a year and a half—Aryan athletes, that is. Long before the Games were played, the Nazi machine disqualified and dismissed Jews, including high-jumper Gretel Bergmann, who very well might have won the event for Germany had she been allowed to compete. (Invited to attend a commemorative ceremony in 1986, she replied, “Although fifty years have passed since my exclusion from the German Olympic team in Berlin, my disappointment and bitterness have only slightly abated.”) As Large (And the World Closed Its Doors, 2003, etc.) shows, the exclusion of Jewish athletes did not go unnoticed. A major boycott failed to materialize, but far fewer tourists attended the Berlin Olympics than had been projected, despite the presence of Hitler supporters such as Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Undeterred, the Nazis introduced the tradition of the torch relay, funded Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia, won favorable contracts from Coca-Cola and IBM and took home bucketfuls of medals. The biggest surprise in Large’s vigorous book, though, is what Jesse Owens had to say about Hitler.

An excellent contribution to sports—and political—history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-05884-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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