MUNICH, 1938


A thorough study of a parlous episode in European history.

The ardent quest for peace sometimes leads to war. So discovered Neville Chamberlain and his political allies in 1938, following their earnest negotiations to avoid war with Adolf Hitler.

Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, should have known that something was up when propagandist Joseph Goebbels complained to him that British journalists in Berlin weren’t showing the Nazi regime enough love. Halifax, writes historian Faber (Speaking for England, 2005), observed that the correspondents had been there for years and had not changed. “We did not complain in the past because Germany was not rearmed,” said Goebbels. “We complain now because we are strong enough to do so.” Throughout 1938, Hitler and company would indeed bluster and complain, particularly that ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia were being mistreated. Sickened by the bloodletting 20 years earlier, the British electorate seemed inclined to let Hitler take what he wished as long as he kept the peace with them. Certainly Chamberlain seemed desperate to maintain peace at nearly any price, while liberals such as Clement Attlee counseled conciliation. Only Winston Churchill was mistrustful enough of Hitler to reject the notion that the Germans would stop once they added the Sudetenland to their holdings. Faber’s account of the negotiations has its airless moments, mainly because the proceedings themselves had a certain stop-and-start quality to them. Comic relief, such as it is, largely comes in the person of Benito Mussolini, who, Faber makes clear, resented playing second fiddle to the German leader to the north. Hitler was a master at spouting rhetoric that marched to the brink of war and then withdrew to seemingly reasonable demands for “justice”—such as any politician might do, and into which ploy the British played, to their later disappointment.

A thorough study of a parlous episode in European history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-3233-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009


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


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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