A mesmerizing study in contrast and comparison.




A bifurcated, lively study of the year that saw the rise of the two most significant political figures of the early 20th century.

In previous books, historian Pietrusza has taken on momentous years (1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America, 2011, etc.). In this wonderful new history for lay readers, he tackles two rising political geniuses, one good, one evil, at their moments of election: Roosevelt and Hitler. Two unlikely men of destiny at the cusp of seizing power in 1932 and poised to shape historical events in their respective countries, they were able to overcome enormous obstacles—FDR his polio affliction, Hitler his lack of talent and general status of persona non grata—corral the necessary accomplices, and press forward by sheer and startling forces of will. While FDR and Hitler had little in common growing up—one hailed from the aristocracy and enjoyed every kind of family, school, and professional privilege; the other failed at most everything he tried, even spending time in a homeless men’s shelter—both had adoring mothers, leadership abilities, and an ability to stir their followers by marvelous rhetoric. After struggling with his disability since the early 1920s, FDR did not feel ready to run for the governorship of New York in 1928, but his nominating presidential convention speech for Al Smith galvanized the Democratic Party, and Smith begged him to succeed him as governor. While Smith lost abysmally to Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt “squeaked through to a narrow victory” and began his stupendous comeback, convincing the people of his vigorous health as well as the disastrous policies of Hoover. Hitler, having hit rock bottom once his mother died and twice rejected entrance to art school, found his conversion in World War I. As the author astutely notes, war became for Hitler a religion, and he began to cobble together his own lethal, unstoppable political force.

A mesmerizing study in contrast and comparison.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7627-9302-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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