A page-turner for World War II buffs but likely more than most readers want to know about an awful campaign.




The hair-raising follow-up to the author’s The Battle for Moscow (2015).

Stahel (European History/Univ. of New South Wales) has written an intensely researched account of three months of brutal fighting under awful conditions on the Eastern Front whose deaths and cruelty dwarfed whatever Britain and American endured in the west throughout the war. Never short of strong opinions, the author maintains that Germany had lost within months of its June 22, 1941, invasion when it became obvious that the Soviet Union would not collapse. Once the fighting “passed from being a blitzkrieg to a slogging war of matériel, which was already the case by the end of the summer, large-scale economic deficiencies spelled eventual doom for the Nazi state.” Germany’s advance stalled in early December, the result of increasing resistance, exhausted, freezing troops, and the impossibility of supply over immense distances and primitive roads. At the same time, a long-planned Soviet offensive began, regaining about 15% of its lost territory before running out of gas in February. Most of the new Red Army divisions were hastily assembled, poorly trained, and lacked heavy fire support. They suffered casualties that shocked even the Soviet high command. Both Hitler and Stalin made matters worse. No Russian general dared refuse Stalin’s orders to attack, and many were shot until Georgy Zhukov convinced the Soviet leader to back off. Ignorant of conditions at the front and convinced that Aryan fighting spirit trumped any deficiency, Hitler repeatedly forbade retreating. Historians still debate how much damage this caused because senior commanders did not always obey. Stahel’s blow-by-blow, unit-level analysis will appeal to military scholars, and his vivid anecdotes will draw in some general readers. He concludes that the Soviet offensive failed in its strategic goals and endured catastrophic losses, but it contributed to the steady erosion of the Wermacht.

A page-turner for World War II buffs but likely more than most readers want to know about an awful campaign.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-24952-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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