THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC

THE CRISIS OF CLASSICAL MODERNITY

Peukert, who died in 1990 at age 39, also wrote Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life. This new book is not quite everyday life under the Weimar Republic, but it does shift the emphasis from the doings of a few old men—the military elite who handed the country over to Hitler—to the prevailing anguish among all classes of Germans during the 12 years the Republic survived. Peukert sums up this anguish as ``the crisis of classical modernity.'' He notes that, since 1870, Germany had already been subjected to an accelerated process of modernization: industrialization, urbanization, bureaucratization, rationalization of daily life. Dislocations that were mild and bearable under the prosperous empire became killers in the Weimar years, after military defeat and with two horrendous economic crises in ten years. Weimar, in short, was not something completely new in German history. It was more of the same under impossible conditions. Peukert offers new angles on the period, all designed to show that it wasn't some fatal flaw in the German character that produced Hitler, but a series of complex problems all striking at once. Demographics, for example: A baby boom in 1900-10 flooded the job market just at the start of the Depression, and the Nazis recruited heavily among these young unemployed. Peukert also points out surprising continuities between Weimar and what followed. Laws against abortion and homosexuality never came off the books in those supposedly freewheeling years. Women who were married weren't supposed to work, were even fired from civil-service jobs. Nazi race madness was anticipated by a concern for eugenics by both the right and the left, going back decades. Writing to amplify and correct other historians, Peukert is dense, allusive, and sometimes crabbed. This is definitely not Weimar for beginners, and perhaps is best read as part of Germany's process of VergangenheitsbewÑltigung—coming to terms with the past. Or as a warning of how long stretches of hard times can bring out the worst in people.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8090-9674-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

BERLIN AIRLIFT

THE SALVATION OF A CITY

Detailed, nuts-and-bolts exploration of the 1948-9 Berlin airlift, first major crisis of the new Cold War.

British military historians Sutherland and Canwell begin at the close of World War II, when the Red Army occupied the decimated, starved city. Germany was divided into four zones after its surrender in May 1945, and the Soviets jealously guarded access to Berlin, which lay within their zone but was divided among all four Allies. Food and fuel were urgently needed for the city’s nearly three million residents, but the Russians did not allow supplies to move through their zone into West Berlin. As Soviet-sponsored communist parties seized power in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Truman Doctrine guaranteed U.S. support for democracies that resisted. When the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe was set forth in July 1947, the Iron Curtain had already fallen, and divided, vulnerable Berlin came under increasingly restrictive Soviet measures. The crisis was precipitated by the introduction on June 21, 1948, of the Deutsche Mark in Berlin’s three Western sectors. In response, the Soviets declared they would no longer supply food to the German civilian population in those sectors. The authors credit British Air Commodore Rex Waite (rather than American General Lucius D. Clay) with drafting the plan for an airlift (dubbed Operation Vittles) to sustain the population and the garrisons. Using three airfields from June 1948 to June 1949, the Western powers airlifted nearly two million tons of food and supplies, effectively undermining the Soviets and keeping West Berliners from starving. The authors make a good use of primary documents to portray the broad political machinations of the time, yet neglect to offer voices from the civilian eyewitnesses. A final chapter, “Legacy of the Airlift,” covers such subsequent events as the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989.

A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58980-550-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

EMPIRE OF SHADOWS

THE EPIC STORY OF YELLOWSTONE

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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