Richly detailed and well-written, this important new vantage point on Nuremberg will appeal strongly to history buffs and...




The untold story of the Soviet Union’s central role in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders for war crimes.

In this masterly account based on thousands of documents in recently opened Soviet archives, history professor Hirsch describes how “Stalin’s Soviet Union fundamentally shaped the [Nuremberg trials] and was key to its success.” Her painstaking, highly readable history of the trials—in which prosecutors from the victorious Allies (the U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviets) cross-examined 24 “largely unrepentant” Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goering, Albert Speer, and Rudolf Hess—reveals participants’ sharply contrasting understandings of the meaning of justice. The Soviets, who lost 27 million civilians during the war, first suggested the trials. They had suffered the brunt of German war-making, assumed “the Nazi leaders were guilty and deserved to be hanged,” and hoped to establish a legal claim for reparations. The Western powers, which had favored “summary execution” of the defendants, wanted to show the world a fair trial. The tribunal was “filled with political intrigue, back-room negotiations, double-dealing, and compromises.” The four powers’ initial “tenuous” cooperation gave way to “bitterness and suspicion,” with the U.S. determined to “shut the Soviets out”—an early sign of the coming Cold War. Drawing nicely on the observations of such individuals as filmmaker Roman Karmen and political cartoonist Boris Efimov—both Soviets—Hirsch re-creates the trials vividly (“evidence by day and private parties at night”) and illuminates Soviet motives and actions. The vengeance-bent Moscow leadership worked hard to make Nuremberg resemble the infamous show trials of the 1930s. Ironically, themselves guilty of war crimes, they succeeded in creating the ideals of the Nuremberg principles (“crimes against humanity” and “genocide”) that have shaped subsequent movements for human rights.

Richly detailed and well-written, this important new vantage point on Nuremberg will appeal strongly to history buffs and specialists. (b/w illustrations, maps)

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-937793-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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