A well-researched book that clarifies many misconceptions.



A new look at Hitler’s secret state police as a smaller crack force than is widely known, relying on the work of German citizen informers.

A historian specializing in World War II and the Third Reich, McDonough (Sophie Scholl: Heroine of the German Resistance, 2009, etc.) offers a nuanced study of the Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo, which by 1939 had merged the various police forces for Nazi Germany and was empowered with rooting out subversive and “anti-social” elements. The author reminds us that the galvanizing force in the initial creation of the Gestapo was Hitler’s need to suppress forces of communism in the government, and four key figures would achieve control over all of the security services: Hermann Göring and Rudolf Diels in Prussia and Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich in Bavaria. McDonough delineates how the “Night of the Long Knives” of June 30, 1934, brutally eliminated any opposition to the Gestapo, including the murder of Ernst Röhm, leader of the storm troopers. Under the directorship of Heinrich Müller, the Gestapo proceeded with lethal efficiency, enlisting for its officers the most educated men, such as law graduates, and offering quick promotion of young people, which “gave the regime its energetic radicalism.” The rank-and-file members were lower-class career policemen and not necessarily avid members of the Nazi Party. After sketching the makeup of the organization, the author then delves into the victims of the secret police force who posed a danger to the state and its increasingly draconian racial laws. The victims included religious objectors, mostly Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses (Protestants and Evangelicals tended to be pro-Nazi); communists, who had been the passionate voice of the German industrial working class in the Weimar era; “social outsiders” such as criminals and homosexuals; and such “racial enemies” as Gypsies and Jews. McDonough devotes an entire chilling chapter to the makeup of the informers, who were mostly middle- and upper-class citizens.

A well-researched book that clarifies many misconceptions.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1465-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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