A sturdy contribution to Cold War history.

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THE BERLIN WALL

A WORLD DIVIDED, 1961-1989

A history of “a uniquely squalid, violent—and, as we now know, ultimately futile—episode in the post-war world.”

Between August 13, 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up, and November 9, 1989, when it came crashing down, 86 people died as a direct result of violence there. The count may include a couple of dozen more, depending on the criteria used, but it is clear that the Wall took fewer lives than one might suppose. Nonetheless, it stood as a powerful symbol of the divide between East and West, and, moreover, as Nikita Khrushchev understood, a repudiation of Sovietism. “The Wall,” writes British novelist and historian Taylor (Dresden, 2004, etc.), “was in the long run a propaganda catastrophe for the East. Every day it existed, it screamed aloud one simple, damning statement: in Berlin we Communists stood in direct competition with capitalism, and we lost.” Nonetheless, East Germany’s leaders had reason to want to impede the flow of traffic into encircled West Berlin, since the most talented, productive members of East German society were defecting to the West in record numbers even before Josef Stalin died. It was Stalin who authorized Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker to make a fortress of the frontier between the two Germanys, and Moscow that allowed their regime to erect the wall in the first place, even though Khrushchev “felt it was dangerous to give Ulbricht total control over access to Berlin.” In a legalistic turn, the East Germans initially closed traffic only to their fellow citizens passing through the Soviet sector, so that passage from West to East was theoretically permitted; but in the dangerous war of words that followed the construction of the Wall (built on a Sunday, no less, when workers would be resting), the barrier became permanent, heavily fortified and impassable, “a thing for which the term ‘Wall’ was wholly inadequate.”

A sturdy contribution to Cold War history.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-078613-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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