Not a casual read, but an ideal tool for any serious student of history, art, architecture, European studies, or religion.



An affectionate, rollicking, and occasionally solemn ode to an 800-year-old city.

Dutch journalist Mak takes us on a guided tour of Amsterdam, from its humble beginnings as a settlement around a dam on the Amstel River in the late 12th century to the present. He celebrates the city’s heritage as a haven for independent-minded residents, from 16th-century Anabaptists to the Provos of the 1960s. The author excels when he lets real Asterdammers tell the story of their city. Judging from their surviving account books, for example, 15th-century merchant Symon Reyerszoon and his nephew maintained a thriving trade in ash, potassium, thread, hemp, wood, pitch, tar, rye, wheat, talcum, herring, cloth, wine, exotic fruit, and salt. The diary of a 16th-century Augustinian monk reveals the increasing isolation and terror felt by Catholics living in Amsterdam during the Protestant rise to power. The author convincingly argues that the city embodied the gospel of globalism—peace through prosperity—more than 400 years before the term was popularized. “The new Amsterdam that had emerged after the peaceful revolution of 1578 was dominated by a formula for success, which, until then, had been unknown: the pursuit of wealth in combination with a new conception of liberty. Money and freedom pushed aside . . . the old medieval combination of ‘honour’ and ‘heroism.’” This doesn’t prevent the author from criticizing the city and its inhabitants, however, and Mak offers a thoughtful and stirring account of Amsterdam during WWII—concluding that many Amsterdammers not only failed to help their Jewish neighbors, but willingly participated in the Final Solution. “The Germans never posted more than 60 officers in Amsterdam, even at the height of the persecution of the Jews. The rest was done by the Dutch. Of the total number of men deployed in the big raids, about half were ordinary Dutch policemen.”

Not a casual read, but an ideal tool for any serious student of history, art, architecture, European studies, or religion.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00331-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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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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