On this centennial of the Great War’s beginning, Wawro has composed a thoroughly researched and well-written account,...

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A MAD CATASTROPHE

THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR I AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE HABSBURG EMPIRE

A distinguished historian’s takedown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s spectacularly inept leadership, which helped usher in the 20th century’s greatest tragedy.

One hundred years ago this June, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo. With its saber-rattling ally Germany discouraging any diplomatic solution to the crisis, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, triggering a series of treaty obligations that soon had the world at arms. Wawro (Military History/Univ. of North Texas, Dallas; Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East, 2010, etc.) sets the stage for this rash decision with opening chapters explaining the origins of the dual monarchy and the rot eating away at the empire well before any shot was fired. Under the doddering, now-mythologized Emperor Franz Josef, the empire was plagued by salacious court intrigues, corruption, linguistic controversies, and bureaucratic infighting and paralysis so widespread that in 1913, British newspapers were already predicting dissolution. Nevertheless, seemingly oblivious to its own infirmity, the government threw itself into a war it had no chance of winning. Wawro charts the disastrous 1914-1915 campaigns against Serbia and Russia that fatally exposed the empire’s weaknesses, where an army of unwilling soldiers, poorly led, inadequately trained and armed, was slaughtered by the millions. American readers with only a passing familiarity of the battles of World War I likely know it best from the perspective of the Western Front. Wawro offers a crucial insight into the Eastern Front, where the fecklessness of Germany’s most important ally drained attention and resources, almost guaranteeing the bloody standoff in the Western trenches and the eventual capitulation of the Kaiser’s army.

On this centennial of the Great War’s beginning, Wawro has composed a thoroughly researched and well-written account, mercilessly debunking any nostalgia for the old monarch and the deeply dysfunctional empire over which he presided.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-02835-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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