An eloquent, thorough, and thought-provoking record of that century-old tempest called Zionism. British historian Wheatcroft (The Randlords, 1986) admirably covers one hundred years of political, social, cultural, and personal controversy, from Theodore Herzl to Yigal Amir, providing a superior study of Jewish history. As an objective outsider, the author effectively compares the issues of Jewish nationalism with the Irish question. Only a non-Jewish historian might marvel, as Wheatcroft does, at the depth of Jewish self-deprecation and paranoia that continues to inform the relationship between diaspora Jews and Zionism. ``Each hyphenate [American immigrant group] took an interest in its own people across the sea—and each for that matter was open to the accusation of dual loyalty,'' so ``why should the Jewish Americans feel bashful?'' While Central European Jews spearheaded political Zionism and Eastern European Jews did most of the emigrating, Wheatcroft assigns a pivotal role to American Jews, whose healthier egos and checkbooks made the Zionist experiment possible. The author offers personal glimpses into the key players of the Zionist drama while also providing significant philosophical overviews. We are shown, for instance, how both nationalists (Heine) and universalists (Marx) of the 19th century were too assimilationist to support the Zionist cause. Singleminded militant Zionists like Jabotinsky are contrasted with critics of the movement, like Arendt, Buber, and Einstein, with most representatives of the spectrum of debate placed in the context of their geographic and historical circumstances. While concluding that the Zionist endeavor has been an unprecedented success, Wheatcroft suggests that problems with Israel's Arab and religious Jewish minorities may take up the next hundred years. Like most Jewish historians, Wheatcroft vastly underrates the role of Judaism in Zionism, yet this book offers valuable historical and psychological insights into what it means to be a Zionist or a Jew.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-201-56234-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996


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


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

Close Quickview