Vivid account of the Wehrmacht's final offensive, by Astor (The Last Nazi, 1985, etc.). Exhaustively researched, much of it narrated by participants, this is a chronicle in the style of the new military history, conveying an experience as well as a report on a military action. The immediacy and clarity of enlisted men's accounts form the core reality here, giving a palpable sense of infantry and tank warfare. Comparisons with George Feifer's Tennozan (p. 368) are inevitable, but Astor is less culturally concerned, more closely focused on this final, deadly spasm of Hitler's inspiration. The German leadership is unforgettable—flamboyant Otto Skorzeny (who arranged for Germans to masquerade as Americans); alcoholic Sepp Deitrich, Hitler's old buddy, now an incompetent general; and, above all, the cunning, sinister SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, already associated with Russian front atrocities. Astor begins with a grim military comedy of errors: Deitrich's refusal to supplement radios with carrier pigeons, German soldiers who can't speak English, and a nightmare parachute drop in a gale. The Allies oblige, refusing to believe tanks can be used in the Ardennes, failing to grasp the reality when it's upon them, losing crucial information and bickering. The progress of Kampfgruppe Peiper is a black thread of terror running through the narrative. As its tanks grind forward, tiny US units sacrifice themselves. A cook covers the retreat of his unit with a machine gun, then is captured and killed; the SS massacres inconvenient prisoners; Pfc. Mel Biddle is sent on a mission during which he kills 17 Germans and takes out a machine gun with his M-1. Eventually, the 101st Airborne holes up in Bastogne and will not be dislodged, and Kampfgruppe Peiper meets a flaming GîtterdÑmmerung, its men escaping on foot in the snow. Strong narrative, sound history, and a good read. (Photos and maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 27, 1992

ISBN: 1-55611-281-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1992

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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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