Of interest to students of modern Europe, complementing W. G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction (2003) and...




Throughout time it has been the victor who has written history, but here historian MacDonogh (The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II, 2001, etc.) examines the darker side of the Allied occupation of defeated Germany.

The subtitle is probably the publisher’s, since MacDonogh advises at the outset, “I make no excuses for the crimes the Nazis committed, nor do I doubt for one moment the terrible desire for revenge that they aroused.” In some ways, that revenge was symbolically charged, as when the Allies put concentration camps to use housing prisoners who proved to have more than an accidental connection to the Nazi state; in others it was trivial, as when Russian soldiers went about demanding wristwatches. But aspects of the conquest were brutal indeed: Those Russian soldiers committed revenge rape on a grand scale, while, MacDonogh asserts, the American liberators at Dachau allowed former prisoners to tear guards and kapos limb from limb. More systematically, the Occupation deprived ordinary citizens of their property and, at least for a time, cast everyone under suspicion as tribunals convened and the long process of denazification began. It soon became obvious to almost everyone concerned, not least the occupied Germans, that as the Cold War got colder this process was confined mostly to the small fry; those Germans “were annoyed,” MacDonogh writes, “to see the Party big-shots go free while the authorities continued to harass rank-and-file members who had done nothing monstrous.” So it was that from 1945 until May 1948, when the purge ended, the French, British and American courts had tried 8,000 cases but executed only 806, perhaps half of them civil servants and workers, while the “worst culprits, the operatives who sent thousands to their deaths, were not punished at all.”

Of interest to students of modern Europe, complementing W. G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction (2003) and other studies of history from the point of view of the vanquished.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-465-00337-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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...


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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