A fine addition to the dwindling number of firsthand World War II personal stories.

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THE BOY WHO WENT TO WAR

THE STORY OF A RELUCTANT GERMAN SOLDIER IN WWII

Discovering that his father-in-law, a celebrated artist named Wolfram, endured a long, miserable experience in the Wehrmacht, popular historian Giles (Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922, 2008, etc.) suspected correctly that he had material for a fresh look at a familiar genre.

Combining interviews with family letters and diaries, the author provides an entertaining account of an artistic German family who did not conceal their dislike of Hitler but survived the war. It helped that they lived in a rural artist’s colony in the Black Forest and that the local Nazi leader was a family friend. Nine-year-old Wolfram paid little attention when Hitler took power in 1933. Already fascinated by medieval art, carvings and icons and excused from the obligatory Hitler Youth by a note from a friendly doctor, he spent his leisure wandering the countryside, inspecting old churches and farms, returning home to draw them. At 17, he began a four-year course at the elite Bavarian State Woodcarving School. However, in 1942, the 18-year-old was drafted and sent to the Russian front. By odd good fortune, he caught diphtheria and nearly died, but evacuation to Germany meant that he, unlike most in his unit, did not perish at Stalingrad. After a long recuperation, he served in France where his unit was devastated after the Normandy invasion. He surrendered to American forces in 1944, spending two years as a prisoner in England and the U.S. before returning to resume his woodcarving studies, marry and begin a successful career.

A fine addition to the dwindling number of firsthand World War II personal stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-59079-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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