Aly delivers again, this time expanding his lens outside of Germany to offer further revelations about the Holocaust.

EUROPE AGAINST THE JEWS, 1880-1945

The award-winning German author dips into his vast archive of resources to produce a major work on anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism has been around for centuries. Though occasionally somewhat dormant, usually during times of fiscal strength and political peace, it always returns to rear its ugly head, each time spelling disaster for Jewish populations. Aly—the highly respected historian of the Holocaust who won the 2007 Jewish Book Award for his excellent Hitler's Beneficiaries—examines the period of 1880 to 1945 to show how, why, and in what forms anti-Semitism increased sufficiently to support the Nazi concept of the Final Solution. The author ranges widely across Europe, examining Russia, Romania, France, and Greece as well as Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and other less-explored locales. “There is no way we can comprehend the pace and extent of the Holocaust,” writes Aly, “if we restrict our focus to the German centers of command.” While Jews were restricted from many jobs, they applied all their strength and determination to areas that were permitted, such as pharmacology, medicine, and journalism. Governmental actions began with bans on Jews serving municipalities and joining trade associations, and they also experienced limited access to education. After World War I, the concept of self-determination morphed into a brand of nationalism and misguided “racial theory” that led to increased animosity and violence. “Insofar as gentiles in the first half of the twentieth century pressed for Jews to be partially or completely stripped of their civil rights or insisted they be shipped off to somewhere outside Europe,” writes the author, “they were motivated by [an] obsessive anxiety: the fear of a supposedly overwhelming power and the real intellectual and economic agility of a small, precisely delineable ‘foreign’ group.” Though the gruesome subject and detail are sometimes tough to swallow, readers should forge ahead, relishing the author’s incredible research and singular scholarship.

Aly delivers again, this time expanding his lens outside of Germany to offer further revelations about the Holocaust.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-17017-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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