An elegant, erudite historical survey employing deep research and excellent examples, even from the author’s own family.




In a fluid translation, a German historian soundly explores the numerous attractions of the Nazi agenda to a deeply insecure, unsettled people.

Aly (Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, 2007, etc.) rehearses many of the standard understandings of why the Germans chose the Jews as the scapegoats for all their economic and political woes of the 1920s and ’30s—the “question of questions”—adding some interesting new glimmers of Holocaust research. The author reaches back to the emancipation of the Jews after the Napoleonic Wars, which freed them to join guilds and even the armed forces, helping to unleash an entrepreneurial spirit and encourage competition. While the Jews greatly benefited from these modern currents of individualism and liberalism, German Christians, weighted under static “old certainties,” looking toward the government for economic protection rather than liberation, “experienced legal and material progress as personal loss.” While Germany was just coalescing into a united nation, the Jews were long committed to education, learning and bettering themselves. The German senses of inferiority, political immaturity and national anxiety, combined with the resentment over the Versailles Treaty, made them receptive to the siren song of Hitler’s National Socialist Party, which emphasized entitlements for the “ethnic Germans” at the expense of the interlopers, the Jews. Aly asserts that even if most Germans did not initially agree with the Nazis’ virulent anti-Semitic views, they were reassured by the Nazi visions of economic progress, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility and signed up for what increasingly became clear as a “criminal collaboration” between the people and their political leadership. Aly mostly wraps things up at 1933 yet hints chillingly at how the dawning sense of transgression played in the minds of average Germans.

An elegant, erudite historical survey employing deep research and excellent examples, even from the author’s own family.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9700-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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