A valuable contribution to world history as viewed from a non–Anglo-American perspective.

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THE AGE OF CATASTROPHE

A HISTORY OF THE WEST 1914–1945

An appropriately vast history of the years between World War I and World War II, after which the “bipolar world” of today came into being.

German historian Winkler (Germany: The Long Road West: Volume 2: 1933-1990, 2007, etc.), an emeritus professor at the renowned Humboldt University, takes the conventional view that the wartime reparations demanded of Germany by the victorious Allies after WWI were the first step on the road to ruin that was Nazism. He is unconventional in allowing that Germany deserved some punishment, especially given the war crimes German soldiers committed that were never adequately adjudicated. Readers are more than 200 pages into the account before encountering Winkler’s reckoning that only six war-crimes trials were ever held, with the result that “Germany’s war crimes went unpunished.” By this time, we have already learned that Germany was the perpetrator of “the first systematic genocide of the twentieth century” which put German diplomats in a rather uncomfortable position when confronting the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, which the author unhesitatingly numbers at 1.5 million. Though his narrative is full of central events, Winkler’s book is particularly valuable in recounting lesser-known details, colonial sideshows, and events at the fringes of Europe: the terrible conflict between Greeks and Turks in the early 1920s, which almost drew Britain into another shooting war, and the rise of Arab nationalism in the anti-colonial struggles in North Africa against France and Spain. Winkler also finds invigorating connections: Woodrow Wilson may have been maneuvered out of a role in settling the European peace, but Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed a modicum of revenge when he delinked the dollar from the world economy in 1933, signaling that “the United States had no intention of allowing other nations to shackle its movements in terms of currency.” Though some of the author’s arguments are curious, as when he links German post–World War II guilt to Protestant ideas of “inherent sinfulness,” none are entirely fruitless.

A valuable contribution to world history as viewed from a non–Anglo-American perspective.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-20489-6

Page Count: 1016

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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