The Third Reich was dead, but it wouldn’t lie down.

By January 1945, with the failure of the Ardennes offensive, it was clear to the German leadership that the war was lost. The customary and rational course of action would have been to sue for peace on whatever terms could be obtained. Instead, Germany elected to fight on to the point of national obliteration. Hitler was determined to resist to the end and take the country down with him, but award-winning historian Kershaw (Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution, 2008, etc.) seeks to explain why the rest of the nation followed him into the abyss, and how it was possible to hold the armed forces and the German economy together until the fall of Berlin. This is an astonishing story well told by the reigning English-speaking master of Third Reich history. On one level, it is a gripping narrative of desperate actions taken to shore up the battle lines with replacements of men and materiel from ever-shrinking resources; the militarization of the populace to defend, however ineffectively, “fortress cities”; improvised adjustments to transport to compensate for smashed rail lines and overrun factories; and wanton murders and pointless forced marches of evacuated prisoners. But Kershaw also deftly explores the policies and attitudes that kept Germans struggling on with the war effort after all hope was gone, and prevented organized opposition to continuing the war from coalescing in the military or elsewhere. At its core, this is a story of people great and small in the grip of an enormous catastrophe brought down upon them by their charismatic (though by then widely despised) leader; unable to do anything about it individually or collectively, they just kept doing their jobs, however hopeless or absurd they appeared. Whether motivated by duty, terror, inertia, wishful thinking or denial, soldiers fought and civilians worked, generals went on attempting to comply with impossible orders and bureaucrats issued directives of stunning irrelevance because they could see no practical or honorable alternative. A carefully considered and powerfully told saga of a national suicide.


Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59420-314-5

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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...


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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