Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities....




The world’s leaders pave the path to war—and to the rest of a war-ridden century—in this insightful interpretation of recent history.

World War II, “the most awful in history,” and the postwar era largely took shape in decisions made between May 1940 and December 1941, argues Kershaw (Hitler, 2000, etc.), who outlines the ten most important of them. Adolf Hitler made three of them: to attack the Soviet Union, to declare war on the U.S. and to launch the Holocaust. In the matter of the first, Kershaw suggests that Hitler may have boxed himself in: Ideology and strategy combined to require an effort to do away with Stalin’s regime quickly so that the Third Reich could expand southward and face the U.S., which was sure to land in Europe someday. Even though it got Moscow in its sights, Hitler’s Russian campaign failed as Napoleon’s had, thanks in some measure to the brutal winter. But Hitler would forever blame another of the ten decisions Kershaw outlines, namely Benito Mussolini’s supremely misguided ploy to invade Greece, which resulted in one of many Italian defeats. Hitler asserted that “but for the difficulties created for us by the Italians and their idiotic campaign in Greece…I should have attacked Russia a few weeks earlier.” Hitler’s two-front war was threatening and massive enough that one of England’s key decisions was simply that of continuing to fight on rather than sue for peace, while one of those made by FDR was to carry on a sort-of-war without congressional approval until he could overcome his isolationist opposition—a political feat not really possible until Japan made one of its key decisions, that of launching the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities. Of much interest to students of the modern era.

Pub Date: June 4, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59420-123-3

Page Count: 596

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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