A footnote to history that will interest students of World War II.




Military historian Sayer (co-author: Nazi Gold: The Story of the World's Greatest Robbery—And Its Aftermath, 1984) and biographer/historian Dronfield (The Stone Crusher: The True Story of a Father and Son’s Fight for Survival in Auschwitz, 2018) examine a little-known episode in the final days of Nazi Germany.

Readers familiar with the history of the Third Reich will know that various German officers and diplomats floated offers of a separate peace and conditional surrender to the Western Allies. Less familiar is a desperate operation, ordered by Hitler himself, to use “Prominenten”—important prisoners of the regime such as French socialist leader Léon Blum and the opposition pastor Martin Niemöller, to say nothing of a couple of British officers fortuitously named Churchill—as bargaining chips to be used in negotiation, and killed if negotiation failed. The prisoners were both civilian and military, including officers of the Red Army, the Greek government, and Great Britain, the last having become specialists at escape from previous internments. Gathered from various prison camps around the Reich, the “VIP hostages" were taken south into an area that was a supposedly impregnable mountain fastness where the Reich would resist the Allied invaders indefinitely. As it happens, that resistance crumbled, and 139 Prominenten survived. The authors’ prose is mostly serviceable, but the story that unfolds is engaging not just for the facts, but also for the possibilities: What if the Nazis had stuck it out in their alpine strongholds and actually played their chips? Of particular interest is the closing chapter, a sequence of denouements that are sometimes surprising and sometimes grimly inevitable: The Soviets executed a couple of their imprisoned generals, with one “rehabilitated” 16 years afterward, so that “he was unable to benefit from the decision,” while one of the erstwhile captors involved himself in a postwar organization that supported fugitive war criminals such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele.

A footnote to history that will interest students of World War II.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-306-92155-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet