A richly documented short history of the Warsaw Ghetto by Gutman (History/Hebrew University), who is a death-camp survivor and the director of the research center at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial. There are many well-chosen citations from diaries, underground papers, and other rare documents—along with several maps and photographs (some previously unpublished). The title is the book's major flaw, as if the publisher grasped for the few moments of heroic resistance in an account dominated by hopeless victimization. Gutman himself criticizes the Israelis for giving disproportionate play to armed revolt when commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto. The shots heard 'round the occupied world are first fired more than halfway through the book. The harrowing entries and statistics describing life in the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of the typhus traps carefully planned by the Nazis, make clear that resistance was impeded by the Germans' use of Jewish police (often assimilated or converted Jews) and by the deadening effects of slow starvation and strategically strewn crumbs of hope (``those who cooperate and work will survive''). Gutman moves from the painful details to the larger, ideological picture, such as Himmler exhorting his troops to battle the Soviets, aka the ``Jewish'' Bolsheviks, for the Aryan world ``as we have conceived it: beautiful, decent, socially equal.'' Only after the ghetto is largely depleted from evacuations to the death camps do we hear poet and partisan Abba Kovner ring out with ``Arise! Arise with your last breath!'' The final weeks of armed struggle are brought to life with excerpts from dismayed German generals (referring to Jews as the ``enemy''), rival Jewish militias, and distantly admiring Poles. As the index and bibliography indicate, one would have to read dozens of German, Jewish, and Polish accounts to get what Gutman has gleaned for us here. An essential one-volume read for the layman or undergraduate.

Pub Date: April 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-60199-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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