A marvelously concise effort, especially compelling as Angela Merkel is set to step down in 2021, leaving an uncertain...

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THE SHORTEST HISTORY OF GERMANY

FROM JULIUS CAESAR TO ANGELA MERKEL--A RETELLING FOR OUR TIMES

A fast-moving encapsulation of German history focusing on the thesis that Prussia’s aggression was a short-lived anomaly in the big picture and not reflective of the true German spirit.

German-steeped British academic Hawes (Creative Writing/Oxford Brookes Univ.; Englanders and Huns: The Culture-Clash Which Led to the First World War, 2014, etc.) imparts plenty of useful information in this handy history for students looking to define a sometimes-inscrutable people with a tainted recent past. At the beginning, the author implores readers to “throw away a great deal of what we think we know about German history, and start afresh.” First, he reminds us that “Julius Caesar had invented the Germans,” that is the barbarians who lived east of the Rhine who differed greatly from the Romans, who, according to Tacitus, “had degenerated into a people made soft by vice and luxury, who merely groveled to their emperors.” Hence the beginning of the rather romantic character of Germans as wild and noble tribesmen on the frontiers. Hawes sees the birth of Germany as we know it with the partition of Charlemagne’s kingdom into West Frankish (France) and East Frankish (Germany); the practice of “electing” a king—Conrad in 911 C.E.—meant much of the subsequent German history was “one of a permanent battle between royalty and high nobility.” The author traces how the separation of west Germany from what was known as East Elbia occurred with the rise of the Junkers (“young lords”) and the increasing militarization of “muscled-up” Prussia under Frederick the Great, leading Prussia to its bellicose apotheosis from 1866 to 1945—“the great deformation,” asserts Hawes. The true liberal democratic spirit of the robust, enterprising Germans resides in the west, rather than the east, now again courting right-wing parties.

A marvelously concise effort, especially compelling as Angela Merkel is set to step down in 2021, leaving an uncertain vacuum in Europe.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61519-569-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The Experiment

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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