A small book, but powerful all out of proportion to its size in exposing a shameful history.




Mr. Hitler, meet Justice Holmes.

Anyone pondering the results of the recent presidential election will detect the existence of at least two Americas. So did the Nazis. As Yale Law School professor Whitman (The Legacy of Roman Law in the German Romantic Era, 2016, etc.) observes, the Third Reich readily found plenty of precedents for their complex system of race-based law in American legal history, but they were also puzzled by “the strength of the liberal countercurrent in a country with so much openly and unapologetically sanctioned racism.” By Whitman’s account, the Nazis were sometimes even less heavy-handed on the legal front than the architects of Jim Crow—and, he writes, it must be remembered that racist laws spread far beyond the South. Nazi jurists even found some American laws too harsh, such as the “one-drop” rule of defining whether one were “Negro.” As his argument builds, the author capably defends the assertion that the U.S. was not just a racist power throughout much of its history, but the pre-eminent racist power in the world, one that built elaborate classification schemes in the service of denying minorities and colonized persons full civil rights. Granted that the Germans were more thorough in their application: Whitman observes that whereas Germany sought to impose state machinery on race laws in order to avoid turning legal matters over to the mob, “the United States by contrast remained faithful to lynch justice.” Whitman is careful to avoid the minefields of cause and effect: there has been only one real Hitler, after all, and only one Holocaust of the technocratic sort that he set in motion. Still, the author is clear that we should be alarmed and chastened by the fact that the Nazis found so much to emulate in American jurisprudence. “The image of America as seen through Nazi eyes in the early 1930s is not the image we cherish,” he writes, “but it is hardly unrecognizable.”

A small book, but powerful all out of proportion to its size in exposing a shameful history.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17242-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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