A little-known story, largely overlooked by historians, about the fate of two brigades of Russian soldiers sent to fight on the western front in 1916. Cockfield (Russian History/Mercer Univ.) has done prodigious research. Russia's military production capacities were notoriously limited. The French army, having taken staggering casualties during the first two years of the war, offered Russia, with its seemingly vast manpower resources, an attractive exchange: If Russia sent troops west, France would send munitions east (cynics referred to the deal as ``flesh for shells''). The French hoped for 400,000 replacements; they eventually received 50,000. The Russians found life in France, despite the horrors of battle, rather liberating. Russian troops, drawn largely from the peasant class, were used to brutal treatment by their officers, inadequate rations, and no freedom. By contrast, the Allied troops, even in wartime, seemed remarkably well fed and vocal. Still, mutinies among war-weary French veterans spread to Russian troops, drunk with the Bolshevik promise of freedom. And as revolution engulfed Russia, the troops on the western front found themselves in a microcosm of the civil war going on back home between the ``Reds'' and the ``Whites.'' The troops began to sort themselves into opposing, violent camps. Eventually the ``Whites'' prevailed and, reorganized as the Russian Legion of Honor, went on to fight the Germans on the western front with vigor and determination. Cockfield carries his narrative beyond the war, tracing the varying fates of the Russian veterans. Some eventually chose repatriation to Russia. Others swelled the Russian ÇmigrÇ community in France. Cockfield's book, even though it sometimes stresses facts over analysis and narrative over conclusions, fills a void in the history of the Great War. A sad and generally engrossing study.

Pub Date: March 30, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-17356-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

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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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