A lucid survey synthesizing a broad range of historical research.

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HITLER’S SCIENTISTS

SCIENCE, WAR, AND THE DEVIL’S PACT

A timely study of the world’s first great scientific-military-industrial complex.

Ideally, observes Cornwell (History/Cambridge Univ.; Hitler’s Pope, 2001, etc.), science is about the free exchange of ideas and information for the social good. Such qualities marked German science throughout the Enlightenment and into the 20th century. But even before the rise of the Nazi regime, German scientists were busy developing theories to prove the supposed superiority of their people—and, of course, perfecting plenty of death-dealing technologies. When Hitler came to power and pressed science and industry into the service of the state, many of those scientists, “notably doctors and anthropologists,” obliged—promulgating, among other things, a nationwide anti-smoking campaign in the bargain. Many other scientists fled, including some of the nation’s best physicists and chemists. To counter the brain drain, Cornwell writes, the renowned scientist Max Planck called on Hitler to plead “that certain Jewish scientists were worth nurturing for the benefit of the state”—which Hitler rejected, saying, “A Jew is a Jew.” Germany’s loss was the Allies’ gain in such critical areas as cryptography and, of course, the development of nuclear weaponry, which, Cornwell observes, Hitler was not much interested in anyway, in keeping with what Albert Speer remarked was his “antimodern” stance “in decisions on armaments.” Anti-modern in most other aspects of science, Hitler nonetheless kept legions of scientists busy, forging strong links among the Reich’s death and labor camps and Germany’s universities, research facilities, and hospitals. Cornwell’s account is mainly straightforward, and he rightly points out how pseudo-science came to dominate pure science as the Third Reich evolved. Ever the controversialist, he closes with a rhetorical likening of modern politicized and militarized science to that practiced under Hitler’s regime—save that, he writes, scientists in those days could emigrate, whereas today “in the globalized domains of science and technology there are no oases of irresponsible purity into which a scientist can retreat.”

A lucid survey synthesizing a broad range of historical research.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03075-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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