There has never been a secret police more fanatically intent on finding out what was going on than the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police force. It’s an irony of Koehler’s authoritative book that ultimately the Stasi were unable to prevent—or even predict—the fall of East Germany. Not for want of trying. The KGB had 480,000 full-time agents to oversee 280 million people, or one for every 5,830 citizens; the Gestapo had one for every 2,000; and the Stasi had one for every 166. If one adds the number of regular informers, it came to one for every 66. Never in the history of espionage have so many spied on so few or recorded so much in such tedious detail. Koehler, Berlin bureau chief of the Associated Press during the height of the Cold War (as well as assistant to the president and director of communications under President Reagan), obtained copies of the Stasi’s AP dossier, which weighed in at 14 pounds. Thousands of canning jars were found in the archives, filled with cloth impregnated with the body odors of suspected dissidents, so that they could be tracked by Stasi bloodhounds. But the Stasi also went to immense trouble to infiltrate its agents, particularly into West Germany. Thus, Gunter Guillaume was appointed one of the three assistants to Chancellor Willi Brandt, a rank equivalent to deputy assistant to the president of the US, and perhaps he was even closer, since he was reported to have acted as a pimp for Brandt. Unsurprisingly, extraordinary sums were spent on Stasi activities. Thus, in 1988 alone, nearly $450 million was spent on assistance to the Cubans, Nicaraguans, Africans, and other recipients. So the final irony may be that the East Germans ruined themselves in their efforts to gain more security. Sometimes a little breathless, but a detailed and comprehensive insight into one of the most chilling and the most thorough secret police forces in history. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8133-3409-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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