A lively and insightful exploration of an overlooked international alliance.



An eye-opening account of America’s relations with Poland and its intelligence service.

In 1994, journalist Pomfret was the Washington Postbureau chief for Eastern Europe, located in Warsaw, when he heard a rumor that Polish spies had rescued six Americans from Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1990. Tracking down the story was no easy matter, but his efforts have produced an entertaining political history of Poland since World War II, almost entirely focused on its intelligence service, which, under Soviet domination, rivaled the KGB in its ability to steal U.S. secrets. Unlike other Eastern European satellites that purged their security agencies after achieving independence in 1989, Poland’s new democratic leadership decided that it was a bad idea to create an army of well-trained, unemployed opponents. Consequently, its new security service retained thousands of ex-communists who switched sides and served loyally. As Pomfret notes, CIA leaders were delighted. As one explained, “How could you not benefit from dealing with the Poles who lived in the most dangerous piece of real estate in Europe?...They’d had forty-five years of liaison with the KGB…and they knew tons more about the Soviets.” The author ably demonstrates how, almost immediately, this policy produced benefits that have lasted into the present. Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait trapped many Americans, among them those six officers privy to secret information. The CIA asked for Poland’s help, and Poland’s security service assigned agents to the task. Pomfret delivers a nail-biting account of the escape that Polish agents engineered, featuring a hair-rising drive across Iraq to the border and safety. Long a faithful ally, Poland participated, despite misgivings, in the American debacles in Afghanistan and the second Iraq War, hosting a “black site” where investigators could question terrorist prisoners free of American legal protection. In return, the U.S. provided generous foreign aid, subsidized its intelligence service, and (sadly) kept quiet as, in recent decades, Poland has elected right-wing, authoritarian governments.

A lively and insightful exploration of an overlooked international alliance.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-29605-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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