A fascinating look into the thoughts of a historian whose career deserves to be revived.




A collection of letters written by a prominent but largely forgotten historian during the World War II era.

Larson, a historian who worked for the U.S. Defense Department, is uniquely qualified to edit an assemblage of letters written by Prince Hubertus Z. Löwenstein: the correspondence in question is addressed to him. (The subtitle is somewhat confusing: Hans Christian is a nickname Löwenstein bestowed upon Larson, as is helpfully explained in a foreword written by Löwenstein’s daughter, Margarete von Schwarzkopf.) Larson met Löwenstein when, in 1942, he entered Hamline University in Minnesota, where Löwenstein—a German exile forced to decamp for the U.S. due to his anti-Nazi convictions—was a lecturer at the time. The letters are arranged chronologically, from 1942 until 1947, and while they cover a wide range of topics, they are understandably dominated by the specter of Hitler’s designs on European domination, the prosecution of the war, and the complex peace that followed. Löwenstein’s letters are often driven by an “anxiety over the fate of the Occident,” but they are not cynical; he hoped for a renewed, even further consolidated Europe to rise from the detritus of the war’s destruction. His missives are also filled with philosophical insight that’s sometimes delightfully idiosyncratic: “to hell with Aristotle, this source of all evils in the human mind!!!” He tells Larson, in 1945, that he’s planning a book on Hegel that rescues his work from its appropriation by Marxists. Supplementing the letters is intermittent commentary by Larson himself, who provides colorful historical context and makes a case for taking Löwenstein seriously as a prescient critic of authoritarian government in all its guises. Sometimes Larson’s curation seems odd: a few of the letters are more personal than political or philosophical, seeming a bit out of place. The collection will, of course, largely be of interest to professional scholars, but it could also be fruitfully read by any reader with a deep interest in Europe during a perilous time, as interpreted by an unusually incisive mind.

A fascinating look into the thoughts of a historian whose career deserves to be revived.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502791672

Page Count: 738

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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