Why did the most savagely anti-Semitic regime in history gain power in Germany rather than, say, France (scene of the Dreyfus affair) or Russia (with its widespread pogroms)? Weiss (History/Lehman College and Graduate Center, CUNY; The Fascist Tradition, not reviewed, etc.) doesn't quite satisfactorily answer this question, but he does come close. In the process, he has produced a detailed, clearly written account of German anti-Semitism from Luther to Hitler, nicely integrating political, social, and intellectual history. He demonstrates how the demonization of the Jews came to pervade almost every segment of a German society otherwise characterized by oligarchy and torn by class conflict; Jews, he documents, became the scapegoats for popular resentment at the excesses of capitalism, communism, and modernism. In fact, even such leaders of the anti-Nazi opposition as Leipzig mayor Karl Goederler believed that ``the Jewish people belongs to a different race.'' Weiss also hypothesizes that what made genocidal thinking take root in Germany was the popularity of eugenics and other aspects of ``racial hygiene'' among physicians, anthropologists, and political leaders. Unfortunately, after making some interesting comparisons between French and German attitudes toward democratic government, he largely abandons the comparative approach that would be essential to answering the question implied in the book's subtitle. The most serious flaw is Weiss's periodic tendency to be overly deterministic, assuming that after 1933 ``the iron logic that led to the Holocaust was set in motion.'' Finally, Weiss appears to have engaged in very little firsthand research, although he has done a fine job of synthesizing insights from secondary sources. Neither very original nor entirely convincing in its thesis that a Nazi-like regime could only have gained power in Germany, this is still an extremely stimulating and informative work.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 1996

ISBN: 1-56663-088-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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