Persico shines some light on the shadowy activities that helped the Allies achieve some of their most significant victories....



A historian argues that FDR’s fascination and talent with intelligence helped make him an effective commander-in-chief during WWII.

Persico (Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, 1994, etc.) is a Roosevelt partisan, so his text can be tendentious (FDR’s decisions are invariably correct, his rare personal failures eminently understandable—and, more forgivable, his talents unsurpassed). But Persico fills a void in WWII histories by focusing on the intelligence aspects of most of the war’s major events. He begins, of course, with Pearl Harbor, which he calls “the most stunning failure of intelligence in the country’s history, likely in the history of warfare” (the Trojan Horse excepted?). Persico argues forcefully that neither FDR nor Winston Churchill knew of the raid in advance, despite the chain of evidence that suggests they could have. Persico charts the various rises and falls of J. Edgar Hoover and the OSS’s William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan (whose successes in espionage were scattered among some daffy proposals—e.g., dropping myriad bats over Japan in the hopes that the winged creatures would terrify the populace). Persico reveals that FDR was convinced that Charles Lindbergh was a Nazi and that Churchill did not conceal any knowledge of an imminent Luftwaffe raid on Coventry to prevent the Nazis from concluding that the British had cracked the German Enigma code. He reminds us that the US rounded up and detained about 20,000 German- and Italian-Americans in addition to the 114,000 Japanese-Americans. He tells the stories of the abortive attempts by the Nazis to land spies in the US—and of the more successful USSR penetration of the Manhattan Project, from which the Soviets stole 10,000 pages of information, enough to enable them to construct their own atomic bomb. Persico twice supports FDR’s decision to do nothing dramatic to rescue Jews from the Holocaust: winning the war was the best strategy, he says.

Persico shines some light on the shadowy activities that helped the Allies achieve some of their most significant victories. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-50246-7

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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