Most books about the Nuremberg trials have focused on the jurisprudential aspects of this unprecedented event. Persico (Casey, 1990; Edward R. Murrow, 1988; etc.) has chosen to write an overview that offers a picture of the comparatively underreported battles behind the judgments. Persico traces the history of the war crimes tribunal, from the waning days of the war, when Churchill was calling for drumhead court-martials and summary executions. Truman wanted a legal proceeding that would show the world that Nazi barbarism was the exception, not the rule, and would make an example of the most heinous perpetrators. But would the result be victors' justice or the real thing? Throughout the several months from the time the idea was hatched to the execution of sentence, there raged a series of behind-the-scenes struggles. Within the prosecution, there were turf wars over who would take the lead in examining witnesses, over which of the four participating powers—the US, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—would carry the most weight, and over genuine differences of opinion as to what kind of prosecution would be most effective. Among the defendants, there were numerous factions, with the supremely cynical anad evil Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering emerging as a dominant figure. Drawing on interviews with many participants who have never spoken of their experiences for publication, Persico delineates the personal clashes (Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the US prosecution team, vs. former attorney general Francis Biddle, the US judge; a duel between the prison psychiatrist and psychologist over who would publish a book first), often at the expense of the courtroom action. Gradually the focus on the out-of-sight nastiness among the Allies becomes numbing and unpleasant, and the book is most lively when it shifts its attention back to the proceedings themselves. Nuremberg has an undeniable timeliness, especially in light of the new wave of Holocaust deniers. Persico writes well, despite occasionally drifting into melodrama, and the subject exerts its own fascination.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-84276-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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