Should spark discussion among WWII historians and great interest among military-history buffs.

THE FALL OF FRANCE

THE NAZI INVASION OF 1940

Superb, highly accessible revisionist study of Germany’s swift defeat of France in 1940 and its wide-ranging implications, then and now.

The fall of France was by no means inevitable, writes Jackson (History/Univ. of Swansea; France: The Years 1940–1944, not reviewed), although “the longer term decline of French power probably was.” At the beginning of 1940, the French army was fairly evenly matched with the Nazi Wehrmacht and better armed in many areas. Moreover, Jackson argues, the vaunted doctrine of blitzkrieg was as much theory as reality; few German units were wholly mechanized, and the most decisive episodes in the German invasion were waged by small infantry units without adequate air cover. However, even though the French army had many strengths, its advances since WWI had been incremental; few French commanders had taken any advantage whatever of such innovations as mobile armor, and its “corpus of doctrine” was still mired in the trenches of 1918. Individual French soldiers fought bravely against the Germans and inflicted heavy casualties, but the French army was as dispirited as the political leadership, which, torn apart by infighting, failed to muster nationwide resistance. Jackson quotes, for example, a letter from infantry sergeant (and future president) François Mitterand, who wrote to friends from the front line, “What would really annoy me is dying for values in which I do not believe.” Die many thousands of French soldiers did, though, and France fell. The reverberations were immediate, writes Jackson. The fall of France allowed Hitler to point his forces eastward, a threat that Josef Stalin recognized immediately; it tied up the British navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, preventing a defense in the Pacific against Japan, whose military leaders became even more aggressive (next stop: Pearl Harbor); and it effectively stripped France of its former imperial glory, leaving it just another small European nation.

Should spark discussion among WWII historians and great interest among military-history buffs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-19-280300-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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