Authoritative but never dry, stripping away soothing myths of national unity and victimhood, this is a painful but necessary...




A breathtaking, numbing account of the physical and moral desolation that plagued Europe in the late 1940s.

Drawing on recently opened Eastern European archives, Lowe (Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, 2007, etc.) presents a searing and comprehensive view of postwar Europe that calls into question the very nature of World War II. Europe in this era is often seen through a rosy mythology of liberated nations cheerfully coming together to begin the task of reconstruction. In fact, the story of this period "is firstly a story of the descent into anarchy." Across this devastated, lawless continent, millions of displaced persons trudged on foot in search of vanished homes or safety, some voluntarily, some driven at bayonet point as part of the massive ethnic cleansing that engulfed Eastern Europe; all were generally unwelcome on arrival. Everyone was “hungry, bereaved and bitter about the years of suffering they had been made to endure—before they could be motivated to start rebuilding they needed time to vent their anger, to reflect and to mourn." Vent they did. Hostilities ended with the defeat of Germany, but violence continued unabated as partisans and communities punished collaborators, terrorized and expelled ethnic minorities, and pursued with brutal enthusiasm the class wars and civil wars that had long bubbled just beneath the surface. Viewed in this light, the familiar Allies-Axis war appears as a simplistic cover for the far more complicated and vicious local conflicts beneath. Lowe writes with measured objectivity, honoring the victims of atrocity and understanding the causes of, but refusing to excuse, the violence directed by freed victims against their former oppressors.

Authoritative but never dry, stripping away soothing myths of national unity and victimhood, this is a painful but necessary historical task superbly done.

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00020-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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