Alford's fascinating unraveling of an Army cover-up reveals many American WW II soldiers to be not the great liberators, but the great looters of Europe. At the end of WW II, more than one fifth of the world's great artworks were left under the protection of American soldiers in Germany and Austria. Treasures moved from museums and private homes, either stolen by or hidden from the Nazis, were amassed in warehouses, monasteries, and castles to be safeguarded, then returned to their rightful owners. After a decade-plus of research, (and despite mysteriously missing documents and Army noncooperation), Alford found that, with the enemy defeated, some American soldiers behaved like ravenous children in an untended sweet shop, taking advantage of postwar mayhem to profit. Not content to go home with mere honor, many stole Old Master paintings, ancient coins, china, jewelry, furs, antique pistols, even concentration camp victims' ashes and wedding rings. Alford's prose is textbook-dry, but the lootings at the book's heart are pure action thriller. Captain Norman T. Byrne, appointed to protect works of art in a defeated, bombed-out Berlin, instead presided over the dispersal of valuables from a DÅrer etched plate to a stamp collection. With secret Swiss sales, buried booty, and polygraph interrogations, the Hesse crown jewel theft involving a WAC captain and her colonel lover reads more like LeCarrÇ than history. Even when alerted to wrongdoing, Army higher-ups did little to stop the thieving—either to avoid embarrassment or to cover their own misdeeds. Despite the efforts of Alford, who is now advising German and Russian authorities on recovering looted treasures, the whereabouts of many treasures remains a mystery. While victory and spoils historically go hand in hand, our perception of American Army heroes bringing goodwill and safety in the Nazis' wake is altered by this testament to the dishonesty and greed of a few no-good men.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55972-237-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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