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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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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