A provocative addition to a vast literature: Jarausch’s history complicates our understanding of German society during the...

BROKEN LIVES

HOW ORDINARY GERMANS EXPERIENCED THE 20TH CENTURY

A revealing study of the lives of “ordinary Germans” under the Third Reich and its aftermath.

Historian Jarausch (European Civilization/Univ. of North Carolina; Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century, 2015, etc.) recounts the experiences of Germans born in the 1920s—old enough to have participated in some way in the polity of the Third Reich and to have played a part in the reconstruction of Germany and subsequent “economic miracle” in the West. The latter moment, writes the author, “created an expectation of continual material improvement,” and wealth and its pursuit, coupled with memories of the nightmare years, served as powerful engines to create the social democracy that has prevailed in Germany (the West, at least) for 70 years. That comfort, however, was born in terror. Jarausch charts the changing attitudes of early-20th-century Germans toward ideas of nationhood. Where their predecessors were mostly not attuned to questions of genealogy and in many cases, among the proletariat, scarcely remembered their grandparents’ names (“for the struggle for existence prevented the keeping of records”), Germans under the Third Reich were forced to conform to ideas of racial purity and prove it lest they be destroyed. On that note, much of the narrative concerns the machinery of annihilation, but it also turns on some surprising moments, such as the decision on the part of some Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to remain in Germany even though they “had ample reason to emigrate.” That was a daring choice, it seems, inasmuch as the author’s account also implicates the majority of contemporary Germans: “More ordinary Germans were involved in the Holocaust than apologists admit, but at the same time fewer participated than some critics claim.” In other words, a silent majority gave tacit consent.

A provocative addition to a vast literature: Jarausch’s history complicates our understanding of German society during the early decades of the 20th century.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-17458-7

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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