KURSK, 1943

A leading British military historian reconsiders the events of World War II—this time, on the decisive yet less-trammeled Eastern Front.

The “lack of appreciation” in the West regarding the Soviet Union’s massive resistance to the Nazi onslaught from June 1941 through July 1943 is gradually giving way to better understanding thanks to the opening of archives behind the former Iron Curtain. In this deeply informed overview, Clark (Crossing the Rhine: Breaking into Nazi Germany 1944 and 1945—The Greatest Airborne Battles in History, 2008, etc.) offers an authoritative appraisal of the “total war” engulfing both Germany and the Soviet Union. Clark begins with two comprehensive yet succinct chapters situating “The Origins of Annihilation” for both Germany and the Soviet Union from the end of War World I onward. When Hitler seized power, his aim to destroy the Soviets was unmistakable and clear. Meanwhile, Stalin’s purges of the military, just as it was emerging a more modern, professional Red Army by 1937, rendered the Soviets vulnerable to Germany’s aggression. While Germany began its eastern expansion in 1939, the Soviet Union was actually providing it tons of raw materials and grains, perversely allowing Hitler to establish the “timetable for attacking.” Once the shock of the German blitzkrieg gave way to action, the Soviets gradually established a defensive belt that allowed them to hold off the Nazis from Smolensk, Moscow and Stalingrad. The “qualitative gap” between the German and Soviet armies was immense, but what the Soviets had were men to throw into the maw and an impressive production capacity—astutely moved east of Moscow. Gen. Georgy Zhukov’s strategy of drawing out the Germans’ advance to exhaust their resources, miring them in winter, essentially turned the conflict into “a slogging match”—it worked, but to the toll of 10 million Soviet dead. Vigorous depictions of German and Soviet military leaders alternate with the words of ordinary soldiers and richly described specifications of military hardware.


Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1908-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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