An audacious rereading of the diplomatic history of WW II by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Minneapolis Star-Tribune investigative reporter. Kilzer argues that Winston Churchill deliberately nurtured Hitler's illusion that powerful British factions sought an end to the war on terms favorable to Nazi Germany, and thus outwitted Hitler into starting a war against the Soviets that Germany could not win. According to this theory, the May 1941 flight of Rudolf Hess to Scotland was the culmination of a British intelligence operation. The author argues that Hitler, out of admiration for the British Empire, a conviction that the English and the Germans were racial allies, and a desire to free his hand in the West before invading the Soviet Union, sincerely sought peace with Britain, and that Churchill exploited appeasement-minded Britons (like the Duke of Hamilton, whose messages through intermediaries persuaded Hess to make his flight, and the former king Edward VIII) to foster in Hitler the idea that Britain would agree to peace on Hitler's terms. Kilzer builds a reasonably convincing circumstantial case out of numerous well-documented facts: Churchill's desire to involve Germany in a wider war; Hitler's wish to settle with Britain before initiating war with the Soviet Union; and various clandestine contacts between British and German agents. Finally, Kilzer explains some aspects of the mysterious Hess flight—the failure of the British to use Hess's capture for propaganda purposes; the fact that the last day of Hitler's bombing of London coincided with the Hess flight; and the medical evidence indicating that the man who died in Spandau prison in 1987 was not Hess (Kilzer speculates that British agents may have killed Hess to prevent the story of Churchill's deception from emerging). Certain to be controversial, Kilzer's is an absorbing and cogently argued original contribution to WW II literature.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-76722-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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