An intriguing, if incomplete, account: Knox provides readers with a compelling reconsideration of the European revolutionary...

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COMMON DESTINY

DICTATORSHIP, FOREIGN POLICY, AND WAR IN FASCIST ITALY AND NAZI GERMANY

A comparative study of German Nazism and Italian Fascism, by Anglo-American historian (and Vietnam vet) Knox.

In the years following WWI, both Germany and Italy developed revolutionary movements that advertised national renewal and increased opportunities for the lower orders. Germany’s war-weakened nobility, its shattered economy, and its ineffectual representational government helped unleash ideas about competitiveness and merit that the Nazi Party would mix in with stories of Jewish backstabbing and Bolshevik subversion. Hitler argued that the conservatives and aristocrats had allowed Judeo-Bolshevik fiendishness to flourish, and that the ancien regime must be swept aside by a liberation of Aryan energies. Whereas the frailty of the German state could not stop the Nazi revolution, the ideological and institutional strength of the Catholic Church, as well as the staying power of the Italian ruling classes, limited the strength of Mussolini’s populist uprising. Just as the French Revolution found its fullest expression in the continental wars that lasted close to thirty years, Nazism and fascism reached their logical climax in the carnage of WWII. Italy’s lackluster performance during the war was due, in large part, to the failure of Mussolini’s revolt within the military and the government. On the other hand, Hitler’s plan opened up exclusive officer corps, government, and party positions to ambitious men from lower classes. When the dictator assumed command of the Wehrmacht during the retreat from Moscow, he argued that his leadership would finally wipe out old elite entitlements and open the way for men of real battle experience to command the racial and ideological struggle against the Russians. In the end, Nazism created mass expectations that merit would result in a better life. Knox goes so far as to imply that Hitlerism made modern German democracy possible (although he does not mention that it also made 50 years of Soviet rule over millions of Germans possible as well).

An intriguing, if incomplete, account: Knox provides readers with a compelling reconsideration of the European revolutionary tradition, but one hopes that he will follow through with a companion volume that traces the further careers of Nazi opportunists.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-521-58208-3

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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