A chilling keyhole glimpse of Nazi evil’s bureaucratic banality.



The historical roots of policies that led to the deaths of millions are traced in this thoughtful examination of the Nazis' businesslike planning of genocide at the notorious 1942 conference.

But the path to Wannsee may have been less direct than is commonly thought, argues Roseman (History/Univ. of Southampton; A Past in Hiding, 2001). Although Adolf Hitler's violent anti-Semitic outpourings in Mein Kampf (1924) might suggest that the Nazi destruction of European Jewry was the culmination of a methodically blueprinted plan conceived long before the start of WWII, Roseman dismisses the book’s talk of Jewish “extermination” as overheated rhetoric. Initially, he points out, Hitler encouraged Jewish emigration through terror and viciously discriminatory legal measures; later, the Führer discussed a possible Jewish colony in Africa. After the war began, the Nazis pursued a program of deporting German, Polish, and Soviet Jews that turned increasingly murderous and gradually widened under the pressures of total war into a policy of mass murder. By January 20, 1942, when police chief Reinhard Heydrich and his colleagues from a variety of Nazi agencies gathered at Wannsee, the decision had already been made, either by Hitler himself or by others with his knowledge, to pursue a “final solution” to “the Jewish question.” The role of conference participants, Roseman speculates, was essentially “to listen and to nod” as Heydrich described a macabre plan to work Jews to death and kill off any survivors. Heydrich’s principal goal, Roseman asserts, was to establish the primacy of his secret police over the Reich's Jewish policies and to ensure the complicity of other bureaucrats. Heydrich got much of what he wanted; after the meeting he commenced implementing the horrific policy outlined at Wannsee, confident that other Nazis would give his agency a free hand. “Wannsee itself was not the moment of decision,” Roseman concludes, but it “cleared the way for genocide.”

A chilling keyhole glimpse of Nazi evil’s bureaucratic banality.

Pub Date: May 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6810-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

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



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet