A well-written survey of a turning point in modern history.

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KRISTALLNACHT

PRELUDE TO DESTRUCTION

Prolific WWII historian and Churchill biographer Gilbert (Churchill and America, 2005, etc.) analyzes the first coordinated, nationwide attack on Germany’s Jews.

Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” took place on Nov. 10, 1938. Within 24 hours, thousands of Jewish homes, shops and houses of worship were ransacked and burned; a quarter of the Jewish men remaining in the Third Reich were arrested; and hundreds of Jews of all ages were beaten and killed. The campaign was largely conducted by Hitler’s Storm Division, the Brownshirts, who staged attacks everywhere more than a few Jews lived, from small farms to the center of Berlin. Goebbels, Himmler, Heydrich and presumably Hitler drew great satisfaction from the spasm of violence, happily noting that even little German boys were joining in to beat and burn. Gilbert’s account is rather general on where the orders from on high originated, but it is searing and specific in relating the violence as it unfolded, documenting myriad brutalities, but also the small acts of resistance mounted by ordinary Germans—from concierges to military officers—in order to protect their neighbors. He exposes a few ironies: the Gestapo’s acquiescence in allowing what would become Israel’s Mossad to operate in Berlin to recruit Jews to emigrate to Palestine; the utter destruction of a kosher restaurant in Vienna that had just been sold to a Nazi Party member. Where Western governments did almost nothing in response, Indian and Chinese officials offered asylum. Yet ordinary citizens around the world finally saw the Nazi regime for what it was, for no other event in the war against the Jews was so thoroughly covered by the international press as it was happening. “Kristallnacht,” Gilbert concludes, “taught the Nazi administrators and planners that they must in future act with silence and secrecy, hiding what they were doing to the Jews from the eyes of world indignation.”

A well-written survey of a turning point in modern history.

Pub Date: June 13, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-057083-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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