On D-Day the Das Reich, or 2nd Panzer Division, was at Montauban in southern France, 450 miles—and, supposedly, a few days—from the Normandy battlefront. Why, instead, "the Das Reich Division trickled into the rear battlefields piecemeal," some ten to 25 days later, is the spine on which Hastings (Yoni, Bomber Command) hangs an array of disclosures, insights, and reflections. The book is not narrative history—the actual march of the Das Reich begins a third of the way through, and is then told in snatches; and the interests it addresses—sometimes, profoundly—are not those of the ordinary WW II buff. First, Hastings focuses on the French Section of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE)—operating out of London and via agents in France—which, with little support from SHAEF (and that, at Churchill's insistence), supplied the Resistance forces with the wherewithal (equipment, training, money) to prevent the Das Reich from moving north by train and impede the column's progress by road. But the Germans also decided, to the surprise of the Allies, to fight the local resistants (Hitler would give no ground); and so delayed themselves. Few resistants, in turn, "understood fire discipline": they wasted ammunition and, under German counterattack, quickly took flight. (All the more remarkable, thinks Hastings, their accomplishments.) Uninvolved civilians, mostly apathetic or openly unsympathetic, then suffered German reprisals: notoriously, the killing of hostages after the Tulle insurrection, the unprovoked massacre at Oradour. Here, Hastings' findings are stark. "Painful though it may be for humanitarians to accept, a policy of unlimited repression can be formidably effective"; further immediate resistance was discouraged. And to the SS officers, hardened on the Russian front, "It was nothing"—as a veteran of Oradour put it long afterward. Hastings also has highly interesting, almost self-contained chapters on the inter-Allied Jedburgh teams and the "private army" Special Air Service (SAS)—briefly involved at different points on the Das Reich march. What the book lacks in unity, indeed, it makes up in diversity and penetration. The ideal reader, though, would be familiar with the setting or the special branches.

Pub Date: May 1, 1982

ISBN: 003057059X

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Holt Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982

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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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