Excellent general WWII accounts abound—including those by historical superstars such as Stephen Ambrose and John Keegan—but...

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INFERNO

THE WORLD AT WAR, 1939-1945

A World War II history by Hastings (Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940–1945, 2010, etc.) may seem like a tautology, but readers familiar with his previous books will expect an enthralling account of his favorite subject. They will not be disappointed.

This time, the author emphasizes personal experiences as well as his often squirm-inducing opinions. Most startling—but not really controversial—he maintains that the Wehrmacht outclassed all other armies. The Allies, including the Soviets, never won a battle without vast superiority in men and material. However, he writes, the democracies were smarter. American industry operated more efficiently, took better advantage of science and paid more attention to logistics. German and Japanese troops regularly starved and rationed ammunition. In addition, U.S. intelligence services performed superbly, the enemies’ dreadfully. Readers will perk up at Hastings’ claim that Hitler’s second greatest mistake, after invading Russia, was launching the Battle of Britain. If he had allowed Britain to stew for months after its humiliating defeat, Churchill would have had great difficulty sustaining national morale or fending off pressure to make a peace, which would have eliminated not only Britain but America as a threat. Most general histories sprinkle their pages with anecdotes, but Hastings has this down to a science. He employs numerous specialists, delving into Russian and Italian archives and personally tracking down obscure, vivid, often painful stories from the usual combatants as well as Poles, Bengalese, Chinese and Japanese.

Excellent general WWII accounts abound—including those by historical superstars such as Stephen Ambrose and John Keegan—but Hastings is matchless.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-27359-8

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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