``How was it possible,'' the husband-and-wife Harrieses ask about the Imperial Japanese Army, ``for an organization displaying the highest of soldierly qualities to possess such a capacity for barbarism?'' In this nicely researched, compelling history of the Imperial Japanese Army from its inception during the Meiji Restoration to its dissolution in 1945, the authors (Sheathing the Sword, 1987, etc.) answer that question well. At the core of the paradox lies the code of bushido, the ancient ethos of the samurai that, according to the authors, was perverted by modernizers of the Japanese military into a philosophy that exalted death and violence and taught contempt for the vanquished. These alterations, the Harrieses says, ``did indeed contribute to war crimes.'' The development of the Imperial Japanese Army evidently was also pervasively influenced by the military institutions of Europe (particularly Germany), and, in emulating the armies of Europe, the Japanese distilled much of the best of both the samurai and the European traditions while developing a fighting force that could compete successfully with those of the Great Powers. Once it emerged from international isolation, the authors explain, Japan began to imitate Europe's imperialism as well as its militarism. Detailing Japan's intrigues against China and Russia and its successes in the first Sino- Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, as well as its successful though peripheral involvement in WW I, the Harrieses show how the island nation's warlords developed a hubris that led inexorably to Japan's imperialist adventures on the Asian mainland and war with America. The authors go on to tell the story of the atrocities of the WW II Japanese forces and the collapse of Japan's martial tradition in the wake of defeat, and assess the modest role of the military in postwar Japanese life and policy. A fine history that analyzes the military legacy of the Imperial Japanese Army and assesses moral responsibility for its excesses. (Sixteen pages of b&w illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-56935-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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