Despite inadequate maps, this is a useful and painful reminder that the Battle of Britain and invasion of Normandy...

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THE RETREAT

HITLER'S FIRST DEFEAT

A gripping slog through the first winter on the eastern front of World War II.

In the first of a planned two-volume work, British military historian Jones (Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, 2010, etc.) examines the ten months following Germany’s June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. A few chapters cover summer months when Wehrmacht forces raced eastward, inflicting immense losses on a Red Army that seemed on the verge of collapse. However, the collapse didn’t occur, temperatures fell and autumn rains devastated Russia’s primitive roads, choking off supplies to armies now far inside the Soviet Union. Most of the book describes what happened after October when, within 100 miles of Moscow, three Wehrmacht armies launched a final push. By November, they had surrounded the city on three sides, but stiffening resistance and brutal weather defeated the exhausted, hungry, freezing troops. A Soviet offensive drove them back as much as 200 miles before the front stabilized in February. Quoting liberally from letters, diaries and interviews from both sides, Jones paints a gruesome picture. Frostbite devastated German troops, who received no winter clothing until spring. Notwithstanding their technological prowess, they failed to realize that extreme cold froze ordinary lubricants, and weapons refused to operate. Masses of vehicles and artillery were abandoned during the retreat. Both sides behaved inhumanely, but the Nazis began it; more than one million Soviet POWs received little food or shelter, and most died miserably.

Despite inadequate maps, this is a useful and painful reminder that the Battle of Britain and invasion of Normandy contributed far less to Hitler’s defeat than the Russian front, where a viciously dirty war inflicted 75–80 percent of German casualties.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-62819-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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