A creepy yet compelling who’s-who of collaboration in the big-screen industry during the Nazi era.



English film historian Munn (Conspiracy of Angels, 2012, etc.) offers a hard-driving study of Hitler’s music and film obsessions and the sacrifice of untold talent and youth to the murderous Nazi ideology.

The author attempts to get at what made Hitler tick and drove him like a deranged person, starting from his questionable genetic makeup, as the product of the incestuous union of two cousins whose other children were variously “stupid” or “imbecile[s],” to his self-styled impersonation of the white knight, misunderstood outsider and prophet gleaned from Wagner’s Rienzi and other characters. From Hitler’s idolization of Wagner’s operas, he forged his fantasies about racial purity and the ideal German state risen gloriously from the ashes of the Versailles Treaty, and Munn depicts how Hitler liberally employed the spectacle of parades, banners, fires and communal singing adopted from Wagner’s stages. As he rose to power, he found his true talent in oratory. He tasked his trusty deputy and publicist, Joseph Goebbels, with forging his cult of personality, taking over the German film industry to root out the “Jewish spirit of decay” from German culture and ensuring that films showed a “wholesome” representation of Nazi ideology, as depicted in riveting, ritualistic documentaries by Leni Riefenstahl, anti-Semitic vehicles or films to rouse the fighting spirit, like Kolberg. Along the tragic way, there were the making and destruction of innumerable careers, and Munn unrolls the credits like detritus on the battlefield: Jewish artists who were able to flee Germany and those who perished in the gas chambers, others who collaborated for the sake of their careers and paid dearly after the war.

A creepy yet compelling who’s-who of collaboration in the big-screen industry during the Nazi era.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62087-727-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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