A valiant attempt to dispel “America’s collective amnesia over the First World War.”




A fresh look at America’s reluctance to enter World War I as a mass consensus rather than any single faulty decision by President Woodrow Wilson.

Neiberg (War Studies/United States Army War Coll.; Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe, 2015, etc.) effectively shows how America went from embracing neutrality when World War I ignited in August 1914 (as represented by the popular song “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier”) to accepting its new world role by early 1917 (epitomized by George M. Cohan’s “Over There”). The author admirably sticks to the contemporary record via periodicals, diaries, and speeches to allow the voices of the agents to emerge—politicians, captains of business, immigrants of the warring nations, and regular folk. Americans were outraged by the brutality of the war in Europe, mystified and disgusted by the bellicosity of Germany (when so many immigrants to America were German, and German kultur was valued highly), and increasingly cognizant of the need to accept moral responsibility to help the war’s victims. “Wilson had misread the mood of his country regarding the war,” writes the author, because many people did question the rightness of America’s isolationism as imperiling their future. While a pro-Allied bias was evident from the start of the war (by more educated, old-stock Protestant families), many did not sympathize—e.g., Irish-Americans, who denounced the violent British reprisals against the Easter Rising as being similar to German methods; and African-Americans, who were keenly aware of Belgium’s atrocities against the Congolese in Africa. Economic interest, however, ruled the day; the sinking of the Lusitania and, later, the Zimmermann telegram shook public opinion violently, though it was Germany’s declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare that helped create the inevitable casus belli.

A valiant attempt to dispel “America’s collective amnesia over the First World War.”

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-046496-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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