A well-researched, unsettling social history of war that will prove deeply thought-provoking—even worrying—for readers who...

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THE GERMAN WAR

A NATION UNDER ARMS

The story of World War II seen through the eyes of regular German citizens. 

In this massive but thorough meditation, Stargardt (European History/Magdalen Coll., Oxford; Witnesses of War: Children’s Lives Under the Nazis, 2005, etc.) carefully avoids fixing blame on how the war affected both the attitudes and daily lives of German citizens. Instead, the author takes a studiously clinical approach to provide a contemporary perspective on how an entire nation rose up to follow Hitler into a war of conquest and genocide. In addition to providing greatly needed context to the central problem, Stargardt also examines the long-suppressed notion that the average German citizen was under the impression that Germany was fighting “a war of national defense, forced upon them by Allied machinations and Polish aggression.” Yet the author never denies that a significant majority of the population was well-aware of the atrocities being committed in their name. “Where other historians have highlighted the machinery of mass murder, and discussed why or how the Holocaust happened, I find myself more concerned with how German society received and assimilated this knowledge as accomplished fact,” he writes. “How did it affect Germans to gradually realize they were fighting a genocidal war?” Stargardt covers this historic arc in deliberative detail, but he also knows when to dive down from the macro level to focus closely on soldiers, civilians, commanders, and victims. The author has clearly drawn on a wealth of letters and documents written at the time, and when he punches a specific line or memory at the right time, it’s chilling. Near the end of the story, he finds eerie prescience in defeat from the late journalist Ursula von Kardorff: “And when the others [Allies] come with their boundless hatred and gruesome accusations, we will have to keep quiet because they are true.”

A well-researched, unsettling social history of war that will prove deeply thought-provoking—even worrying—for readers who wonder what they might have done under the same circumstances.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-01899-4

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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