Fascinating and often unsettling; an illuminating companion to firsthand accounts such as Irmgard Hunt’s On Hitler’s...




An absorbing study of Nazi-era childhood, drawing on diaries, interviews and other primary sources.

The Third Reich was founded on the premise that the German “race” could and would be purged of putatively unhealthy elements—the mentally and physically disabled, the antinomian, the “mongrel.” From the start, as Stargardt (History/Oxford Univ.) notes, the regime executed children defined as unfit, though it took pains to disguise its program of medical murder. Meanwhile, the Jewish children who remained in Germany—Stargardt observes that more than 80 percent had emigrated by 1939—lived in a liminal world; one recalls that the children on his own block would not play with him, but all he had to do was go to a neighborhood where he was unknown and he “was able to enjoy the anonymity of the streets and join other Berlin children in their games.” Some children mounted rebellions in the face of totalitarianism; Stargardt recounts a swing festival inexplicably staged in Hamburg in 1940, in which 500 adolescents clad in English fashions spoke English and French, to the horror of the Gestapo. In general, of course, life for children was as horrible as it was for adults. There is no room for false sentimentality in Stargardt’s pages; he resists the notion that suffering is necessarily ennobling, particularly when the suffering has been experienced by the children of the aggressors, who become “the objects rather than the subjects of history.” And his account is full of moral nuance, as he explores the world of a teenage kapo in the Terezin concentration camp, of a child assigned to guard women awaiting execution and other children who carefully noted where they buried their Hitler Youth badges when the Allies arrived.

Fascinating and often unsettling; an illuminating companion to firsthand accounts such as Irmgard Hunt’s On Hitler’s Mountain and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-4088-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2005

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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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