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Ham makes many good points, but while useful and well-executed, this is an ordinary entry in a field dominated by more...

Another book on the making of the world’s most studied dictator.

As former Sunday Times correspondent Ham (Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath, 2014, etc.) notes, the rise of Adolf Hitler from provincial nobody to central figure on the world stage would have been impossible without a chain of extraordinary catastrophes: the collapse of the old European empires, economic depression, and, particularly, the bloodletting of World War I. In that regard, Hitler, already known as a prudish and abstemious young man, was a brave, dutiful soldier who, unlike so many in the trenches, “never abandoned his belief in the sacrifice, for the glory of the German Army and the future of the Reich, a goal for which every man must be willing to give his life.” Even so, Ham adds, Hitler was never quite the war hero of later Nazi myth. He did not single-handedly capture a squad of enemy soldiers at the end of a pistol, and neither did he oppose the anti-war left, at least at the beginning of a political career marked by “opportunity, hypocrisy, skill and sheer desperation.” In his study of formative politics, Ham ponders why Hitler’s anti-Semitism grew to such virulent proportions when, throughout much of his early years, that sentiment was absent. The author’s speculations in that regard will be of interest to students of mass psychology as much as history, as are his notes on Hitler’s protean ability to be all things to all people and make promises he never intended to keep—but also ones he did. Perhaps the greatest contribution of this book in a time of resurgent nationalism is its quiet reminder that Hitler was an all-too-human product of his time who “personified the feelings of millions, and still does.”

Ham makes many good points, but while useful and well-executed, this is an ordinary entry in a field dominated by more authoritative books.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-747-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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