A careful study, obviously sympathetic to the Republican cause but generally evenhanded.

Searching study of the role of the press in shaping world opinion about the Spanish Republic and its enemies—a role that, regrettably, was not enough to stir world leaders to action.

In a broad gallery of heroes, along with a few villains, Preston (Spanish History/London School of Economics; The Spanish Civil War, 2006, etc.) singles out the “meticulously honest” New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews, who wrote of the uneven battle between Franco’s fascist armies, backed by troops, planes and armaments from Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, and the Republican forces, supplemented mostly by leftist volunteers from around the world (including George Orwell and André Malraux). Matthews, Preston writes, was hounded throughout his posting by pro-Franco forces in the United States, including the so-called International Catholic Truth Society and the Catholic diocese of Brooklyn, which organized a boycott of the Times to protest Matthews’ fair reporting. The Times caved, sort of, sending in Franco booster William P. Carney in the interest of balance, then running his “unashamedly partisan material,” to say nothing of stories that were pure inventions. Carney’s reporting, Preston insists, was roundly contradicted by many hands—and the press corps in Spain eventually included Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, as well as relative unknowns such as the Soviet reporter Mikhail Koltsov. Regardless of their politics, many journalists fell into the usual habits of bed- and barhopping, which provides some of the lighter moments in then narrative. Sobering, however, is the author’s analysis of why the Western powers, though knowing that Spain was a prelude for a great confrontation with the Axis, failed to back the Republican government in a moment of cowardice and calculation—Franklin Roosevelt told Interior Secretary Harold Ickes that do so “would mean the loss of every Catholic vote next fall.” Particularly intriguing is Preston’s account of how the Guernica story, known to us today mostly by way of Picasso, broke—with Carney reporting for the New York Times that the Basques had bombed themselves.

A careful study, obviously sympathetic to the Republican cause but generally evenhanded.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60239-767-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009


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


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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