A book both insightful and painful to read.

THE BELL OF TREASON

THE 1938 MUNICH AGREEMENT IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA

An account of Britain and France’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia to Hitler.

A Cambridge graduate and Czech scholar, Caquet (The Orient, the Liberal Movement, and the Eastern Crisis of 1839-41, 2016)—who speaks Czech, Slovak, French, and German—writes that Czechoslovakia, formed after the 1918 breakup of Austria-Hungary, was a vibrant, prosperous democracy. It contained several non-Czech ethnic groups, including German-speakers (Sudetens), about 20 percent of the population. Though never part of Germany proper, Sudetens participated in the government and were not persecuted. When Hitler came to power, he proclaimed that all Germans yearned to join the Reich. With Nazi backing, a Sudeten quasi-Nazi party formed, and its violent tactics soon made it the dominant political force. With Nazi media full of purely fictional accounts of atrocities against Sudetens and Hitler demanding self-determination, Britain and France realized that there was a “Sudeten problem” and offered to negotiate a solution. No one at the time knew that Hitler had ordered Sudeten leaders to make impossible demands. In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew for his first meeting with Hitler, coming away full of praise for his statesmanship. Returning after dragooning the reluctant French and even more reluctant Czechs to agree to cede lands with more than 50 percent German-speakers, he was flabbergasted when Hitler refused. War seemed imminent, which, Caquet emphasizes, might have been a good thing. The Czechs had a fortified frontier and a formidable army, Germany’s generals believed the Wermacht was not prepared, and the Soviet Union declared its support for the Czechs (it became a German ally a year later). Sadly, Chamberlain was indefatigable, warning French leaders that Britain would not support them in any war. Eagerly accepting Mussolini’s offer to help, he returned a few days later and gave Hitler everything he wanted. With access to new material, the author delivers what is likely the definitive history of a disgraceful event.

A book both insightful and painful to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-050-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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