A well-fleshed-out biography featuring an appropriate amount of historical context.




A biography of an important 20th-century activist who was one of the first to stand up to “the well-publicized injustices of the Third Reich.”

The subject of Duffy’s (Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring, 2014, etc.) latest is Bill Bailey (1915-1995), a merchant seaman with little formal education who joined the American Communist Party as a teenager and became increasingly angry about the U.S. government appeasing Hitler during his rise to power and subsequent comprehensive repression of any form of dissent. Bailey’s fleeting fame occurred when he and a few like-minded Nazi haters boarded the Bremen, “the flagship of Hitler’s commercial armada,” in New York Harbor in 1935. A dress-up party was in progress to celebrate the departure of the massive ship. Bailey and his colleagues had devised a plan to scale the mast and remove the Nazi flag, which featured a swastika. The plan succeeded, becoming “the first blow landed against the Third Reich by foreign adversaries, delivered without guns or bomb, years before America, or any country, chose to take military action against a regime that was already signaling its treacherous intentions.” However, local authorities, feeling duty-bound to protect a foreign vessel against politically oriented trespassers, arrested Bailey and a few accomplices. Throughout the narrative, Duffy offers detailed sections about the Bremen and its impressive luxury, the duties of merchant mariners, the American Communist Party, Hitler’s rise, the German persecution of Jews, and the failure of most Americans—including President Franklin Roosevelt—to counteract the evils of Nazism in the early 1930s. In addition, the author critiques the criminal justice system as he provides detailed coverage of the trial that resulted in the acquittals of Bailey and his colleagues. After the acquittal, Bailey remained a political activist, union organizer, and merchant mariner, serving in World War II. For the last few decades of his life, he remained out of the spotlight.

A well-fleshed-out biography featuring an appropriate amount of historical context.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6231-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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...


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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