How much did Nazism compromise its scientists? In this polished account, Ball finds that the jury is still out, even as the...



An examination of the response of German scientists to the rise of the Third Reich and its interference with their work.

Since governments have frequently interfered in the workings of science, its truths have not always been free of dogma. In this open and skeptical investigation of the unpredictable dance of science and politics, former Nature editor Ball (Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, 2013, etc.) trots out example after example of how science can thrive under totalitarianism and be skewed under ostensibly democratic conditions. As he ably explores the collusion between the Nazi regime and such scientists as Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, Ball finds a more fruitful avenue in the compromised relationship between science and politics, when “the institution of science itself had become an edifice lacking any clear social or moral orientation. It had created its own alibi for acting in the world.” Ball subtly works the social and cultural expectations of physicists into the picture, noting the ingrained anti-Semitism in German society—“there was no stigma to being an anti-Semite in Germany (or Austria, or indeed most of Europe) in the early part of the century, and the National Socialist regime removed any vestigial inhibitions on that score”—which led to dismissals. However, as the author writes, “the ‘Jewish question’ was regarded as a matter of politics, not morality.” Ball closely follows the thread of National Socialism’s influence on science—not just in its hideous experimentation, but in the Lamarckian sense of ideology guiding the pursuit of finding what it wanted through science.

How much did Nazism compromise its scientists? In this polished account, Ball finds that the jury is still out, even as the evidence mounts and the pursuit of firsthand records and documentary testimony continues.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0226204574

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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