A lucid contribution to the history of World War II.



Oppress a continent and kill millions of its inhabitants, and payback, when it comes, is likely to be ugly.

Such was the case when Nazi Germany fell in the first months of 1945, encircled by mighty Allied armies determined to put an end to Hitler’s regime. That year, writer Bessel (History/York Univ.; Nazism and War, 2004, etc.), began with a bloodbath, following the American and British breakthrough in the West after the unsuccessful breakout that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. But the blood flowed more heavily in the East, following the Soviet offensive; it yielded the highest monthly total of German casualties of any month in the war, more than 450,000. It is difficult to feel much pity for the doctrinaire Nazis among those dead and wounded, but it is easy to gauge the desperation of their cause as the Red Army threw division after division against the Wehrmacht—indeed, so desperate were they that, in what will come as news to readers who forget the Russian contribution to the conflict, the German forces tried to stage a Battle of the Bulge in the East too, in the deep forests of Hungary. Their stiff resistance, and the fact that many Germans took seriously Hitler’s command to fight to the death even when it meant suicide, yielded a whirlwind of revenge. Bessel raises the question of whether the war might have been cut short had Eisenhower not insisted on unconditional surrender on the Western front—which his German counterpart rightly said was not in his power to grant. The war was not cut short, of course. Instead, Germany disintegrated into crime and anarchy in the last days of the regime, and countless Germans died needlessly as the conquering armies moved in. No nation has ever been so thoroughly defeated as Germany, Bessel helpfully notes, and it was by no means certain that it would emerge from ruin.

A lucid contribution to the history of World War II.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-054036-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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



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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