A concise, balanced study of one of history’s most cataclysmic events.


A history of the Western Front (northern France and Belgium) of WWI, invaded and occupied by the Kaiser’s German armies of 1914–18.

Holmes (History/Royal Military College of Sciences) has written a survey of a place that witnessed an astonishing loss of life and limb—more than 750,000 deaths—in four bloody years of continual fighting. Holmes notes that the evolution of mass armies came about after Prussia began military conscription and successfully fought several wars in Europe during the 19th century. Other nations followed and, concurrently, a greater production of increasingly more lethal weapons occurred. Holmes consulted the recorded memories of veterans, public records, and many books by historians to explain such dreadful battles as those at Verdun (where heroic French troops held), the Somme (where 150,000 British soldiers died while 300,000 were wounded), Ypres, Passchendaele, Cambrai, and the Argonne. While exhausted, worn survivors tended to think of the rear-echelon generals ordering these attacks as deadly buffoons with hearts of flint, others would describe the process as a parade of “lions led by donkeys.” The author, to be fair, admits that the generals were called upon to solve extremely complex military problems that demanding politicians and failed diplomats had left them to cope with. Facing a variety of terrifying new weapons (artillery barrages, improved machine guns, and poison gases), neither officer nor troops could rely upon established military procedures, and the reader becomes vividly aware of the inhuman, desperate conditions that the bravest soldiers had to face through Holmes’s re-creation of the hardships endured at the front lines.

A concise, balanced study of one of history’s most cataclysmic events.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-57500-147-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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