A thorough explanation for the rise of the nationalist and fascist groups who set the stage for World War II.




The first study of the disorders that shook all the defeated states of Europe following World War I.

For the nations that lost the war, the fighting did not end with the armistice in November 1918. On the contrary, Gerwarth (Modern History/Univ. College, Dublin; Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich, 2011, etc.) asserts that between 1918 and 1923, postwar Europe was "the most violent place on the planet." Russia, of course, was swept up in its own revolution and civil war. While the victors connived in Paris to reorganize a continent previously dominated by land empires into one composed of nation-states, from the Baltic to the Caucasus, the territories of the collapsed Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman empires were torn by civil wars and revolutions of their own and by interstate wars like the ill-advised Greek invasion of Turkey in 1919. As a result, writes Gerwarth, "none of the defeated states of the Great War managed to return to anything like pre-war levels of domestic stability and internal peace." Although the 1923 Conference of Lausanne ended the Greco-Turkish conflict and marked the exhaustion of this spasm of violence, the author contends that it laid the foundation for later ethnic cleansing because it "established the legal right of state governments to expel large parts of their citizens on the grounds of 'otherness.' It fatally undermined cultural, ethnic and religious plurality as an ideal.” In this extensively researched and crisply written account, Gerwarth explores the political and military upheavals throughout central Europe, including those in unfamiliar nations like Bulgaria and radically dismembered Hungary. The author’s consistent focus on national governments, paramilitary groups like the various German Freikorps, and statistical counts of victims of violence and famine at the expense of personal experiences of ordinary people caught up in the chaos sometimes renders the narrative a little dry, but it is certainly authoritative.

A thorough explanation for the rise of the nationalist and fascist groups who set the stage for World War II.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-28245-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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