An episodic reconstruction, complete with a dazzling dramatis personae, of Rome under the Nazi occupation and the Allied...




In the best tradition of Harrison Salisbury and Cornelius Ryan, novelist/historian Katz (Days of Wrath, 1980, etc.) captures a tumultuous nine months in Rome’s long history, with plenty of circumstantial detail and incidents involving many actors.

That short but bloody period followed the collapse of Mussolini’s regime and the dictator’s arrest, when Nazi forces declared martial law and seized control of the erstwhile ally’s territory. Katz begins his account with a renowned partisan attack on SS police forces within Rome in which dozens of Nazis died, representing a military feat “unequaled by the partisan movements in any other of the German-occupied European capitals.” The assault in the Via Rasella led to swift reprisals: the massacre of Roman men and boys in the long-abandoned catacombs outside the city, accelerated efforts to deport and destroy the city’s Jews. It also emphasized the sharp divisions that obtained among the Romans vis-à-vis the Communist-dominated resistance—divisions that were particularly pronounced within the Vatican, where the reigning pope, who regarded Stalin’s Russia as a far greater evil than Hitler’s Germany, made no official comment on affairs outside St. Peter’s gates, but where individual clerics resisted the occupiers against the pontiff’s wishes. (The pope’s silence, Katz suggests, certainly owed to his personal politics, but perhaps more to his fervent desire to protect the Vatican from attack by any party.) Confusion and division similarly attended the Allied campaign to liberate Rome, a matter involving personality clashes among the commanders as well as the usual fog of war, and Katz’s account of the tangled politics that accompanied their military efforts is one of the best parts of an already strong, swiftly moving narrative.

An episodic reconstruction, complete with a dazzling dramatis personae, of Rome under the Nazi occupation and the Allied drive to free it.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-1642-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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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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