A well-paced narrative as chock full of mysterious revelations as a good spy thriller.

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OPERATION DAMOCLES

ISRAEL'S SECRET WAR AGAINST HITLER'S SCIENTISTS, 1951-1967

A British investigative journalist offers an intriguing, somewhat circuitous look back at the Mossad’s attempts to thwart the Egyptian missile program.

In response to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s paranoid efforts to bolster his military program in the late 1950s, the equally paranoid Israeli foreign intelligence service kicked into high vigilance, planting operatives in Cairo and even carrying out intimidation and assassination attempts against the key German scientists recruited to the Egyptian missile work. Howard (The Oil Hunters: Exploration and Espionage in the Middle East, 2008, etc.) uses his expertise and research on Middle Eastern defense issues to piece together this complex, shadowy story. In the first part of the book, the author backtracks into the deep-seated history of Arab-Israeli hostility, focusing on the pan-Arab liberation movement led by Nasser, his mistrust of Western leaders born out by the Suez Crisis of 1956, and his resolve to build up the Egyptian military to ward off Israeli attacks and galvanize his own power base among the Arab states. The goal was to build long-range ballistic rockets, and Nasser’s trusty deputy chief of air force intelligence, Gen. Isam Khalil, was sent to Zurich and elsewhere to try to lure some “specialist engineers” to the Egyptian cause. The scientists were disgruntled Germans, specifically ex-Nazis, who were all offered sweet deals to live and work in Cairo beginning in July 1960. Meanwhile, Mossad, led by the legendary Isser Harel, had to find some suitable operatives to infiltrate the Egyptian-German community, such as the highly convincing Wolfgang Lotz. Ultimately, both sides erred fatally: Harel’s Operation Damocles proved clumsy and politically driven, while the Egyptian rockets lacked a guidance mechanism, which undermined their accuracy.

A well-paced narrative as chock full of mysterious revelations as a good spy thriller.

Pub Date: May 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60598-438-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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