A well-researched work offering new understanding of the pact’s pertinence to this day.



Placing the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact squarely at the center of Soviet-German belligerence before the outbreak of World War II.

English historian Moorhouse (Berlin at War, 2010, etc.) finds that the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact of August 1939—with its “secret protocol” to carve up Poland and the Baltic states—is not well-understood in the West and is still rationalized by “communist apologists” today. The pact, which lasted less than two years and ended with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, indeed “turned the political world upside down,” as it created bedfellows between two sworn enemies who had long denounced the other as attempting world domination. Hitler had gained power by railing against the “Jewish Bolshevist plague,” while Stalin had decried German expansionism in the East since the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. Moorhouse nimbly shows how this cynical alliance came about: Hitler needed to guard his eastern flank in his expansion into Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia were rich in minerals and industry), and intractable Poland could not be brought around without force; moreover, an alliance with the resources-rich Soviet Union would feed Hitler’s war. The author attempts to clarify Stalin’s rationale in pushing for this pact as not simply being a defensive move or a way of buying time until the Soviets were prepared for war. Rather, it was a “passive-aggressive” grab at territory and power, a chance to “set world-historical forces in motion” and thumb his nose at Western imperialist powers. The impact was huge, as 75 million people were affected by the newly designated borders, causing massive deportations and purges and creating parallel (and collaborative) systems of terror and repression by the NKVD and the Nazi SS. Moorhouse offers a thorough delineation of the characters involved, as well as the extraordinary contortions each side exercised in order to justify the malevolent agreement.

A well-researched work offering new understanding of the pact’s pertinence to this day.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0465030750

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?