A fine history that brings back to light the contributions of the younger, often forgotten resistance fighters.

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SUDDEN COURAGE

YOUTH IN FRANCE CONFRONT THE GERMANS, 1940-1945

An exploration of the reasons so many young French citizens stepped up to work against Nazi occupiers and the “traitorous” Vichy government.

As Rosbottom (French and European Studies/Amherst Coll.; When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944, 2014) shows, World War II interrupted their developmental time frame, forcing them into an adulthood for which they were little prepared. There are many common threads in the memoirs the author was able to source—e.g., patriotic pride and hatred of the occupiers; strong Jewish identity—but a moral certainty of right and wrong was the dominant characteristic in all of them. Many practiced soft resistance, including art, propaganda, false documents, and minor but persistent sabotage. Others used hard resistance: intelligence-gathering, assassinations, derailments, etc. By far the most organized were the young communists, who had funding from Russia and accepted and encouraged girls to join. Under Stalin’s orders not to attack their occupiers after the 1939 treaty with Hitler, the youth concentrated on undermining the German-backed Vichy government and the French police who worked directly with the Germans. Hitler’s invasion of Russia ended that ban. The cultural and social phenomena affecting students before the war—film, jazz, dancing, and a new taste of freedom—guided them. They were not driven by politics and didn’t think of the dangers to themselves or their families. At first, their youth, especially for girls, protected them. When the SS and Gestapo took over in 1942, everyone was suspect, and security tightened considerably. Rosbottom uses impressive character studies to drive his narrative—e.g., a 17-year-old who was executed as a reprisal; a blind young man who became a natural leader both in the Resistance and during the many months he spent in prison. Early resisters were disorganized, confused, and incompetent, but they learned quickly.

A fine history that brings back to light the contributions of the younger, often forgotten resistance fighters.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247002-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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