A no-frills oral history of Operation Overlord that, for all its considerable virtues, falls short of the high standard set by other books commemorating the 50th anniversary of the invasion. Drez is assistant director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, which for more than 10 years has been collecting memoirs from lower-echelon veterans of the Anglo- American and Canadian forces who participated in the mid-1944 invasion of occupied Europe that signaled the beginning of the end for Hitler's Third Reich. He has used excerpts from the biographical material supplied by approximately 150 of the archive's 1,440-odd contributors to stitch together a vivid if limited version of the D-day story. His roster of sources, which encompasses Wehrmacht defenders and members of the French resistance as well as Allied troops, is at least representative, but Drez offers barely enough background information to keep the narrative comprehensible. In their set-piece testimony, the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who assaulted coastal France's strongly fortified beaches (in many cases after rides across the English Channel on landing craft whose violent maneuverings left them seasick) or dropped behind German lines under cover of darkness provide graphic accounts of the horrors experienced by combatants at the sharp end of the bayonet in Normandy. Without a big-picture perspective from Drez, however, readers unfamiliar with events could come away with precious little sense of the occasion that demanded such fearful sacrifices. Nor does the editor offer even a summary briefing on what happened to his valiant subjects in the European theater of operations or elsewhere after their first 24 hours ashore. Affecting reminiscences from the survivors of a famous victory afford a kaleidoscopic first-draft reckoning of its appalling costs.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8071-1902-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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