Brilliantly contrarian history.



A sweeping reassessment of World War II seeking to “illuminate critical matters long obscured by the obsessively German-centric literature” on the subject.

Veteran historian McMeekin states bluntly that while Hitler wanted war, Stalin wanted it more. A loyal Marxist, he had no doubt that capitalist nations—among which he included Nazi Germany—were doomed. According to the author, throughout the 1930s, as war became more likely, Stalin worked to ensure that it would leave his enemies exhausted and ripe for revolution. The 1939 nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany seemed a dazzling coup for both nations, but Stalin got greedy. Piggybacking on Hitler’s early victories, he snatched as much territory as Nazi Germany. As a result, several hundred miles of buffer between the Soviet Union and Germany disappeared, making Hitler’s 1941 surprise attack possible. In his account of the titanic campaign that followed, McMeekin pays more attention than most military historians to the loathsome behavior of both sides to civilians and even their own soldiers. He shows less sympathy than most to Stalin’s insults and demands for aid from the Allies and none whatsoever for Soviet representatives vacuuming up America’s patents, technology, and services. The author maintains that Nazism vanished in 1945, but “the Soviet legacy lives on in the Communist governments of China, North Korea, and Vietnam, countries on which Hitler’s short-lived Reich left not even a shadow.” He adds that Allied efforts to cultivate Stalin before Hitler’s invasion failed, and the massive American support afterward was entirely selfish. Consequently, the Soviets, having done most of the fighting, emerged with most of the fruits of victory. The author’s provocative suggestion that America should have allowed the two evil empires to fight it out will ruffle feathers, but it effectively kills the idea that WWII was a battle of good vs. evil. Yet another winner for McMeekin, this also serves as a worthy companion to Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War, which argued that Britain should not have entered World War I.

Brilliantly contrarian history.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7279-6

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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