A footnote to history, to be sure, but a fascinating one.

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AJAX, THE DUTCH, THE WAR

SOCCER IN EUROPE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Were the Dutch a nation of heroes of World War II resistance, as they like to claim? Paris-based Financial Times columnist Kuper (The Football Men: Up Close with the Giants of the Modern Game, 2011, etc.) rains on the liberation parade by suggesting that the right answer is, not quite.

Soccer, a British wag once remarked, is way more important than life or death. By this account, it sometimes trumps even war. When the Nazis were rising in power in Germany in the 1930s, they used competitive games—and particularly soccer—as a vehicle of diplomacy; they were good sports when they lost, and they cheered good performances on the pitch no matter who gave them. Even when the Nazis declared war on half the world and overran most of Europe, soccer occupied a kind of hallowed ground. “The point of the game was distraction,” writes Kuper, “not propaganda; soccer was a space where Germans could escape from the war, where life continued as it always had.” That did not keep the Germans from insisting that soccer teams in occupied countries be cleared of Jewish players, managers, owners and others. Kuper asserts that too many Dutch teams did so too willingly. Ajax, a team beloved of Israelis today, was no exception. Some Jewish players wound up in Auschwitz and other death camps; some non-Jewish players resisted, while others collaborated. Though Kuper’s book promises to explore the history of Ajax and other soccer clubs, it goes much deeper, dissecting the widely held view that the Dutch were guid and the Germans fout during those ugly years. “The Israelis are right in a way; the Dutch were good in the war,” Kuper writes. “Not the Second World War, though, but the war of 1973.” If you want a nation that really resisted the Nazis, he adds, look at Denmark. Kuper’s narrative is a little loopy, and he kicks topics around the way Maradona smacks a ball, sometimes with a great roundabout curve to it—but always hitting the goal.

A footnote to history, to be sure, but a fascinating one.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-56858-723-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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