A seasoned historian weaves a heartwarming story.



The less-heralded precursor to the Berlin Airlift receives a lively treatment from a popular historian.

Dando-Collins (Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, 2012, etc.) gradually unravels this intriguing and unlikely story of good against evil: President Franklin Roosevelt’s dying wish to help the starving Dutch translated into an eleventh-hour airlift of rations over Nazi-occupied Holland in the last bitter days of World War II. The Allies had been pushing into Holland in order to cross the Rhine into Germany, yet after the debacle of Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden in September 1944, western Holland, from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, remained in the murderous grip of 120,000 German troops. The winter of 1944-1945 was the Hunger Winter for the Dutch, who were squeezed by German forces determined to punish the population. In response, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, in exile in England, begged FDR and other leaders to help her starving people. With the finagling of her German-born son-in-law, Prince Bernard, formerly an SS insider and once possible spy for IG Farben, she persuaded the Americans to act. The plan of operation fell to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff, “Beetle” Bedell Smith, who then ordered Air Commodore Andrew Geddes to work out the details. (Many years later, Geddes would consider the operation “as historically important as D-Day.”) They used the now-available fleet of B-17 heavy bombers and crew for a slew of “mercy missions” flying extremely low over occupied territory from April 28 (the first “nervous test flight”) to VE-Day, dropping tons of cargo to the cheering, grateful Dutch. Dando-Collins expertly tells his fluid drama through the plights of these engaging personages—e.g., future Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn, then a starving youth in the small Dutch town of Velp.

A seasoned historian weaves a heartwarming story.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-137-27963-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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