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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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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