An exciting account from a passionate author who has done the necessary research.

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THE BIG BREAK

THE GREATEST AMERICAN WWII POW ESCAPE STORY NEVER TOLD

A detailed look at the escape attempts by intrepid British and American POWs from Nazi camps near the end of World War II.

Military historian Dando-Collins (Rise of an Empire: How One Man United Greece to Defeat Xerxes's Persians, 2014, etc.) concentrates on the escape attempts at Schubin, Poland (Oflag 64), due south of Danzig, and, later, at Sagan, Silesia. At first, the Schubin camp housed many Royal Air Force pilots shot down in combat—along with a couple of North Americans who had joined the Canadian air force—and the first amazing escape attempt, in the spring of 1943, involved an incredibly well-organized endeavor by the men’s “X Organization” to dig a tunnel under the latrines, leading eventually to an irrigation ditch in a potato patch outside the camp’s electric wire perimeter. Indeed, 46 prisoners made a successful getaway, although most were apprehended a few days later, many turned in by Polish locals. Subsequently, the POWs were moved by truck to Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan, while newly arrived U.S. Air Force officer POWs at Oflag 64 attempted a brazen escape by going under the wire without detection. After so many escape attempts, the Germans cracked down, threatening to shoot on sight, and the escape organizations had to simmer down. By the beginning of 1945, the war was going badly for the Germans, and to evade the approaching Russians, the German military would begin the huge and ungainly task of moving by foot (many using makeshift sleds) more than 300,000 Allied POWs from the east to the west, deep into Germany. As Dando-Collins enthusiastically recounts, it was “game on” for the prisoners, who took advantage of every opportunity to hide and elude the Germans.

An exciting account from a passionate author who has done the necessary research.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08756-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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