Of profound importance to history—and certain to stir up nests of hornets.




Turkish historian Akçam capably refutes those who deny the Armenian genocide, who will probably not change their minds.

No one knows how many Armenians died at Turkish hands in the 1910s, but the number almost certainly exceeds one million. Akçam, writing from the safe distance of the University of Minnesota, has worked through thousands and thousands of documents to find concrete evidence thereof, against considerable difficulty. For one thing, in the post–World War I era, the so-called Young Turks who had led the genocide were still in power and ordered the destruction of countless incriminating documents. For another, no less comprehensive, that postwar government promulgated an alphabet reform that replaced Arabic script with Latin letters, so that, apart from a few scholars, Turkey is now “a society that cannot read its own newspapers, letters and diaries if they were written before 1928. . . . As a result, modern Turkey is totally dependent on history as the state has defined and written it.” More puzzling is the complicity of the victorious Allies in allowing Turkey to escape punishment for—and then deny—its actions against the Armenians; Akçam turns up documents there, too. He is unsparing in his evidence, including proof that Turkish officials who refused to obey murderous orders were themselves murdered. Yet the author also ventures explanations for how the genocide could have been so easily conducted: Most Turks, it appears, condoned it, believing that with the rapid collapse of the Ottoman Empire, their nation was in danger of being carved up by Armenian nationalists. Ironically, hoping for a homeland of their own, Muslim Kurds joined in the slaughter of Christian Armenians, who had “been willing to convert to escape death.” Convicts released from prison for the purpose butchered tens of thousands, too. Yet the Turkish government bears the greatest responsibility for the murders, even if it will not admit to it.

Of profound importance to history—and certain to stir up nests of hornets.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-8050-7932-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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