An elegantly composed study, important and even timely, given current trends in American and global politics.




A riveting study delves deeply into the conditions of the perfect storm that allowed Hitler and his Nazi party to seize and wield unprecedented power.

The Nazis, first and foremost, were opportunists. In this compelling narrative, historian Childers (Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation's Troubled Homecoming from World War II, 2009, etc.) begins with Hitler’s lackluster early life and sense of thwarted ambition, which took a sharp new direction after Germany’s crushing defeat in World War I. From Vienna, where he was first inculcated in virulent anti-Semitic influences, to postwar Munich, a hotbed of left-wing revolutionary turmoil, Hitler seized the two pillars of what would become Nazi ideology: anti-Semitism and anti-Marxism. He assumed leadership of one of the many small paramilitary parties that had sprung up before 1920 and rebranded it the National Socialist German Workers Party, complete with swastika symbol and thuggish paramilitary army, led by loyalist Ernst Röhm; the group was envisioned more as an ideological movement than a political party. From this point, Childers meticulously lays out the conditions that fed the growth of this objectionable group: Hitler’s talent for oratory, which won over rich donors; the conservative Catholic Bavarian base that was tolerant of “nationalist-Völkisch extremists of all kinds”; the shocking leniency meted out to him after the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923; the inspired choice of Joseph Goebbels to organize a Nazi propaganda machine, instigating the party rallies and Hitler cult that appealed to disenchanted voters and heavily influenced the breakthrough election of 1930; and, as the author emphasizes, the fatally misdirected backroom connivances by former chancellor Franz von Papen and others, which handed the chancellorship to Hitler in 1933. Once in power, the Nazis ensured with breathtaking rapidity that everything began to “fall in line,” with one edict after the other consolidating power and strangling the rights of Jews especially—all facing little resistance by Germans citizens or the rest of the world.

An elegantly composed study, important and even timely, given current trends in American and global politics.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5113-3

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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