A scholarly examination that poses important questions but ultimately offers less in the way of original reportage than...




A prominent historian brings the Holocaust under new scrutiny and wonders if the right confluence of modern forces could bring genocide back.

Snyder (History/Yale Univ.) polarized academics and other experts on the Holocaust with his study Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), and he largely continues that line of thinking here as he attempts to contextualize the events that led up to the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews. The author argues that Hitler saw the world in terms of a twisted kind of ecology, one in which he saw Jews as a mistake to be removed. He also glances off the myth of Judeo-Bolshevism, the mistaken concept that Jews were behind the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, but he admits that there's no excuse for claims of ignorance of these graphic events. “What happened in the second half of 1941 was an accelerating campaign of murder that took a million Jewish lives and apparently convinced the German leadership that all Jews under their control could be eliminated,” Snyder writes. “This calamity cannot be explained by stereotypes of passive or community Jews, of orderly or preprogrammed Germans, of beastly or antisemitic locals, or indeed by any other cliché, no matter how powerful at the time, or how convenient today. It would have been impossible without a special kind of politics.” In addition to probing the intellectual origins of the Final Solution, the author also offers thoughtful portrayals of Jews who survived execution and how institutions and states, as well as specific individuals, were crucial in these rescues. Snyder argues that the Holocaust should stand as a warning for our own future, but his conclusion is rather tepid in its analysis, with simplistic pronouncements that “our forgetfulness convinces us that we are different from Nazis by shrouding the ways that we are the same.”

A scholarly examination that poses important questions but ultimately offers less in the way of original reportage than Nikolaus Wachsmann’s KL (2015).

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-90345-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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