A chilling, lawyerly study with laserlike focus.



A painstakingly researched work regards the brief period early in Hitler’s chancellorship when the murderous events at Dachau might have been stopped by law and order.

Paris-based author Ryback (Hitler’s Private Library: The Books that Shaped His Life, 2008, etc.) tracks the crescendo of events in early 1933, after Hitler blamed the mysterious Reichstag fire on a communist conspiracy and a wave of arrests began filling the first concentration camp outside Munich—accompanied by suspicious deaths. Deputy prosecutor Josef Hartinger of the Dachau jurisdiction, where the detention center for political prisoners had been erected on the site of a former munitions factory, was informed on April 13 that four prisoners had been shot and killed while trying to escape. Investigating the murders, Hartinger and a few loyal colleagues discovered that the prison was not under the command of Bavarian state police, but under the Nazi SS: vicious and unrestrained officers who had unleashed a string of atrocities against the victims (all of whom, it turned out, were Jews). More deaths followed, and Hartinger, a middling civil servant and devout Roman Catholic who showed astounding courage at this dangerous juncture, proceeded with indictments against the murderous guards, despite a warning from the chief prosecutor, in cahoots with chief of Bavarian police Heinrich Himmler, that he would not sign them. Nonetheless, before May 30, when Dachau was officially transferred to SS authority, there was an attempt to regulate it by the rule of law. Ryback ties Hartinger’s report (which eventually surfaced at the postwar Nuremberg trials) to an earlier landmark study, Emil Gumbel’s Four Years of Political Murder (1922), in which the University of Heidelberg professor attempted to explain the upsurge in violence sweeping the land of “poets and thinkers” in the immediate postwar years.

A chilling, lawyerly study with laserlike focus.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-35291-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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