MacArthur Foundation grant recipient Rosenberg follows her acclaimed study of Latin America's transition to democracy, Children of Cain (1991), with a similar look at Eastern Europe, specifically, the former Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the movement toward something like democracy in the former Warsaw Pact countries, those nations were faced with the dilemma of how to address the crimes of the previous regimes. In Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Germany this shared problem was met with solutions of varying degrees of efficacy. Lustrace, the Czech policy, used names culled from secret police files to purge alleged informers and secret police agents from public office; but the results have been so disastrous that some leading dissidents have found themselves tarred with the brush of stool pigeon. In Poland, General Wojciech Jaruzelski was placed on trial by the new government for invoking martial law in 1981, an act he claims was taken to avert a Russian invasion. In Germany, a somewhat fairer version of lustrace has been installed, but former East German border guards were tried for murder in the shooting of their escaping countrymen in the last days of the Wall. Rosenberg recounts the events in these three responses to the past with a firm grasp of the issues at stake and a finely balanced moral sense. The result is a thoughtful book about ``human beings' ability to rewrite the past to suit the present'' and the necessity of facing the past as it really was. The book is slightly marred by some repetitiveness, and the author lacks the encyclopedic grasp that Timothy Garton Ash or Misha Glenny have of the region's history and politics, but there is much of value here. An intelligent examination of a complex issue, a useful corrective to the euphoria of the West in the wake of its ostensible victory in the Cold War.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-42215-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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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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