A study of the rise of the Nazi Party that is sure to stir controversy. Traditional interpretations of National Socialism have stressed its irrational character: its mythial evocation of the Teutonic past; its pseudo-science of race and eugenics; and above all, its murderous anti-Semitism. Brustein (Sociology/Univ. of Minnesota) challenges us to reconsider who joined the Nazi Party before 1933 and why. Based on an examination of millions of documents and membership files from the Berlin Document Center, Brustein and his associates have compiled profiles of the millions of Germans who supported Hitler's rise to power. The theoretical framework for the study is the ``rational-choice'' model of social scientists: the idea that individuals and groups will act in accordance with their economic self-interest. As he states early and often: Before 1933, when the Germans still had free choice, millions supported the National Socialist party on the basis of rational factors rather than Hitler's charisma or the irrationalism of Nazi ideology. But the author makes a fundamental confusion between acting rationally and acting in one's best interest. Millions of Germans may have very calmly concluded that the irrational Nazi program was in their best interest, having been told for decades, if not centuries, that the Jew was the bane of their existence. Equally contentious is Brustein's assertion, as stated in the title, that evil can have logical or rational roots. Further, he argues that the Germans could not foresee the horrors of the war and the Holocaust between 1925 and 1933; yet anyone who has read Hitler's speeches or Mein Kampf cannot avoid the conclusion that the Germans knew exactly what the logical outcome of a Nazi society would be. Since anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in Germany, Brustein's contention that ``Hitler was astute enough as a politician to realize that his rabid anti-Semitism lacked the drawing power among the German masses'' seems bizarre. A fundamentally flawed work, yet one that demands consideration and response.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-300-06533-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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