An exercise in raining on the Greatest Generation’s parade, best read by those who were not alive during that time.

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THE BITTER ROAD TO FREEDOM

A NEW HISTORY OF THE LIBERATION OF EUROPE

The end of the Third Reich brought Nazi-occupied Europe a new set of troubles, maintains Hitchcock (History/Temple Univ.; The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945 to the Present, 2003, etc.) in this thoroughly revisionist, middling history.

“Liberation came to Europe in a storm of destruction and death,” the author writes. As many French civilians died at D-Day as American soldiers, while German civilians were made to pay for the sins of the Nazi regime in a rain of bullets and bombs fired and dropped by men who knew full well that noncombatants would die. The cause of liberation was virtuous, Hitchcock allows, but the Allied soldiers who prosecuted it were not necessarily so. The power that liberation brought to them was sometimes manifest in episodes of drunkenness, looting, rape, murder and other untoward behavior. Some once-occupied countries fared better than others; France, for instance, soon fell under its own administration, thanks to brokering long since undertaken by Free French leader Charles de Gaulle. Others were not so fortunate, and material conditions did not always substantially improve once the Germans had gone, as in the poverty-stricken southern districts of Italy. Hitchcock points to the irony of Jim Crow: Whereas only about ten percent of all troops in the European Theater were African-American, 75 percent of soldiers executed for rape and other crimes were black. On another front, about 500,000 American soldiers had contracted venereal diseases by June 1945. Hitchcock argues that the high price of liberation was compounded by political expedience. Churchill and Roosevelt wanted self-government and freedom, but of course “Stalin did not desire to return Europe to the status quo ante bellum.” The result was still more suffering for Europeans. Hitchcock does not sufficiently allow that the liberation of Europe had its good aspects, too, not least ending Hitler’s rule.

An exercise in raining on the Greatest Generation’s parade, best read by those who were not alive during that time.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-7381-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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