A dense but gripping look at a historical counternarrative that remains relevant and disturbing.


A robust history of the German conspiracy against Nazism.

Orbach (History and East Asian Studies/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) combines intellectual inquiry with thriller dynamics, explaining that “resistance to Hitler…is a field in which historical arguments are not purely academic but wrought through with passions.” The author acknowledges both the admirable aims and ultimate shortcomings of the conspirators, arguing that their story, culminating in Operation Valkyrie in 1944, is deceptively complex, while the plotters’ moral standings remain subject to competing interpretations. Today, he notes, many doubt “not only the moral integrity of the conspirators and their motives but their military skill as well.” Orbach counterbalances this by examining the connections between principal figures as the Nazis took hold of German society. Initially, defiance developed among conservative iconoclasts from the military and the nobility. The author uses organizational theory to explore how resistance to totalitarianism moved from such secretive “cliques” to broader networks, potent but more vulnerable. Of these early groups, “most…were never involved in opposition to the Nazi regime, but a tiny portion went through a process of revolutionary mutation in the opening months of 1938.” A planned coup nearly occurred that year, during Hitler’s aggression against Czechoslovakia, but it fizzled out following appeasement. As one plotter noted, “never, since 1933, was there such a good chance to free Germany and the world.” Amazingly, a disgruntled lone wolf nearly killed Hitler the following year, an event that stands in ironic contrast to the increasingly labyrinthine networks. Orbach tracks the conspiracy’s rise and fall over several years; some participants were motivated by spiraling defeats on the eastern front, others through witnessing genocidal acts. The charismatic Claus von Stauffenberg linked the military, bureaucratic, and civilian cliques into a “wheel conspiracy”; unfortunately, its efficiency permitted the Nazis to punish most plotters following his failed bombing of Hitler’s hideaway. Orbach is thoughtful and careful in portraying a rebellion against evil that ended “honorably, perhaps, but in utter failure.”

A dense but gripping look at a historical counternarrative that remains relevant and disturbing.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-71443-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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