Deep, important research by a master historian.



A German Jewish historian mines the intricate story behind Hitler’s rise to power in Munich as a direct reaction to the failed socialist coup of 1918-1919, many of whose leaders were liberal Jews.

In the wake of the assassination of Kurt Eisner—the first Jewish prime minister of Bavaria, whose socialist republic overthrew the centuries-old monarchy—in February 1919, reactionary, antisemitic forces took hold in that once-liberal cultural capital and enabled the rise of Hitler. Brenner looks closely at the lives and beliefs of those Jewish intellectuals, anarchists, and revolutionaries, such as Eisner, Erich Mühsam, Ernst Toller, Eugen Leviné, and Gustav Landauer, as well as the better-known Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. Many were from czarist Russia, where they had been oppressed and found in socialism freedom, opportunity, and a method for helping others in similarly oppressive situations. As Saul Friedländer wrote, “the activities of the Jewish revolutionaries in Germany were based on an unquestionably naïve, but very humane idealism—a sort of secular Messianism, as if the revolution could bring deliverance from all suffering.” Many were nonpracticing or nonbelievers, and many worked in opposition to each other and did not necessarily share a political consensus. Still, the revolutionary actors in Bavaria banded together to effect a bloodless takeover of the monarchy, leading first to shock among the bourgeoisie and then vengeful new rulers and a wave of terror—a “pogrom atmosphere in Munich.” Brenner examines the ideology and background of each of the key players and how their Jewishness affected their worldview. The violent reaction to the coup put the “Jewish question” front of mind and the “unspeakable Jewish tragedy,” as Martin Buber called the era, to follow at center stage. The story Brenner pieces together is fascinating, with details that will be unknown to nonspecialist readers, and its ramifications were world-changing then and remain so today.

Deep, important research by a master historian.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-691-19103-4

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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