MixedThe New RepublicA Demon-Haunted Land is absorbing, gripping, and utterly fascinating. It kept me enthralled right up to the end. Black certainly knows how to tell a good story. Beautifully written, without even a hint of jargon or pretension, it casts a significant and unexpected new light on the early phase of the Federal Republic of Germany’s history. Black’s analysis of the copious, largely unknown archival sources on which the book is based is unfailingly subtle and intelligent. Nevertheless, in the end, I found myself less than fully convinced by its arguments. In the first place, the very large conclusions she reaches are drawn from two—just two—cases, one of which was confined to parts of western and southern Germany, the other to a single village in the north ... The Gröning case alone takes up well over half the book. If you want to argue that Germans, as a whole, responded to the calamity of defeat and the collapse of their mental and moral world in 1945 by turning to the irrational, you surely need more than this ... Secondly, if the overall argument was to be sustained, the book surely needed a stronger comparative dimension ... How extraordinary her two main subjects were remains open to some doubt, therefore. And Black is tilting at windmills when she claims that her book overturns an orthodoxy that sees postwar Germany entirely in terms of rational reconstruction and hard work [.]
PanThe London Review of BooksSnyder’s claim that the people of Soviet Russia were far less likely to be touched by Stalin’s terror than national minorities in the ‘bloodlands’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny ... Snyder’s relentless focus on Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine and to a lesser extent the Baltic states, and the large claims he makes for the victimisation of their inhabitants, sidelines the fate of the millions of Russians who died at Stalin’s hands ... A historian of East-Central Europe, Snyder hasn’t really mastered the voluminous literature on Hitler’s Germany. This leads him into error in a number of places ... Snyder portrays the Nazi decision-making process as far more clear-cut than most historians now think it was ... The fundamental reason for these omissions, and for the book’s failure to give an adequate account of the genesis of the Final Solution, is that Snyder isn’t seriously interested in explaining anything. What he really wants to do is to tell us about the sufferings of the people who lived in the area he knows most about ... What we need is not to be told yet again the facts about mass murder, but to understand why it took place and how people could carry it out, and in this task Snyder’s book is of no use.
PanThe Guardian (UK)Simms’s reduction of virtually all the major events in the history of the Third Reich to a product of anti-Americanism...is nonsense, and indeed, Simms is forced to contradict himself by the sheer weight of the evidence against his thesis ... Time and again, Simms uses rhetorical sleight of hand to underscore his claim that the U.S. was the main focus of Hitler’s foreign policy by referring to \'Anglo-America\' when he is in fact just talking about Britain ... In the end, Simms hasn’t written a biography in any meaningful sense of the word, he’s written a tract that instrumentalizes the past for present-day political purposes. As such, his book can be safely ignored by serious students of the Nazi era.
MixedThe GuardianHuber retells the self-annihilation of May 1945 in dispassionate, vivid detail, but after a while the sheer repetition of \'ordinary Germans\' ending their lives begins to dull the senses. At around about halfway through the book, he shifts the narrative back to the early days of optimism, when Hitler first came to power. It’s a rather jarring turn in direction that revisits some well-trodden ground, although Huber seeks to find new paths by using the recollections of some of the diarists he introduces earlier in the book. But little new light is shed on what we already know.
MixedThe NationEmpire of Democracy gives us a detailed account...telling us how we got to where we are today and tracking the rise and fall of an economic, social, and political order that now seems to be under fundamental and potentially lethal pressure. Despite the convincing nature of his overall diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of neoliberalism, however, there are many problems with how Reid-Henry tells this story, starting with the narrative style in which he has chosen to cast it. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t seem to be aware of even the most basic rules of historical narrative. Individual actors in the story, from Mitterrand to Trump, are introduced with only scant background information; important dates are missing in dense chapters; and statements and observations are ventured without any attempt to ground them in evidence ... There are more substantive problems as well. For quite long stretches of the book, I found it difficult to understand the sweeping generalizations that pepper the text ... Often, Reid-Henry’s use of the passive voice disguises an almost complete absence of detail ... In many sections, the book reads more like a commentary on events than an analytical narrative ... There are still many passages in this book that can be read with considerable profit ... The book offers a wide-ranging narrative of what happened in one part of the world, but because its scope is restricted by its reliance on the outdated notion of the West, the full story of today’s crisis remains to be told.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review[This book] now establishes itself as the standard historical work on Nazi Germany’s mass murder of Europe’s Jews ... Friedländer seems to have read virtually every printed source and secondary work on his vast subject in English, German and French. His judgments are scrupulous and levelheaded. And he treats the historical controversies that have raged around so many of the topics he covers with untiring fair-mindedness. He writes without a trace of polemic or of facile retrospective moralizing. The book meticulously satisfies every requirement of professional historical writing ... What raises The Years of Extermination to the level of literature, however, is the skilled interweaving of individual testimony with the broader depiction of events. Friedländer never lets the reader forget the human and personal meanings of the historical processes he is describing ... The result is an account of unparalleled vividness and power that reads like a novel ... Friedländer succeeds in binding together the many different strands of his story with a sure touch. He has written a masterpiece that will endure.
MixedThe Nation... absorbing ... One of the many virtues of Pandemic 1918 is that it ranges across the globe, so we get a useful picture of just how widespread the disease was. Arnold knows how to tell a good story and brings home the human dimension of the pandemic. But after a while, the stories all start to seem rather similar, and one begins to long for deeper analytical penetration. There’s no way of telling from this book, for example, which countries or cities combated the pandemic most effectively and why. This homogenizing approach makes it in some ways difficult to extrapolate lessons from 1918 for today. But lessons there surely are.
PanThe GuardianSnyder...seems to equate hostility to democracy with fascism. He is...vague and confused about its history ... the Yale professor offers an overacademic [definition of fascism], calling as witnesses a procession of obscure Russian thinkers, above all Ivan Ilyin, whom he regards as fascist ... but ultra-nationalism is not the same as fascism, for all the things they have in common ... The effectiveness of Snyder’s thoughts on the \'road to unfreedom\' isn’t helped by the strangely declamatory, often obscure style in which they are expressed. One dubious generalization follows another, as the author never troubles to support any of them with serious evidence ... Obsessed with the theory of Russian manipulation behind all the political surprises of recent history, from the Brexit vote to the election of Trump, he has little to say about the driving forces behind them, forces that are vital to understand if democracy is to be saved. And by packaging all of this in the endlessly repeated concepts of \'the politics of eternity\' and \'the politics of inevitability,\' he virtually guarantees that he will lose the attention of his readers.
PanThe Guardian...it becomes apparent that Albright doesn’t really know what fascism is. Lumping together post-Stalinist dictators such as Kim Jong-un and Nicolás Maduro with rightwing nationalists such as Orbán and Vladimir Putin is not much help in understanding either the forces that brought them to power or the policies they are implementing. Albright seems to identify fascism simply with a hostility to democracy and a propensity to lie. There’s a vast literature on its history and politics, but this might as well not exist as far as she is concerned ... Why does any of this matter? If we fail to identify how the threat to democracy operates or why it succeeds in some places and not in others, we won’t be able to offer any effective opposition to it ... the former secretary of state provides an oversimple analysis of the travails of democracy ... The current threats to democracy cry out for reasoned and powerfully expressed analysis, but regrettably, [this book doesn\'t come] anywhere near to offering it.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIt is a fine achievement, deeply researched and fluently written, and it brings its difficult and cantankerous subject to life as no other biography has ... Ms. Roper uses a vast mass of source material in her quest, including 120 volumes of Luther’s collected works. But she also breaks new ground by setting his thought and actions firmly in social context ... Perhaps Ms. Roper focuses too narrowly on Luther’s theology, to the neglect of other sides of his character ... a magnificent study of one of history’s most compelling and divisive figures.
PanThe GuardianIn this book, as in his others, Snyder provokes us to think again about major issues of our time, as well as significant elements of the past, but he seems to have rushed it out rather too quickly. It could do with far greater depth of historical illustration, not to mention recourse to the many thinkers whose wisdom we might profit from in dealing with the issue of tyranny and how to combat it. Democracy dies in many different ways, and to help us in defending our rights we need a more thoughtful book than this.
PanThe GuardianOhler goes much further than claiming that methamphetamine was central to the German military effort, however. He claims that its use was universal among the civilian population of Germany, too...This sweeping generalisation about a nation of 66 to 70 million people has no basis in fact ... What’s more, it is morally and politically dangerous. Germans, the author hints, were not really responsible for the support they gave to the Nazi regime, still less for their failure to rise up against it ... Ohler is of course aware of the moral implications of this argument, and in a brief paragraph he provides a disclaimer suggesting that 'this drug use did not impinge on his [Hitler’s] freedom to make decisions,' and concludes that 'he was anything but insane.' But the two pages in which he makes these points are contradicted by everything he says in the other 279 pages ... Ohler’s skill as a novelist makes his book far more readable than these scholarly investigations, but it’s at the expense of truth and accuracy, and that’s too high a price to pay in such a historically sensitive area.
MixedThe Guardian...[a] stimulating and depressing book ... How did this come to pass? Mishra looks to the history of ideas for an explanation, spending many chapters tracing a line of thought from Rousseau through the Romantics and the Russian nihilists to D’Annunzio and the anti-intellectual revolt of the fin de siècle and the early 20th century. But is this really convincing? Many of the parallels he draws between radical Islamic thinkers and European critics of Enlightenment rationalism seem strained, to say the least ... It’s hard to see the relevance of Mishra’s lengthy discussion of Rousseau to the politics of the present day. For one thing, he ignores the two ideas for which Rousseau is best known – the social contract, something modern populists implicitly disavow, and the general will, the expression of direct democracy, to which one might imagine they were more sympathetic. For another, one can’t imagine populist politicians knowing the first thing about Rousseau or Bakunin ... And what is all this meant to explain? Mishra lumps together the radical violence of Islamic State and Islamist extremism with the rise of Trumpism and the populist, anti-immigrant right, although they are differing phenomena that in the end require differing explanations. His sweeping rhetoric ends up by hugely exaggerating the dimensions of the problem he’s trying to explain ... history is a many-sided phenomenon. It cannot in the end be made to serve the interests of explaining the present through the vast and questionable arguments Pankaj Mishra puts forward in this thought-provoking book.