Autumn Books

By Bates, David | History Today, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Autumn Books


Bates, David, History Today


The Holocaust

Since the publication of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners there has been fierce debate about how widespread antisemitism was in Nazi Germany. Probing the Depths of German Antisemistism: German Society and the Persecution of the Jews 1933-1941 edited by David Bankier (Berghahn Book, 25 [pounds sterling]) discusses the attitudes of the elites, churches, workers and `ordinary Germans' to the Jews.

Although Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust, other minority groups also suffered, including Gypsies. A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg (London House, 17.99 [pounds sterling]) gives a haunting account of the author's life as a Sinto Gypsy during the Third Reich and how he was subjected to deprivation, abuse and cruelty at a tragically early age.

Meanwhile, the question of whether more could have been done to save victims of the Holocaust by the Red Cross is posed in The Red Cross and the Holocaust by Jean-Claude Favez (Cambridge University Press, 25 [pounds sterling]).

A picture of the period just before the onset of the Holocaust is presented in Children of a Vanished World edited by Mara Vishniac Kohn and Miriam Hartman Flacks (University of California Press, 14.95 [pounds sterling]) which draws upon photographs taken between 1935 and 1938 by Roman Vishniac of Jewish life in east European cities and villages. The photos captured the life in the Jewish shtetlekh of Poland, Romania, Russia and Hungary, when the onslaught of rapid change, rather than physical extermination, was seen as the chief threat to the Jewish communities.

Military and War

This year sees the centenary of the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 and The Boer War by Martin Marix Evans (Osprey Military, 19.99 [pounds sterling], $29.95) gives an overview of' the conflict which marked the beginning of a distinctly 20th century style of warfare.

The two World Wars are of course the grimmest examples of 20th-century warfare and these are covered by a number of books this autumn. A.J.P. Taylor's revisionist interpretation of the causes of the Second World War are re-examined in Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered edited by Gordon Martel (Routledge, 50 [pounds sterling] hb, 15.99 [pounds sterling] pb) which brings the argument up to date.

Tying in with the three-part ITV television documentary, The Second World War in Colour by Adrian Wood and Stewart Binns (Pavilion, 19.99 [pounds sterling]) presents colour stills from frontline action to moments of celebration during a war that was previously familiar to us only in black and white.

One of the Second World War's enduring mysteries is re-examined in The Flight of Rudolf Hess: Myth and Reality by Ray Conyers Nesbit and Georges van Acker (Sutton, 19.99 [pounds sterling]) which probes the 1941 flight to Scotland by Hitler's deputy and the many legends and puzzles it unleashed.

An overview of the First World War is presented in The War to End Wars 1914-1918 (David & Charles, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) which brings together the experience of soldiers, civilians, writers and artists in the conflict.

The much-criticised British Great War commander, Douglas Haig, is the subject of Haig: A Re-Appraisal 70 Years On edited by Nigel Cave and Brian Bond (Pen & Sword Books, 25 [pounds sterling]) which analyses Haig's conduct and leadership in the war.

Great Battles of the Great War by Michael Stedman and Ed Skelding (Pen & Sword Books, 16.95 [pounds sterling]) explores the battles of the Somme, Gallipoli and Verdun, while Verdun 1916 by Malcolm Brown (Tempus, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) discusses this titanic struggle between the Germans and French in detail.

Tommy Goes to War by Malcolm Brown (Tempus, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) provides an analysis of the civilian armies that fought for Britain during the First World War.

The British army in an earlier period is considered in two other books this autumn. …

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