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No. 115 / 2017

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Tim Boxer



Year Zero: A History of 1945Too Horrendous To Believe

ALF the world was utterly transformed the year World War Two ended. But how, and to what extent? Ian Buruma’s Year Zero: A History of 1945 is definitely the singular book that reports on the defeat of Nazism in Europe, the triumph of Communism in Europe and in China, and the beginning of the demise of Western colonialism in Asia and Africa.

Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

General Eisenhower, who witnessed "he cruelty, bestiality and savagery" at Ohrdruf, a subsidiary camp to Buchenwald, was so shaken that he urged reporters to visit and record what happened so no one could ever pretend that these horrendous crimes were figments of propaganda. The Allies saw enough of the Nazi attempt to exterminate an entire people on ideological grounds, Buruma writes, that they knew they were dealing with something previously unheard of. It came to be known as the Holocaust.

The Europeans who suffered grievously under Nazi oppression had every right to take revenge on a ruined and helpless Germany. Even in Washington there were plans to mete out punishment. Diplomat/historian George F. Kennan said he wished that Nazi perpetrators were shot as soon as they were captured. Secretary of State Cordell Hull also thought a war crimes trial would be a waste of time, that the culprits should be court martialed and at sunrise executed. Churchill, too, Buruma says, took the view that it would be best "to line them up and shoot them." At Nuremberg, the Soviets startled the judges by proposing a toast to the execution of the German leaders even before the trials had begun.

"The Morgenthau Plan, named after Henry Morgenthau, secretary of the Treasury under President Roosevelt, was to dismantle German industries, break up the nation into smaller bits, and reduce the Germans to being a pastoral people with barely a stick to defend themselves with. Similar ideas did the rounds about Japan," Buruma writes.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Russia and America were drifting into open animosity. Year Zero was barely coming to a close when Europe (and the rest of the world) was confronted with another "evil empire"—the Soviet Union steamrolled across Eastern Europe and threatened to subsume the West.

The biggest postwar miracle, it turned out, was distaste for vengeance. It was far more politically beneficial for the future of the continent to integrate the former enemy in a dream of unity that would bring Germany back into the fold of European nations. That dream became the European Union. (The Penguin Press, 378 pages, 14 pages photos, $29.95 Amazon.com Price: $21.50)


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OWER TO THE PEOPLE Geoff Kaplan, who teaches design at the California College of Art, has produced a profusely illustrated coffee-table volume of the underground press during the rise of the counterculture decade from 1964. The radical style of the alternative publications fueled a social movement that encompassed women’s liberation, antiwar (specifically Nam), black power, gay sensibilities, and civil rights. Kaplan’s comprehensive review of the decade’s psychedelic weeklies and monthlies will stir amazing memories for many readers. It’s a history of the politics and social ferment of American culture in a revolutionary decade. (University of Chicago Press, 264 pages, $45, Amazon.com Price: $33.34)

HUMANS OF NEW YORKHUMANS OF NEW YORK Give a man a camera and he’ll bring the world to your doorstep. That’s what Brandon Stanton has accomplished. After two years as a bonds trader in Chicago he left with his Canon EOS 7D to wander the world and capture spontaneity on the street. His people pictures are pure joy and fun to review on his blog on Tumblr and in this fascinating book. He doesn’t just snap and run; he engages with his subjects, and comes away with a quote, an anecdote, and a candid shot. (St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, $29.99, $17.99 Amazon.com Price: $15.88)

CHILDREN OF ISRAELCHILDREN OF ISRAEL Photographer Luca Zordan and children’s fashion stylist Alethea Gold, both of Australia, who have worked together to produce Children of China (2008) and Children of Africa: South African Edition (2010), have created an amazing coffee table volume called Children of Israel. Every page is a gorgeous portrait of the country’s pride such as Jewish and Arab kids playing football together in Jaffa, a child of Kibbutz Gvat in the north, walking in the Judean desert near Masada, swimming with the dolphins in the Red Sea, frolicking in the pool at the Dan Hotel in Eilat, studying at a Hasidic school in the mystical city of Tzfat, beach life at Hof Dor near Mount Carmel, learning to surf in Tel Aviv, Circassian children keeping their Russian tradition alive, girls scouts from the Arab, Druze, Catholic and Baha’i communities, African Hebrew Israelites in Dimona, children from impoverished families and illegal immigrants studying together in south Tel Aviv, Bedouin children in the desert south of Jerusalem. The collection ends at the Nurit Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva with pictures of Ethiopian children. The authors pledged all royalties from the book to support sports and music activities for the kids there. Rafi Baeri of the Dan Hotels facilitated location filming at the magnificent King David Hotel in Jerusalem as well as Dan Tel Aviv, Dan Carmel Haifa and Dan Eilat. (Gefen, 192 pages, $28.80 Amazon.com Price: $27.48)

WEBSTER’S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARYWEBSTER’S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY This is not only an expensive doorstopper but truly a wonderful page turner. If you harbor an iota of love for the English language you must keep this massive volume nearby on your bookshelf (or on the floor by the door so as not to bring down your shelf). Weighing 10 pounds 8 ounces, with close to half a million entries and a profusion of illustrations, this book presents itself as the ultimate dictionary for student and professional alike. As with an encyclopedia, you can spend a lifetime perusing, learning and enjoying. (Merriam-Webster, boxed hardcover buckram, 2816 pages, $129.00 Amazon.com Price: $79.43)

101 DESIGN INGREDIENTS TO SOLVE BIG TECH PROBLEMS101 DESIGN INGREDIENTS TO SOLVE BIG TECH PROBLEMS Not exactly a page turner, but Eewei Chen’s instructive guide to help startup geniuses and entrepreneurs in solving problems and maneuvering to success. On each page he presents a problem and offers a solution. You’ll be amazed at how simple, reasonable and logical his solutions are. For example, here’s one of many problems he looks at: "Solutions are too complicated when customers have too many choices, making it harder for them to decide." He illustrates with your common remote control for your TV. How many buttons are there? Countless. How many do you actually use? Just a couple. So why confuse me with all those extra buttons I never need? "Keep choices to a minimum to help customers make quicker decisions." A very practical manual for anyone who desires to succeed as an inventor, corporate leader or businessman from a digital tech strategist who’s a former team leader at Microsoft and is design director at British Sky Broadcasting (BSKYB). (Pragmatic Bookshelf, soft cover, 271 pages, $36.00 Amazon.com Price: $30.16)

BEAUTIFUL WORLDBEAUTIFUL WORLD An awesome view of our planet, with superlative images captured through the lens of Lonely Planet photographers. You’ll come to appreciate how beautiful our world really is, in addition to exploring it in person with the outstanding Lonely Planet guidebooks. This handsome volume will prove to be a centerpiece on your coffee table to thrill you for years to come. (Lonely Planet, 224 pages, $27.99 Amazon.com Price: $25.48)


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