The Mad King: The Life and Times of Ludwig II of Bavaria

Greg King

If there is beauty to madness, then that beauty might best be exemplified by this eccentric Bavarian regent, whose Neuschwanstein Castle served as the model for Walt Disney’s romantic castle. A practicing homosexual, Ludwig II ascended the throne at the age of 18. While never as shockingly flamboyant as the utterly depraved Roman Emperor Heliogabalous, Ludwig nevertheless was a servant to his passions: music, architecture, and a slave-like devotion to Richard Wagner. Along with Bismarck, Ludwig II became the founder of Germany’s Second Reich, which was followed by the better known Third Reich of Adolf Hitler, who was also devoted to Wagner and architecture… hmmm… have we missed anything here? Aside from these peripheral issues, what sort of man was Ludwig? To a friend he confided, “I dreamed I was breaking a large jug of water over the Queen’s head, dragging her about on the ground by her hair and stomping on her breast with my heels.” JB

Publisher: Birch Lane
Hardback: 335 pages

Race: The History of an Idea in the West

Ivan Hannaford

A whole panoply of racial witticisms may be gleaned from the pages of this scholarly book, such as the following: “Best explained that the Devil caused Ham to transgress the laws of inheritance and to indulge in carnal copulation. Thus his sons were marked with a black badge to symbolize loathsomeness and banished to the cursed and degenerate voids of Africa, where they lived as idolaters, witches, drunkards, sodomites; and enchanters.” Particularly interesting is the amount of space devoted to the descriptions of the peoples of the earth by the Italian Giovanni Florio (1553-1625) whose book bore the curious title First Fruits, and has a kind word for all: “The Ethiopians are a certaine people of Caria, they are simple, foule, and slaves; the Carthaginians are false and deceivers; those of Babylon, are malicious; and the corrupted Persians are gluttonous and drunkardes; the Cicilians are very niggards, yet faithful; those of Caspia are cruel; they of Lesbia, filthy; the Scithians lawlesse; the Corinthians, fornicatours; the Boctians, very rude; the Simerians, very beastly…” and so on. Hannaford’s book is well researched and well written, and offers more than enough rare and entertaining material to satisfy either the most ardent racist or anti-racist. Most scholarly books of this type are dry and insipid, yet this particular offering is an exception to the general rule. JB

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University
Paperback: 448 pages

White Lies, White Power: The Fight Against White Supremacy and Reactionary Violence

Michael Novick

As a left-wing advocate, Novick attacks the principle of the Ajax man-whiter-than-white-tougher-than-dirt symbology. While much of his material is familiar, the author does add some new and interesting material; most notably, the far Right’s attack upon the women’s rights movement and what he perceives to be a collusion between America’s “sexist elite” and the militant right in a combined effort to oppress and persecute gay rights activists. JB

Publisher: Common Courage
Paperback: 330 pages

Zoot-Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation

Mauricio Mazón

Seemingly lost in the annals of time, the Zoot Suit riots occurred in Los Angeles between June 3 and 13, 1943. By this time the United States was involoved in a “war for democracy,” and an end to “racism and discrimination” as personified by the German Nazis. Yet, during this same period, the virulent racism endemic in this country was remarkable—riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, internment of Japanese-Americans, internment of Italian-Americans—and one wonders whether the war to end all wars should not have begun on our own doorstep. Mazón’s book offers an exciting and alarming view of Mexican-American lifestyles in Los Angeles in the 1940s. The reader is regaled with a description of the events surrounding the origins of the zoot suit: “The Drape Shape, as if made for a much larger man than its wearer, so baggy as to conceal a bad figure but with ample room for a holster under the armpit, was associated with American gangsters, and a version of it known as the zoot suit had been worn by Danny Kaye [!] and Frank Sinatra [!] for a shorter time.” Well, we always knew about Ol’ Blue Eyes—but Danny Kaye? JB

Publisher: University of Texas
Paperback: 163 pages

The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution

Richard Breitman

Hailed by mainstream Holocaust historians as a “path-breaking book,” Architect of Genocide attempts to reply to the arguments of revisionist historians. Relying extensively on Himmler’s surviving notes and official correspondence, the author weaves an intricate and subtle web of innuendoes, facts and often compelling arguments in support of his thesis that the extermination of Europe’s Jews was ultimately the end result of a fatal attraction between two dynamic and unstable personalities—Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The author offers the reader an abundant array of hitherto untapped sources in support of his claims. Those familiar with the works of establishment historians will welcome the new source materials which this book provides. On the other hand, revisionists will also welcome these same arguments and materials as additional fuel to keep the fires of debate burning. JB

Publisher: Univ. Press of New England
Paperback: 352 pages

Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust

Pierr Vidal-Naquet

Vidal-Naquet dedicates his book to his mother, who died in Auschwitz in June 1944. Haunted by this memory and the recent flurry of revisionist publications initiated by his countryman Robert Faurisson, Vidal-Naquet seeks to defuse the growing tide of revisionism without recourse to debate. Indeed, it is a hallmark of his style that Vidal-Naquet refuses to debate revisionists, fearful lest it endow a form of legitimacy to revisionist arguments. Nevertheless, he does respond, and it is his response which makes the reader wish that Vidal-Naquet would debate his controversial adversaries. JB

Publisher: Columbia University
Paperback: 205 pages

Atlas of the Holocaust

Martin Gilbert

Gilbert is one of the most prolific writers on the Holocaust, having written Auschwitz and the Allies, among other titles. His Atlas of the Holocaust is packed with maps and photographs on every page. This current title took over seven years to research, and should be a welcome addition to any library devoted to the study of the Holocaust. The book is not without controversy, however, as many critics question the sources of the facts and figures it quotes. Regardless of one’s opinions, the book is fastidiously detailed and even relates previously unavailable facts and figures concerning the Jewish Partisan Movement. JB

Publisher: Morrow
Hardback: 283 pages

Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present

Debórah Dwork and Robert-Jan Van Pelt

As an exhaustive history of the town of Auschwitz, this book has a certain value. However, this reviewer is puzzled as to why these two authors should have decided to research the history of an insignificant little Polish village all the way back to its origins in 1270. Obviously, Auschwitz is only of historical interest insofar as the history of the Holocaust—which is indeed covered in meticulous detail later in the book—is concerned. However, aside from interesting photographs and the history of a Polish village, the book really adds nothing new to what historians already know about the infamous concentration camp. JB

Publisher: Norton
Hardback: 443 pages

Defiance: The Bielski Partisans

Nechama Tec

As a protest against the prevailing image of the Jews marching like docile lambs into Nazi death chambers, the author of this book relates the exploits of a 1,200-man Jewish partisan group, fighting against the Nazis in the forests of Byelorussia. Relying on accounts supplied by ex-partisans, Tec effectively corrects the image of the Jews complacently resigning themselves to the inevitability of death. JB

Publisher: Oxford University
Paperback: 304 pages

An Eye for an Eye: Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945

John Sack

Eye for an Eye recounts with brutal candor the savage treatment meted out to ethnic Germans by Jewish vengeance squads recruited from Nazi concentration-camp survivors by Stalin’s terror regime. The author of the book, himself a conservative Jew, tracked down the alleged perpetrators of these appalling crimes to locations in Poland, Israel and the United States during the course of his research. Appalled by the catalog of horrors he uncovers, the author seeks philosophical answers to perennial questions such as, “Can any good come out of evil?”
The book is replete with lurid descriptions of the agonies and torments inflicted upon Germans innocent of any wrongdoing: “The girls in Gleiwitz used fire. They held down the German boy, put out their cigarettes on him and, using gasoline, set his curly black hair on fire. In time, three-fourths of the Germans at Shlomo’s camp were dead, and Shlomo announced, ‘What the Germans couldn’t do in five years at Auschwitz, I’ve done in five months at Schwientochlowitz.’” Eye for an Eye generated a storm of controversy both before and after its release. Though the subject has been dealt with at length in previous publications, such as German Documents on the Expulsion and Silesian Inferno, this book is unique in that it provides the reader with the identities of alleged perpetrators. Indeed, some of the ghoulish characters described in this book make Spielberg’s Commander Amon Goth look like Winnie the Pooh. JB

Publisher: Basic
Paperback: 252 pages