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Diary

Jonathan Steinberg: My Jolly Corner, 17 May 1984

... the manager to complain that a terrible mistake had been made. How could little ‘Jonny’ Steinberg be 50? The trouble was the manager was not in her office. On impulse I rang People Express and booked a seat to New York in early April. As soon as I saw the Manhattan skyline my dream returned. ‘You’re really here; you’re really in New ...

Survivors

Jonathan Steinberg, 18 December 1986

Strangers in their own Land: Young Jews in Germany and Austria Today 
by Peter Sichrovsky and Thomas Keneally.
Tauris, 177 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 1 85043 033 0
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Remnants: The Last Jews of Poland 
by Malgorzata Niezabitowska and Tomasz Tomaszewski, translated by William Brand and Hanna Dobosiewicz.
Friendly Press, 272 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 914919 05 9
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The Jews in Poland 
edited by Chimen Abramsky, Maciej Jachimczyk and Antony Polonsky.
Blackwell, 264 pp., £29.50, September 1986, 0 631 14857 4
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... On 20 July 1943 the Polish artist Jonasz Stern was executed along with hundreds of other Jews of the Lwow ghetto by SS machine-gun fire. He awoke from a faint to find himself alive, buried under the corpses of the entire neighbourhood, covered in other people’s blood and excrement, the only survivor on Janowski Street. Two of the books reviewed here are about survivors, people who turned right instead of left, ran instead of lingering or lingered instead of running, those who met kindly Polish peasants or had ‘good faces’ – did not look Jewish, that is to say – individuals who survived, crazily, randomly, inexplicably, when everybody else, not just their families but neighbours, associates at work, team-mates, local shopkeepers, their whole world, was murdered ...

Capos and Cardinals

Jonathan Steinberg, 17 August 1989

Fascism and the Mafia 
by Christopher Duggan.
Yale, 322 pp., £19.95, January 1989, 0 300 04372 4
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A Thief in the Night: The Death of Pope John Paul I 
by John Cornwell.
Viking, 301 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 670 82387 2
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... So you think it comes from the Arabic?’ says the first character. ‘Very probably, my dear fellow, very probably,’ replies the second, ‘but on the subject of words, our science is anything but secure ... Here for example is Petrocchi who spells the word with two f’s: “a union of persons of every grade and type who help each other in their mutual interest without respect for the law or morality” ...

The Art of Denis Mack Smith

Jonathan Steinberg, 23 May 1985

Cavour 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 297 78512 5
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Cavour and Garibaldi 1860: A Study in Political Conflict 
by Denis Mack Smith.
Cambridge, 458 pp., £27.50, April 1985, 0 521 30356 7
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... There are not many historians who matter. Not many whose works have changed the way people see themselves. Of that little list, there is an even smaller number whose works have mattered to those in another society. The obscure American naval captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was one. His Strategy of Sea Power, published in 1890, had earned him honorary degrees in Oxford and Cambridge by 1893: Mahan told an anxious British public what it most wanted to hear about its navy ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg, 20 October 1983

Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... Seymour Hersh belongs to that small group of American newspaper reporters who made national reputations during the Vietnam War and Watergate. He won a Pultizer Prize in 1970 for his exposure of the My Lai massacre. He exposed the secret bombing of Cambodia and the role of the CIA in toppling the Allende regime in Chile. He tracked down evidence of CIA spying within the United States and exposed it ...

This Modern Mafia

Jonathan Steinberg, 7 October 1982

... A Calabrian who now lives in Rome told me a revealing story about the Mafia. An uncle, aged 90, rang up from the ancestral village absolutely furious. ‘Do you know, Vincenzo,’ he spluttered, ‘they actually threatened me?’ There is more than a casual connection between the insulted old gentleman and the murdered General Dalla Chiesa. Both are signs that the old Mafia is gone, a Mafia which, no matter how brutal and violent, knew its betters ...

One Per Cent

Jonathan Steinberg: The House of Rothschild, 28 October 1999

The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild 
by Niall Ferguson.
Weidenfeld, 1309 pp., £30, October 1998, 0 297 81539 3
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... On 25 November 1882, Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri was performed for the first time at the Savoy Theatre. In Act II, a restless Lord Chancellor, troubled by lovesickness rather than the expense of his furnishings, cannot sleep. As he wanders through his lodgings, he sings the famous ‘Nightmare Song’. One of the elements of the nightmare is what would now be called a venture capital scheme – to plant retailers as vegetables to get their goods to sprout: The shares are a penny and ever so many are                  taken by Rothschild and Baring; And just as a few are allotted to you, you           awake with a shudder despairing ...

Princely Pride

Jonathan Steinberg: Emperor Frederick III, 10 May 2012

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany 
by Frank Lorenz Müller.
Harvard, 340 pp., £33.95, October 2011, 978 0 674 04838 6
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... On 18 October 1881, Crown Prince Frederick William of Germany and Prussia marked his 50th birthday with a gloomy entry in his diary. He had been waiting to succeed to the throne for twenty years and his indomitable father refused to do the decent thing. At 84, the old man simply would not die. Worse, his ‘over-mighty subject’ Otto von Bismarck, in spite of constant illness and breakdowns, continued to exercise his power over the old emperor ...

The Man Who Knew Everybody

Jonathan Steinberg: Kessler’s Diaries, 23 May 2013

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918 
edited and translated by Laird Easton.
Knopf, 924 pp., £30, December 2011, 978 0 307 26582 1
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... I knew who Harry Kessler was of course, ‘the red count’, the Junker aristocrat who supported the Weimar Republic, and wrote a diary which I used in my seminars. Well, it turns out he wasn’t a Junker; indeed, it’s hard to say what he actually was. Imagine somebody who was at once an English public school boy, a French-born art critic and a Prussian guards officer ...

Italy’s Communists

Jonathan Steinberg, 21 July 1983

After Poland 
by Enrico Berlinguer, translated by Antonio Bronda and Stephen Boddington.
Spokesman, 114 pp., £2.25, March 1982, 0 85124 344 4
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... 1983 is the most important election since the war,’ said my Italian friend, a sociologist, exultantly. ‘After nearly forty years everything is in flux.’ I had rung him the day after the election. He could hardly speak for excitement. The country was stunned. The results had completely flattened the opinion polls, which has been caught with their predictions down ...

Something good

H. Stuart Hughes, 13 September 1990

All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943 
by Jonathan Steinberg.
Routledge, 320 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 415 04757 9
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... diplomats and generals said no. Such is the tangled and perplexing sequence of events that Jonathan Steinberg undertakes to unravel. He adds that the same story occurred in Greece, and subsequently in South-Eastern France following the Allied landings in North Africa and the Axis takeover of what had previously been the Unoccupied Zone. For 13 ...

I could bite the table

Christopher Clark: Bismarck, 31 March 2011

Bismarck: A Life 
by Jonathan Steinberg.
Oxford, 577 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 0 19 959901 1
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... close up can we see how perilous and uncertain many of the steps he took appeared at the time. As Jonathan Steinberg shows in this superb biography, there was nothing preordained about Bismarck’s successes. Had the war with Denmark not revived his fortunes he might well have disappeared from Prussian and German politics for ever after the 1862 ...
Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust 
by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.
Little, Brown, 622 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 316 87942 8
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... also explain the differential roles of European nations in the Holocaust. In his All or Nothing, Jonathan Steinberg contrasts the German and Italian cultures of complicity to explain why most Jews under Italian rule escaped death. He ends with the devastating line, ‘Nobody obeyed in Italy anyway’ – Zivilcourage, Italian ...

Aids in South Africa

R.W. Johnson, 12 September 1991

... How bad will it be? In a paper to a recent conference in Durban on the economic impact of Aids, Jonathan Broomberg, Malcolm Steinberg and Patrick Masobe constructed a complex actuarial model to take into account the fact that the epidemic’s doubling time is likely to slow down as it progresses. In the very early stages ...

Hinsley’s History

Noël Annan, 1 August 1985

Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... knots as some of Butterfield’s followers have done, he has his own distinctive historiography. Jonathan Steinberg argues in this book that Hinsley believes that men in politics behave as rational beings. To go to war is not an irrational act, nor is nationalism a meaningless emotion. What is more, Hinsley believes that in international relations men ...

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