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Scenes from the End : The Last Days of World War II in Europe
by Frank Edward Manuel

Scenes from the EndHardcover
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In the waning weeks of World War II, a 34-year-old American intelligence officer found himself in Germany. Fluent in German, Yiddish, and French, Frank E. Manuel interrogated captured soldiers, from the grunts to the high commanders. Many broke down immediately:

PFCs and lieutenants and generals who talked and talked and talked, beat their gums until you had to shut them up, wept, whined, and tried to use the interrogation chamber as a confessional box, laying bare their souls to the first sympathetic auditor to whom they could speak without fear of reprisal...

Others were clearly made of sterner stuff, such as a young sergeant who demanded a direct order from a captured field marshal before he would reveal his secret mission.

Manuel blends snatches of interrogations; overheard conversations between German civilians, combatants, and American liberators; and his own observations. The result is choppy and disjointed, with little sense of a narrative. The author argues that this is by design: "Military historians have assembled a picture of the grand design, creating the myth of an official history," he writes, "but fragments may be closer to the chaos of experience in war before it has been subjected to cleansing."

Compiled from notes written immediately after he returned home from the war and letters written to his wife, Scenes from the End is a series of snapshots that, viewed together, provide an accurate picture of the dismal final days of World War II. --Sunny Delaney

From Booklist , January 1, 2000
Manuel, an eminent historian of ideas, was an interrogator with the U.S. Army that swept into Germany in 1945. He imparts his recollections of Nazidom's chaotic collapse in various literary modes. Quotations from his contemporaneous documents seem straightforward. In other places, Manuel imagines the thinking of the German officers he's questioning, which extends to the self-justifications such cogs in the tyrannical machine might have made to themselves, from "I knew nothing" to "I could do.

Book Description
Frank E. Manuel was a 34-year-old intelligence officer during the final American push into Germany in April 1945. This memoir recounts those last frantic weeks of the war, conveying the essence of the time through a montage produced from transcripts, letters, and memory. Manuel's take on the collapse of the Third Reich, and the Americans' part in it, is decidedly unheroic and unsentimental.

He portrays a shattered Europe where the black market rules and an entire population is in transit.

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The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
by Thomas A. Cahill

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Commentary, Yossi Prager
A lively and idiosyncratic tour of the Hebrew Bible, The Gifts of the Jews is written with humor, whimsy, and an engaging sensitivity to literary nuance. But the book aims for more than entertainment. Taking us from pre-biblical civilization through Abraham, Moses, the Ten Commandments, David and his Psalms, the Prophets, and Ruth and Naomi, Cahill drives home a central point: the Jews introduced to the world a radically new conception of reality.

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