Barbarism & Civilization, By Bernard Wasserstein

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This epic account of Europe in the 20th century grabs the reader with snappy chapters packed with telling detail and articulate assessments.

Drawing on profound learning, Wasserstein's narrative adeptly changes focus from the national – "Germans in almost every sphere of society participated in some way in the mass murder" – to the individual.

In a fascinating chapter on "Little Dictators", he notes that the Romanian Fascists known as the Iron Guard "attracted backing not only from gutter bully boys but also... young intellectuals, like Mircea Eliade, later a professor of religion at the University of Chicago." Possibly it is no coincidence that the author is a history professor at the same institution.

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