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A lively examination of the heretics who helped Christianity become the world’s most powerful religion.

From Arius, a fourth-century Libyan cleric who doubted the very divinity of Christ, to more successful heretics like Martin Luther and John Calvin, this book charts the history of dissent in the Christian Church.
 
As the author traces the Church’s attempts at enforcing orthodoxy, from the days of Constantine to the modern Catholic Church’s lingering conflicts, he argues that heresy—by forcing the Church to continually refine and impose its beliefs—actually helped Christianity to blossom into one of the world’s most formidable religions.
 
Today, all believers owe it to themselves to grapple with the questions raised by heresy. Can you be a Christian without denouncing heretics? Is it possible that new ideas challenging Church doctrine are destined to become as popular as Luther’s once-outrageous suggestions of clerical marriage and a priesthood of all believers? A delightfully readable and deeply learned new history, Heretics overturns our assumptions about the role of heresy in a faith that still shapes the world.
 
“Wright emphasizes the ‘extraordinarily creative role’ that heresy has played in the evolution of Christianity by helping to ‘define, enliven, and complicate’ it in dialectical fashion. Among the world’s great religions, Christianity has been uniquely rich in dissent, Wright argues—especially in its early days, when there was so little agreement among its adherents that one critic compared them to a marsh full of frogs croaking in discord.” —The New Yorker
From the author of Heretics comes this “informative and enjoyable glimpse at the travails and achievements of emissaries over thousands of years” (Booklist).
 
We think of ambassadors as simply diplomats—but once they were adventurers who dared an uncertain fate in unknown lands, bringing gifts of greyhounds and elephants to powerful and unpredictable leaders. In vivid detail, The Ambassadors traces the remarkable journeys of these emissaries, taking us from the linguistically challenged Greek Megasthenes to the first Japanese embassies to China and Korea; from Mohammed’s ambassadors to Egypt to the envoys of Byzantium, who had the unenviable task of convincing Attila the Hun to stop attacking them. We also witness the dialogue between Europe and Moorish Spain, and meet the ill-fated envoys sent in search of the mythical king Prester John.
 
What Europe still thinks of Asia and what Asia still thinks of Africa were in no small part kindled in these long-ago first encounters. From the cuneiform civilizations of the ancient Near East to the clashing empires of the early modern age, JonathanWright brings alive the men who introduced the great cultures of the world to each other.
 
“Illuminating the practice of diplomatic immunity, the gradual formalization of the institution of global diplomacy and the role of maverick diplomats, Wright carefully balances general developments in the scope of ambassadorial duties with colorful and exemplary tales of particular instances.” —Publishers Weekly
Christopher R. Browning’s shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews—now with a new afterword and additional photographs.

Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of  moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.

While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition.  

Ordinary Men is a powerful, chilling, and important work with themes and arguments that continue to resonate today.

“A remarkable—and singularly chilling—glimpse of human behavior...This meticulously researched book...represents a major contribution to the literature of the Holocaust."—Newsweek

 


 

Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Devil in the White City, delivers a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
    A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
    Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
The riveting history of the American Eighth Air Force in World War Two, the story of the young men who flew the bombers that helped bring Nazi Germany to its knees, brilliantly told by historian Donald Miller and soon to be a major HBO series.

Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, Donald Miller takes you on a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden and describes the terrible cost of bombing for the German people.

Fighting at 25,000 feet in thin, freezing air that no warriors had ever encountered before, bomber crews battled new kinds of assaults on body and mind. Air combat was deadly but intermittent: periods of inactivity and anxiety were followed by short bursts of fire and fear. Unlike infantrymen, bomber boys slept on clean sheets, drank beer in local pubs, and danced to the swing music of Glenn Miller’s Air Force band, which toured US air bases in England. But they had a much greater chance of dying than ground soldiers.

The bomber crews were an elite group of warriors who were a microcosm of America—white America, anyway. The actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber boy, and so was the “King of Hollywood,” Clark Gable. And the air war was filmed by Oscar-winning director William Wyler and covered by reporters like Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite, all of whom flew combat missions with the men. The Anglo-American bombing campaign against Nazi Germany was the longest military campaign of World War II, a war within a war. Until Allied soldiers crossed into Germany in the final months of the war, it was the only battle fought inside the German homeland.

Masters of the Air is a story of life in wartime England and in the German prison camps, where tens of thousands of airmen spent part of the war. It ends with a vivid description of the grisly hunger marches captured airmen were forced to make near the end of the war through the country their bombs destroyed.

Drawn from recent interviews, oral histories, and American, British, German, and other archives, Masters of the Air is an authoritative, deeply moving account of the world’s first and only bomber war.
Includes more than 12 photographs of the author and his exploits.
“Saburo Sakai is Japan's greatest fighter pilot to survive World War II, and his powerful memoir has proven to be one of the most popular and enduring books ever written on the Pacific war. First published in English in 1957, it gave Americans new perspectives on the air war and on the Japanese pilots who, until then, had been perceived in the United States as mere caricatures. Today, the books remains a valuable eyewitness account of some of the most famous battles in history and a moving, personal story of a courageous naval aviator.
A living legend, Sakai engaged in more than two hundred dogfights, from the Philippines to Iwo Jima, and was the only Japanese ace never to lose a wingman in combat. By war's end he reportedly had shot down sixty-four Allied planes. Although this number cannot be confirmed, Sakai's exploits in the air were extraordinary by any standards. His most renowned accomplishment, an epic of aviation survival, occurred after action over Guadalcanal in August 1942. Partially paralyzed and nearly blind from multiple wounds, he managed to fly 560 miles to Rabaul and safely land his crippled Zero.
Here, Sakai offers a full account of his experiences, modestly recalling his rise from an impoverished childhood to feats of mythic proportions. And because he shares his innermost thoughts with his readers, the book not only provides rare insights into the Samurai character but also describes with complete honestly the human emotions common to warriors of all causes.”-Print Ed.
A concise and timely account of Hitler’s—and fascism’s—rise to power and ultimate defeat, from one of America’s most famous journalists.
 
American journalist and author William L. Shirer was a correspondent for six years in Nazi Germany—and had a front-row seat to Hitler’s mounting influence. His most definitive work on the subject, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, is a riveting account defined by first-person experience interviewing Hitler, watching his impassioned speeches, and living in a country transformed by war and dictatorship.
 
Shirer was originally commissioned to write The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler for a young adult audience. This account loses none of the immediacy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich—capturing Hitler’s ascendence from obscurity, the horror of Nazi Germany’s mass killings, and the paranoia and insanity that marked the führer’s downfall. This book is by no means simplified—and is sure to appeal to adults as well as young people with an interest in World War II history.
 
“For nearly 100 years William L Shirer has spoken to us of fascism, Nazis, and Hitler . . . [He] tells the unvarnished truth as he experienced it . . . I figured this school-type book wasn’t going to tell me anything new. But when I started reading, I realized that I wasn’t reading for the facts anymore. I listened to his story and heard the urgency in his voice: a voice from nearly 60 years ago telling us the truth about today.” —Daily Kos
From the preeminent Hitler biographer, a fascinating and original exploration of how the Third Reich was willing and able to fight to the bitter end of World War II.

Countless books have been written about why Nazi Germany lost World War II, yet remarkably little attention has been paid to the equally vital question of how and why it was able to hold out as long as it did. The Third Reich did not surrender until Germany had been left in ruins and almost completely occupied. Even in the near-apocalyptic final months, when the war was plainly lost, the Nazis refused to sue for peace. Historically, this is extremely rare.

Drawing on original testimony from ordinary Germans and arch-Nazis alike, award-winning historian Ian Kershaw explores this fascinating question in a gripping and focused narrative that begins with the failed bomb plot in July 1944 and ends with the German capitulation in May 1945. Hitler, desperate to avoid a repeat of the "disgraceful" German surrender in 1918, was of course critical to the Third Reich's fanatical determination, but his power was sustained only because those below him were unable, or unwilling, to challenge it. Even as the military situation grew increasingly hopeless, Wehrmacht generals fought on, their orders largely obeyed, and the regime continued its ruthless persecution of Jews, prisoners, and foreign workers. Beneath the hail of allied bombing, German society maintained some semblance of normalcy in the very last months of the war. The Berlin Philharmonic even performed on April 12, 1945, less than three weeks before Hitler's suicide.

As Kershaw shows, the structure of Hitler's "charismatic rule" created a powerful negative bond between him and the Nazi leadership- they had no future without him, and so their fates were inextricably tied. Terror also helped the Third Reich maintain its grip on power as the regime began to wage war not only on its ideologically defined enemies but also on the German people themselves. Yet even as each month brought fresh horrors for civilians, popular support for the regime remained linked to a patriotic support of Germany and a terrible fear of the enemy closing in.

Based on prodigious new research, Kershaw's The End is a harrowing yet enthralling portrait of the Third Reich in its last desperate gasps.

WELCOME ABOARD THE U.S.S. HARDER...

She was credited with sinking twenty Japanese ships, eight of them destroyers. Her captain, Sam Dealey, devoted son and loving husband and father, was a product of peace. Sam Dealey, deadly torpedo marksman and destroyer killer, was a product of war.

Aboard the Harder there was no time for gloating over, her victories. Dealey himself never gloated. As we have said, his attack manners were calm. He indulged in no shouting, no fanfare of destruction. After his torpedoes hit, he went about the business of bringing his ship into a position of safety as rapidly as possible. He did not linger to rejoice at the sight of an enemy going down. In his veins ran the milk of human kindness, in his heart was a feeling of humility and humanity that could not find pleasure in the destruction of a beautiful ship and a hundred odd human beings—deadly enemies though they were.

Perhaps he remembered the worlds of Captain Philip of the old battleship Texas at the Battle of Santiago, who called to his cheering crew as their Spanish adversary sank: “Don’t cheer, boys; those poor devils are dying.” While Dealey never said so, in so many words, one could conclude that he hated the job of killing but knew it had to be done and did his best to carry out his duty.

“HIT ‘EM HARDER!”...was the ship’s motto, and she most certainly did. On April 13 1944, open season was declared by our Submarines against the destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and Comdr. Sam Dealey was at the forefront of the attack. The hunters had become the hunted and Dealey’s “down the throat torpedo attacks helped to sink the Rising Sun. He showed great courage, too, when rescuing Australian coast watchers from Borneo’s shores, and again, with no reading left on the Fathometer and surf breaking twenty yards ahead, holding Harder against a reef and under fire of snipers to save an American pilot.—Print Ed.
Based on the rare and until now overlooked journal of a Renaissance-era executioner, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington's The Faithful Executioner takes us deep inside the alien world and thinking of Meister Frantz Schmidt of Nuremberg, who, during forty-five years as a professional executioner, personally put to death 394 individuals and tortured, flogged, or disfigured many hundreds more. But the picture that emerges of Schmidt from his personal papers is not that of a monster. Could a man who routinely practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive?
In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington vividly re-creates a life filled with stark contrasts, from the young apprentice's rigorous training under his executioner father to the adult Meister Frantz's juggling of familial duties with his work in the torture chamber and at the scaffold. With him we encounter brutal highwaymen, charming swindlers, and tragic unwed mothers accused of infanticide, as well as patrician senators, godly chaplains, and corrupt prison guards. Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt's journal, uncovering a touching tale of inherited shame and attempted redemption for the social pariah and his children. The Faithful Executioner offers not just the compelling firsthand perspective of a professional torturer and killer, but testimony of one man's lifelong struggle to reconcile his bloody craft with his deep religious faith.
The biography of an ordinary man struggling for his soul, this groundbreaking book also offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Europe on the cusp of modernity, a society riven by violent conflict at all levels and encumbered by paranoia, superstition, and abuses of power. Thanks to an extraordinary historical source and its gifted interpreter, we recognize far more of ourselves than we might have expected in this intimate portrait of a professional killer from a faraway world.
From New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold story of a renegade group of scientists and spies determined to keep Adolf Hitler from obtaining the ultimate prize: a nuclear bomb

Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during World War II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research. Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses - dubbed the Alsos Mission - and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany's feared Uranium Club.
The details of the mission rival the finest spy thriller, but what makes this story sing is the incredible cast of characters-both heroes and rogues alike-including:
Moe Berg the major league catcher who abandoned the game for a career as a multilingual international spy; the strangest fellow to ever play professional baseball.
Werner Heisenberg the Nobel Prize-winning physicist credited as the discoverer of quantum mechanics; a key contributor to the Nazi's atomic bomb project and the primary target of the Alsos mission.
Colonel Boris Pash a high school science teacher and veteran of the Russian Revolution who fled the Sovit Union with a deep disdain for Communists and who later led the Alsos mission.
Joe Kennedy Jr. the charismatic, thrill-seeking older brother of JFK whose need for adventure led him to volunteer for the most dangerous missions the Navy had to offer.
Samuel Goudsmit a washed-up physics prodigy who spent his life huntinh Nazi scientist-and his parents, who had been swept into a concentration camp-across the globe.
Irène and Frederic Joliot-Curie a physics Nobel-Prize winning power couple who used their unassuming status as scientists to become active members of the resistance.
Thrust into the dark world of international espionage, these scientists and soldiers played a vital and largely untold role in turning back one of the darkest tides in human history.
With the war in the Pacific well into its new, offensive phase, the best carrier story of the war can now be told. It is the story of the Enterprise, one of the Navy’s greatest fighting ships, the first carrier to receive the rarely awarded Presidential Citation. Of the seven first-line U. S. carriers when war began, four were sunk in the first year of war, another saw action in non-Pacific waters during the period involved, and another was out of action at the decisive moment. Then there was one—the Enterprise. Virtually alone, it held the long, thin Pacific line against overwhelming odds. It was part of the too little which was not, luckily for us, too late.

Then There Was One is a story of men—like Admiral “Bill” Halsey, who rode the Big E as his flagship; Air Group Cmdr. McClusky who, in what was officially termed “the most important decision of the entire action, helped win the Battle of Midway; Cmdr. Turner Caldwell whose decision to take eleven Enterprise planes to Guadalcanal helped determine the fate of the Solomons; young Lt. “Birney” Strong who fulfilled a life’s ambition and scratched one Jap flattop; Ensign Neal Scott whose dying letter to his parents is one of the most moving documents of the war—of these men and many others.

It is a story of battles—from that first Sunday morning when the Enterprise was returning to Pearl Harbor as the Japs were attacking it, right down through every major carrier action, save one, with the Big E writing one of the grandest record-breaking pages in naval history: 29 Jap ships sunk and 185 Jap planes destroyed. It is a story of courage and heroism in the face of two of the heaviest air attacks ever launched against any American ship by the enemy.

This is the carrier story long awaited by those who have followed our progress in the Pacific. For those who have not, it will be an exciting and inspiring eye-opener. This is it—the grand, glorious, and victorious first year of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
". . . the greatest war of all time told as it is best told - by the people who lived it." - The Washington Post

All first-person accounts of great events have their own fascination, but the editors of American Heritage have discovered that people writing about World War II seem to tell their own story with particular passion and eloquence. That is one reason American Heritage has published so many of them - and why noted military historian Stephen W. Sears has selected the most compelling.

The result of his search is a uniquely moving and valuable anthology - a series of personal histories that, marshaled together, become an intimate history of the Second World War.

Here is Edward Beach, the highly decorated submarine skipper and author of Run Silent, Run Deep, recalling what it was like to be sent into hostile waters with torpedoes that didn't work; Charles Cawthon recounts the landing at Normandy Beach in a restrained and poetic narrative whose quiet humor does nothing to blunt the savagery of the experience; General James Gavin tells of the jump into Sicily and of a battle fought that never should have been fought; Hughes Rudd watched the war from overhead in a flimsy spotter plane, his "Maytag Messerschmitt; and William Manchester remembers a particularly audacious and hilarious scam that a reckless Marine buddy played on the entire army.

Some of the stories are heartbreaking, some amusing, some horrifying, but every one of them - whether told by the women who hammered fighter planes together or the men who flew them - glows with hard-won experience.
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