Caroline Moorehead

Agent Zo: the Polish blonde with nerves of steel

In recent years, far from diminishing, the number of books on the Nazis, Occupied Europe and the Holocaust – events that now lie three quarters of a century in the past – seem only to grow. New archives are opened and attics are raided for forgotten diaries and letters. One historian who has mined them

Wishful thinking: Leaving, by Roxana Robinson, reviewed

One evening, a man and a woman who haven’t met for decades bump into each other at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. It’s a familiar tale, but one to which Roxana Robinson brings many twists in her highly enjoyable latest novel, Leaving. Sarah and Warren were childhood sweethearts in a suburb outside Philadelphia. Sarah

The misery of the Kindertransport children

On the night of 9 November 1938, across Germany and Austria, Jews were attacked and their synagogues and businesses set on fire. In the days that followed Kristallnacht, a scheme was put in place to save children from Nazi persecution. Known as the Kindertransport, it would, over the following ten months, bring 10,000 children to

The forgotten world of female espionage

When the Germans occupied northern Italy in the autumn of 1943, they were pleased with the way that young Italian women, pedalling on bicycles around the country lanes in white socks and pigtails, smiled at them. The soldiers offered to help with their loaded baskets and gave them lifts in lorries. It took some months

The unimaginable horrors confronting the Allies in 1945

No one had prepared the Allied soldiers, as they began their invasion of the Reich early in 1945, for what they would find. The discovery by the Soviets of the extermination camp of Majdanek in July 1944, and Auschwitz in January 1945, had not really registered, not least because they had been partly emptied and

The ‘rumours’ we chose to ignore

On 14 October 1942, the 23 Swiss members of the International Committee of the Red Cross met in Geneva to decide whether or not to go public with what they then knew about Auschwitz and the Nazis’ extermination plans. When they emerged two hours later they had voted, almost unanimously, to remain silent. As did

Twists and turns of the Italian campaign

When Rome fell to the Allies on 5 June 1944 General Harold Alexander, commander of the 15th Army, calculated that he would need just 12 weeks to reach the river Po and liberate Italy from the Germans. It took him nearly a year. Christian Jennings’s new book chronicles the months of heavy fighting, the advances

Laughter and tears

The Yacoubian Building, the first novel of the Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany, sold well over a million copies in 35 languages, was made into a film, and turned him overnight into one of the most listened to voices in the Arab world. What followed — Chicago, set in the city in which Al Aswany

Picasso’s dealer

When she was four, Anne Sinclair had her portrait painted by Marie Laurencin. It is a charming picture, a little dark-brown-haired girl with a white bow, very blue eyes and a white and pink striped blouse, and it was commissioned by Sinclair’s grandfather, Paul Rosenberg, one of the handful of most influential Parisian art dealers

Monsieur le Commandant, by Romain Slocombe – review

There can be few characters in modern fiction more unpleasant than Paul-Jean Husson, the narrator in Romain Slocombe’s Monsieur le Commandant. Indeed, he is at times too nasty. If this otherwise compulsively readable novel about betrayal in Nazi-occupied France has a flaw, it lies in Husson’s irredeemable villainy, as if to make such a man

Red Nile, by Robert Twigger – review

When Bernini designed his fountain of the four rivers for the Piazza Navona in Rome in 1651 he draped the head of the god of the Nile with a loose piece of cloth, to denote the fact that its source remained unknown. Tracing the sources of both the Blue and the White Nile would become

Thinly veiled threats

No one could ever accuse Shereen El Feki of lacking in courage. To spend five years travelling around the Arab world in search of dildos, questioning women about foreplay and anal sex, is not a task many writers would relish. Sex and the Citadel is a bold, meticulously researched mini Kinsey Report, rich in anecdote

Apocalypse now | 10 January 2013

In his introduction, James Fergusson apologises for the title of his book. Somalia, he writes, may no longer be the most dangerous place on earth. Since the summer of 2012, a newly elected government under a former university professor who once worked for the UN is bringing stability to the country, exiled Somalis are going

Occupation Diaries, by Raja Shehadeh

A group of friends, Palestinian and foreign, go to picnic at a wadi between Jerusalem and Jericho. They are wearing bright, casual summer clothes. On a nearby rock sits another party of picnickers, only they are dressed in veils, long skirts and black coats. For a while no one says anything. Then, suddenly, over a

From Austria to Australia

Moriz Gallia from Moravia and Hermine Hamburger from Silesia met and married in Vienna in 1893, when the city was the third largest European capital after London and Paris. They were rich, from making and supplying gas mantles, and they were generous patrons of Vienna’s exceptionally lively artistic world. When their two daughters, Gretl and

Lest we forget | 17 March 2012

It was not possible, as Primo Levi memorably wrote, to convey the full horror of the Nazi extermination camps because no one had survived to describe death in the gas chambers. There were no ‘sommersi’ (drowned) left alive to speak for the men, women and children driven in naked to die.  Apart from Levi himself,