The Barnes & Noble Review
Armed with information gleaned from newly opened archives, popular historian Michael Beschloss has penned a fascinating look at how Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived at, and Harry Truman instituted, a plan for the reconstruction of postwar Germany.
Bechloss breathes new life into this well-known history. He shows how Roosevelt evolved from embracing the Morgenthau Plan, which called for the reduction of Germany to a pastoral country devoid of industry, to accepting British prime minister Winston Churchill's desire for a revived but divided Germany. He also provides fascinating insight into Roosevelt's style, depicting the ever-astute president playing members of his cabinet against one another as they presented various visions of a post-Hitler Germany.
Beschloss recounts the conferences of the Big Three -- Roosevelt, Churchill, and Soviet premier Josef Stalin -- revealing how these leaders used the German question in their maneuvering for power in the postwar world. He also shows that after FDR's death, Truman assumed the presidency with little knowledge of the issue, because FDR had kept him at arm's length through the great deliberations. Nevertheless, Truman was able to successfully assert his authority at the Potsdam Conference because he was the only world leader whose nation possessed an atomic bomb.
Beschloss has given us an enthralling work that illuminates this amazing period of history. With keen observation and graceful prose, he shows how FDR and Truman made it possible for Germany to rise from the ashes and become a peaceful and democratic country. Glenn Speer
Beschloss provides an engaging, if not revelatory, narrative of key events leading up to the conferences at Yalta (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) and Potsdam (Truman, Churchill, Stalin) and the Allies' decisions about how to prevent future aggression by post-WWII Germany. In his preface, Beschloss makes much of the fact that this study draws on newly released documents from the former Soviet Union, the FBI and private archives. But Beschloss has unearthed nothing to change accepted views of how FDR developed and then began to implement his vision for postwar Germany. The tales Beschloss gathers here are no different from those already told in such books as Eric Larrabee's Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants and Their War (1987) and Henry Morgenthau III's Mostly Morgenthaus: A Family History (1991). With reference to the latter volume, one of Beschloss's major subplots traces Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr.'s efforts to interest FDR in a draconian, retributive plan (the "Morgenthau Plan") to destroy what little might remain of Germany's infrastructure after the war. Wisely, FDR demurred. Although breaking no new ground, this book by noted presidential historian Beschloss (who has published a trilogy on Lyndon Johnson's White House tapes) will fill the bill for those who need a readable account of how American officials and their Allied counterparts came to draw the map of postwar Europe. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
World War II is the most intensively studied conflict in history, and nearly 60 years after its end, fresh information is still emerging. Beschloss' account of U.S. policy toward Germany during the war integrates new archival research to place some of the war's crucial actors and events in illuminating new perspective. In particular, Beschloss's account of the relationship between Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and the president he served for 12 years leads to surprising and disquieting insights into Franklin Roosevelt's failure to publicize much less to obstruct the Holocaust. John McCloy emerges from these pages with a reputation considerably enhanced. Often singled out as the official responsible for blocking proposals to bomb Auschwitz or its feeder railroads, McCloy is shown here to have acted under direct and specific orders from Roosevelt a source he loyally concealed for decades after the war. Beschloss' sensitive portrayal of the difficulties of assimilated, educated Jews such as Morgenthau with a political culture still strongly influenced by antisemitism is both disturbing and moving. Some of the material he handles is radioactive, such as antisemitic comments from Roosevelt and Harry Truman against the background of the Holocaust, yet Beschloss neither palliates evil nor imposes the standards of the present on the past.
Beschloss draws on newly opened archives to show how Roosevelt and Truman decided Germany's fate. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A lucid study of how FDR's evolving vision of postwar Europe, enacted by Truman, prevented a recapitulation of Versailles and allowed for the rise of a prosperous, democratic, peaceable Germany. Political historian Beschloss (Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965, not reviewed, etc.), both an able scholar and a gifted interpreter of the past for a popular audience, addresses episodes of wartime diplomacy that have been well studied in the professional literature. Even so, he turns up a few surprises, notably Roosevelt's changing view of how Germany would best be kept from rearming itself after Hitler's fall and starting trouble again, as seemed to be a well-established pattern. In 1943, Roosevelt was inclined to carve up postwar Germany into three or more states, "bound only by a system of common services, and strip those new states of 'all military activities' and 'armament industries' "; two years later, having gained greater insight into Josef Stalin's ambitions thanks in part to constant admonitions from Winston Churchill-who warned, presciently, "Sooner or later they will reunite into one nation. . . . The main thing is to keep them divided, if only for fifty years"-Roosevelt was inclined to a clement but firm peace that would draw the defeated nation into the Western camp. His view was sharpened when it became apparent that Stalin was eager to keep Germany whole so that it could be milked for billions of dollars in reparations and be drawn into the Soviet bloc. Roosevelt died just before Hitler's regime ended-Beschloss offers the fascinating tidbit that FDR's last act before expiring was to throw away his draft card-but the underestimated Trumandid a remarkable job of negotiating a pact that "created the opportunity for the United States, Great Britain, and France . . . to create, at least in part of Germany, a democratic state whose system . . . would one day spread to the East." As it did, Beschloss observes, in some measure because of the foresight of the American leadership. An altogether valuable addition to the historical literature.
From the Publisher
The New York Times Book Review Vigorously written....This is history as it was spoken at the time, and there is not a dull page.
The Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, "Editor's Choice" A gripping narrative of the struggles at the end of World War II...to ensure that Nazi Germany would never be allowed to repeat its horrific acts.
Richard Bernstein The New York Times The main lesson of Mr. Beschloss's fine study is that what happens after a war is as important as what happens on the battlefield.
Jim Hoagland The Washington Post An incomparable account.
Read an Excerpt
From one of America's most respected historians, The Conquerors reveals one of the most important stories of World War II. As Allied soldiers fought the Nazis, Franklin Roosevelt and, later Harry Truman fought in private with Churchill and Stalin over how to ensure that Germany could never threaten the world again.
Eleven years in the writing, drawing on newly opened American, Soviet, and British documents as well as private diaries, letters and secret audio recordings, this audiobook let us eavesdrop on private conversations and telephone calls among a cast of historical giants. The Conquerors casts new light upon Roosevelt's concealment of what America knew about Hitler's war against the Jews and his foot-dragging on saving refugees; FDR's actions so shocked his closest friend in the Cabinet, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., that Morgenthau risked their friendship by accusing the President of "acquiescence" in the "murder of the Jews."
The Conquerors explores suspicions that Soviet secret agents manipulated Roosevelt and his official to do Stalin's bidding on Germany. It reveals new information on FDR's hidden illnesses and how they affected his leadership and his private talk about quitting his job during his fourth term and letting Henry Truman become President. Finally it shows how unprepared new President Truman managed to pick up the piecesand push Stalin and Churchill to accede to a bargain that would let the Anglo-Americans block Soviet threats against Western Europe and ensure that the world would not have to fear another Adolf Hitler.