The Legacy of the Second World War

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Sixty-five years after the conclusion of World War II, its consequences are still with us. In this probing book, the acclaimed historian John Lukacs raises perplexing questions about World War II that have yet to be explored. In a work that brilliantly argues for World War II’s central place in the history of the twentieth century, Lukacs applies his singular expertise toward addressing the war’s most persistent enigmas.

The Second World War was Hitler’s war. Yet questions about Hitler’s thoughts and his decisions still remain. How did the divisions of Europe—and, consequently, the Cold War—come about? What were the true reasons for Werner Heisenberg’s mission to Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in September 1941? What led to “Rainbow Five,” the American decision to make the war against Germany an American priority even in the event of a two-ocean world war? Was the Cold War unavoidable? In this work, which offers both an accessible primer for students and challenging new theses for scholars, Lukacs addresses these and other riddles, revealing the ways in which the war and its legacy still touch our lives today.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times

"Mr. Lukacs is one of the more incisive historians of the 20th century, and especially of the tangled events leading to World War II."—Joseph C. Goulden, Washington Times

— Joseph C. Goulden

“Esteemed historian Lukacs . . . reminds readers that when it comes to WWII history, sections remain to be written, and what has been written departs from historical truth in certain ways.”—Booklist
Washington Times - Joseph C. Goulden
"Mr. Lukacs is one of the more incisive historians of the 20th century, and especially of the tangled events leading to World War II."—Joseph C. Goulden, Washington Times
Stanley Payne
“John Lukacs presents an original and complex analysis. The scholarship is thorough and impeccable, and the final product a highly nuanced discussion of major decisions and problems.”­—Stanley Payne, author of Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II
Library Journal
World War II was an all-encompassing global event. Lukacs (Five Days in London), the author of many books on that conflict and the Cold War, aims to address a number of issues, ranging from American war plans to the division of Europe after the war. Hitler is a recurring theme, and Lukacs largely refers to World War II as Hitler's war. While the author makes valid points and arguments, his book is a bit rambling and haphazard as he jumps among many topics without resolving any in detail. An entire chapter is devoted to meetings between scientists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, but he makes no direct tie between those meetings and the war's legacy. Lukacs perhaps tries to do too much in fewer than 200 pages of text, with the actual theme here not so much the war's legacy as its politics, namely, among Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt. China and Japan are mentioned only briefly. VERDICT The author's conversational style will appeal to readers who can't get enough of World War II or the Cold War, but serious scholars should seek answers elsewhere.—Matthew J. Wayman, Penn State Schuylkill Lib., Schuylkill Haven
Publishers Weekly
Several enigmas surrounding WWII are explored in this wide-ranging but unfocused rumination. Veteran historian Lukacs (Five Days in London) argues that the war was the main event of the 20th century, then devotes a series of loosely episodic chapters to specific questions about its conduct and results. Why did America prioritize the fight against Germany rather than the defeat of Japan? Was German physicist Werner Heisenberg opposed to the atomic bomb project he directed for the Third Reich? Why did the alliance against Germany end up creating a Europe divided into hostile blocs? Threaded throughout is an assessment of the evolving war aims, the complex anti-Semitism, and the warped idealism of Adolf Hitler. Several themes emerge out of the diffuse, at times repetitive text: the importance of leadership (Lukacs suggests the cold war might have been attenuated had Roosevelt backed Churchill in negotiating clear postwar spheres of influence with Stalin) and the centrality of nationalism in motivating the war’s combatants and determining its course. Lukacs offers intriguing insights into particular aspects of the conflict and its major figures, but his unsystematic musings never develop into a compelling vision of the war as a whole. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300114393
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/9/2010
  • Pages: 201
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lukacs is the author of some thirty books of history, including the acclaimed Five Days in London and Last Rites.

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Table of Contents

1 Seventy Years Later: The Legacy of the Second World War 1

2 The Place of the Second World War-At the End of an Age 16

3 The Division of Europe 54

4 Hitler, Questions Still Extant 86

5 The Germans' Two Wars, Heisenberg and Bohr 109

6 Rainbow Five 133

7 The Second World War and the Origins of the Cold War 161

Acknowledgments 193

Index 195

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