Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II

Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II

by Michael Burleigh
     
 

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"Magnificent. . . . Seldom has a study of the past combined such erudition with such exuberance." —The Guardian 

"No-one with an interest in the Second World War should be without this book; and indeed nor should anyone who cares about how our world has come about." —The Daily

Overview

"Magnificent. . . . Seldom has a study of the past combined such erudition with such exuberance." —The Guardian 

"No-one with an interest in the Second World War should be without this book; and indeed nor should anyone who cares about how our world has come about." —The Daily Telegraph 

Pre-eminent WWII historian Michael Burleigh delivers a brilliant new examination of the day-to-day moral crises underpinning the momentous conflicts of the Second World War. A magisterial counterpart to his award-winning and internationally bestselling The Third Reich, winner of the Samuel Johnson prize, Moral Combat offers a unique and riveting look at, in the words of The Times (London), "not just the war planners faced with the prospect of bombing Dresden or the atrocities of the Holocaust, but also the individuals working at the coalface of war, killing or murdering, resisting or collaborating."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A moral history of WWII would be brief, said one wit, but respected British historian Burleigh (Blood Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism) delivers a long, riveting account of awful events and the perverted reasoning behind them. Communist, Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese systems claimed to be regimes of public virtue carrying out inexorable historical processes. Proclaiming that the only evil was obstructing this march to utopia, all discarded the rule of law and alternative moral authority (religion, ethics). The Holocaust and other familiar WWII atrocities top off an exhaustive litany of mass murder, brutality, and squalid cruelty perpetrated by governments, military leaders, local officials, and ordinary individuals who, acting without moral values, became monsters. Burleigh does not ignore Hiroshima and Allied mass bombing campaigns, but deplores the current fashion for balancing the moral books. All nations acted shamefully, he concludes, but denies that Eleanor Roosevelt's youthful anti-Semitism made America complicit with Hitler, as one recent revisionist implied. 16 pages of color photos. (Apr.)
AMERICA IN WWII
It seems like a throwback to a bygone epoch to talk about good and evil in history….Michael Burleigh succeeds in avoiding easy, snap judgments. Instead, he has written an insightful, often moving account of the war’s players, great and small, and the principles that guided them. Burleigh succeeds in finding new insights into almost every major event of the war, on both sides, as often by sharp counter-questioning as by logistical and political analysis. Burleigh examines many of the most ethically complicated parts of the conflict to unravel the values and visions they embody. The result is extremely satisfying.
The Tucson Citizen
“Burleigh serves up an array of new interpretations which is not simply a new overview of the war, but rather an examination of the prevailing moral sentiments of entire societies and their leaderships.”
The Washington Times
“Burleigh has written a powerful, gripping book that will be essential reading for an understanding of World War II. It is worthy of anyone’s attention who is interested in that war.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“This is a superb work of scholarship with fresh insights on nearly every page that will likely leave the reader asking hard and troubling questions long after finishing it. . . . An exceptionally important book.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Chilling. . . . A deeply researched and vividly written book.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“This is a superb work of scholarship with fresh insights on nearly every page that will likely leave the reader asking hard and troubling questions long after finishing it. . . . An exceptionally important book.”
The Washington Times
“Burleigh has written a powerful, gripping book that will be essential reading for an understanding of World War II. It is worthy of anyone’s attention who is interested in that war.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Chilling. . . . A deeply researched and vividly written book.”
The Tucson Citizen
“Burleigh serves up an array of new interpretations which is not simply a new overview of the war, but rather an examination of the prevailing moral sentiments of entire societies and their leaderships.”
Timothy Snyder
“A bold, blunt, and sometimes beautiful defense of morality in history . . . . Mr. Burleigh poses the moral questions to the people that mattered at the great turning points of a vast war.”
Andrew Roberts
“Michael Burleigh has long been one of our foremost writers on the importance of ethics in history, and in this deeply researched, closely argued and well-written analysis of the moral issues thrown up by the Second World War he has reached the zenith of his career.”
Library Journal
Burleigh (The Third Reich: A New History) presents an examination of controversial and morally questionable choices made during the war. All nations had blood on their hands—the Allies reasoning that bad things must sometimes be undertaken to accomplish the greater good. Burleigh covers the Holocaust itself, the aerial bombings of Germany, and the atom bomb, as well as Marshal Pétain's possible agenda in Vichy France, resistance activity, and Churchill's religious interpretation of the war. Burleigh also fills out the personal contexts in which particular leaders and soldiers operated, but additional specific discussion may have further aided readers. Nonetheless, this is a good starting point for debates on morality in wartime.
Kirkus Reviews

A British historian surveys the moral dimensions of signal moments of the 20th century's most destructive war.

Burleigh (Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, 2009, etc.) sets a daunting task: examining the moral landscape of entire societies, the sentiments that animated their leaderships and the moral reasoning of individuals forced to make excruciating choices under unimaginably difficult circumstances. Moreover, he refuses to conduct his thoroughly researched discussion according to the slippery rules of the faculty lounge or the theoretical constructs of a philosophy seminar, where a moral equivalence between, say, the Allied bombing of Dresden and the Holocaust, or Hitler the aggressor and Churchill the "warmonger," is too frequently and erroneously drawn. The author rightly insists on acknowledging the messy, complex manner in which the history unfolded, on distinguishing among lesser evils and on marveling that "in circumstances where the temptation to inhumanity must have been overpowering, a vestigial regard for decent or lawful conduct survived at all." Among the numerous topics he considers: how the lingering trauma of World War I accounted for 1930s pacifism, made appeasement popular and eased the deliberate aggression of Italy, Germany and Japan; how the doctrine of the police states permitted them to remove entire categories of people "from the orbit of reciprocal moral obligation"; how the rules of engagement varied depending on the theater; how the civilian populations of the totalitarian states wittingly conspired with their foul regimes. Burleigh examines the concessions of collaborators, real and supposed, the bravery of the depressingly small local resistance movements, the moral dilemmas accompanying secret warfare, the unspeakable Nazi extermination camps and the inverted moral universe within them, and the "statistically insignificant" acts of rescue (e.g., Schindler, Wallenberg).

Sometimes difficult, but always discerning and immensely rewarding.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062078667
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/22/2011
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
672
Sales rank:
911,341
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

It seems like a throwback to a bygone epoch to talk about good and evil in history….Michael Burleigh succeeds in avoiding easy, snap judgments. Instead, he has written an insightful, often moving account of the war's players, great and small, and the principles that guided them. Burleigh succeeds in finding new insights into almost every major event of the war, on both sides, as often by sharp counter-questioning as by logistical and political analysis. Burleigh examines many of the most ethically complicated parts of the conflict to unravel the values and visions they embody. The result is extremely satisfying.

Meet the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes, and The Third Reich: A New History, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction. He is married and lives in London.

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