…ambitious history of the war's most important decisions…searching, carefulsometimes pedanticanalysis, drawing on a wealth of primary sources and bibliography, detailed in copious endnotes and a list of works cited. Kershaw, the author of Making Friends with Hitler and an acclaimed two-volume biography of the dictator, writes with deep command of his material, weaving together the consequences that each decision had on those that followed.
The Washington Post
Tracing the thought processes behind crucial turning points in WWII's most crucial 19 months, Kershaw, the author of a major biography of Hitler and professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, reminds us that nothing in that titanic struggle was predetermined. Events might have run a very different course had Great Britain decided to negotiate peace with Hitler in June 1940, or if Japan had attacked the Soviet Union from the east as Germany invaded from the west in June 1941. Kershaw shows that Germany's war on two fronts and Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor, though ultimately disastrous for those countries, were the results of chains of reasoning based on political and military goals, however despicable. Though the author makes deep, intelligent use of archival materials, he provides little new information. Rather, his analysis focuses on the structure of decision making and its consequences. Kershaw depicts Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union as severely hampered by one man giving the orders, getting input only from subordinates too fearful to say anything he didn't want to hear. The slower democratic process enabled many voices to be heard and better informed judgments to be made by Churchill and Roosevelt. This subtext adds a note of hope to a text depicting one of humanity's darkest periods. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Six leaders (Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mussolini, and Tojo), 19 months, and ten decisions, from Britain's determination that it would fight on after the fall of France to Hitler's implementation of the Final Solution. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
The world's leaders pave the path to war-and to the rest of a war-ridden century-in this insightful interpretation of recent history. World War II, "the most awful in history," and the postwar era largely took shape in decisions made between May 1940 and December 1941, argues Kershaw (Hitler, 2000, etc.), who outlines the ten most important of them. Adolf Hitler made three of them: to attack the Soviet Union, to declare war on the U.S. and to launch the Holocaust. In the matter of the first, Kershaw suggests that Hitler may have boxed himself in: Ideology and strategy combined to require an effort to do away with Stalin's regime quickly so that the Third Reich could expand southward and face the U.S., which was sure to land in Europe someday. Even though it got Moscow in its sights, Hitler's Russian campaign failed as Napoleon's had, thanks in some measure to the brutal winter. But Hitler would forever blame another of the ten decisions Kershaw outlines, namely Benito Mussolini's supremely misguided ploy to invade Greece, which resulted in one of many Italian defeats. Hitler asserted that "but for the difficulties created for us by the Italians and their idiotic campaign in Greece . . . I should have attacked Russia a few weeks earlier." Hitler's two-front war was threatening and massive enough that one of England's key decisions was simply that of continuing to fight on rather than sue for peace, while one of those made by FDR was to carry on a sort-of-war without congressional approval until he could overcome his isolationist opposition-a political feat not really possible until Japan made one of its key decisions, that of launching the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at PearlHarbor. Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities. Of much interest to students of the modern era. Agent: Andrew Wylie/Wylie Agency