It seems that authors and publishers, writing about World War II,
appear to be stuck on titles for their books. This is not to say
that any of the books that we are about to review are anything but
excellent historical works, but rather that the titles seem repetitive,
geared more to marketing gimmicks rather than scholarly creativity.
Let’s start with "How Hitler Could Have Won World War
II: The Fatal Errors that Led to Nazi Defeat," by Bevin Alexander,
from Crown Publishers, in New York.
This book addresses the intersection between Hitler’s overpowering
personality and his version of military strategy. "What If"
seems to be the basis for this scholarly work. Important battles
and key movements, combined with mistakes attributed directly to
Hitler, were the determining factors in the outcome of the war.
Bevin attempts to show that minor tactical changes could have changed
the world that we live in today. The specific examples, covered
in some detail, include:
The book is valuable for the analysis that it provides. Perhaps,
you wouldn’t agree with every example. Scholars rarely do!
But the book is valuable for strategists and would be a valuable
asset in your military library.
"Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power: January 1933,"
by Henry Ashby Turner Jr., from Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., in
New York. Price: $25. The author, a Yale historian, believes that
Hitler could have been stopped in the few days after he took power.
He cites facts that call into question history’s view of Hitler
ascending to power via a democratically elected process.
Nazi rhetoric was waning with the emergence of the world from a
massive global depression. The Nazis’ foothold had begun to
slip, and many thought that Hitler simply would fall into obscurity.
Turner indicates that three men influenced the fate of Germany:
President Von Hindenburg, Chancellor Von Schleicher and former Chancellor
Von Papen. Political machinations and naivete played into Hitler’s
hand and thrust him into power.
Interesting theory–that’s really all it could be, but
it illustrates how small, seemingly unrelated political events,
can telescope men such as Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann into key
players rather than history’s forgotten, malicious nobodies.
"Hitler’s Commanders: Officers of the Wehrmacht, the
Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine, and the Waffen-SS," by Samuel
W. Mitcham, Jr. & Gene Mueller, published by Cooper Square Press,
of New York. Paperback price: $18.95. The German military leadership
included an unusual combination:
Perhaps the most interesting of the group was Hermann Goring. His
defiance at Nuremberg and his cheating the hangman (by suicide)
made him a hero in the eyes of the defeated Germans. To this day,
he is referred to as "Unsere Hermann" (Our Hermann), something
he predicted before his death.
Among the characters is Erhardt Milch, a Luftwaffe field marshal,
who was the son of a Jewish pharmacist. Strange bedfellows woven
into an interesting pattern that made up the world’s most
brutal war machine.
"Hitler’s Personal Security: Protecting the Fuhrer,
1921-1945," by Peter Hoffmann, from Da Capo Press, in Cambridge,
Mass. Paperback price: $18. This updated reprint details Hitler’s
wartime itinerary. It is amazing how many attempts were made, unsuccessfully,
on Hitler’s life prior to the 1944 bombing attempt, which
history seems to focus on. Actually, there were more than 30 attempts,
starting as early as 1921. The plots and the security methods that
grew out of these attempts are detailed in this very interesting
book. Hitler’s SS escort and other security groups responsible
for his life comprise a fascinating view into the unknown part of
"Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and
the Holocaust," by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Published by Alfred
A. Knopf, in New York. Price: $30. This book addresses that haunting
question: "How could this have happened?"
Drawing on historical materials, the author reveals that it wasn’t
the SS men or the Nazis who were the prime killers, but perfectly
ordinary Germans from all walks of life. They did so, not merely
because they were coerced, or because they were slavishly following
orders ("Befehl ist Befehl–Orders are orders"),
but rather as a result of widespread, virulent anti-semitism that
led them to "regard the Jews as a demonic enemy, whose extermination
was not only necessary, but also just."
These books, taken together, will change many reader’s perspective
on history. All are worth including on your must-read list.