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John Lukacs latest brief book on the great personae of WWII begins from a simple but almost inarguable thesis, followed by a largely unsupported contention:
There was a fateful condition of the Second World War that not enough people comprehend even now. This is that the Anglo-American alliance, for all its tremendous material and financial and industrial and manpower superiority, could not have really conquered Hitler's Germany without Russia. That is why 22 June 1941 was the most important turning point of the Second World War.
To begin with, it seems relatively unlikely that Britain and America would have even fought Germany on the continent had Hitler not already had to deal with war on another front and had the Soviets remained his allies. But it certainly would have been more difficult, if not impossible, to defeat a Nazi Germany that had no threat at its back and could commit its full forces in the West. So, yes, we can safely say that the war between Stalin and Hitler was a necessary pre-condition of the complete military defeat of the Third Reich.

However, Mr. Lukacs simply accepts Winston Churchill's view that had the Nazis won their war with the Soviets they would have dominated Europe for some extended period of empire, while the Soviet empire that we helped establish was, on the other hand, always destined to be short-lived. Unfortunately, he never bothers to explain why this should have been the case, just asserts it as a given. And while he protests the tendency to lump Stalin and Hitler and Nazism and Bolshevism together, he never explains what exactly were the differences that would have made Nazism so much stronger in power that it would have succeeded so extravagantly where Communism failed. This leaves him free to beat his tiresome drum about how Churchill and FDR are heroes of history for taking down Hitler but Ronald Reagan was an idiot for not just letting the USSR die on the vine, but must be troublesome to any reader who isn't willing to take the Lukacs position on the basis of faith alone.

Still, the book is certainly worth reading for anyone interested in the mechanics of the odd Hitler/Stalin relationship. Mr. Lukacs does do a much better job of presenting the argument that Hitler knew he could lose to a combination of England, America and Russia, so sought first to knock out Britain in 1940, but, failing there, tried next to defeat the Soviets quickly. I'm personally inclined to doubt that Hitler's Germany was actually capable of defeating either England or Russia or of long administering all of the defeated peoples of Europe if they'd somehow managed. But we can certainly be glad it never came to that and it does make for fascinating reading to see what led Hitler into these wars. And, make no mistake, it was very much Hitler driving the action. As Mr. Lukacs presents Joseph Stalin he truly believed that he'd reached an accommodation with Hitler and refused to listen to warnings that Germany was preparing to attack. The more interesting, and perhaps more realistic, question than what might have happened had Hitler defeated Stalin is what might have happened had he ignored him. If, like Mr. Lukacs, you truly believe that Nazism was a functional system of governance that could enable Germany to rule over a vast empire of oppressed peoples then the Nazis might have extended their control until they dominated all of France and then Spain and Portugal while simultaneously spreading its tentacles out into the Near East, the rest of Africa, and on to India. That seems a mighty tall task for a nation of just 60 million people, but obviously no more so than ruling Europe from Iceland to the Bering Straits.


Grade: (B-)


See also:

John Lukacs (3 books reviewed)
John Lukacs Links:
    -John Lukacs (Wikipedia)
    -BOOK SITE: June 1941 (Yale University Press)
    -BOOKNOTES:  The Hitler of History  by John Lukacs (C-SPAN, March 1, 1998)
    -EXCERPTS: from A Thread of Years
-ESSAY: De Tocqueville’s Message For America : The French aristocrat's observations of American scoiety are as relevant today as they were when first written (John Lukacs, June 1959, American Heritage)
    -ESSAY : It's the End of the Modern Age (JOHN LUKACS, April 26, 2002, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : It's the End of the Modern Age (JOHN LUKACS, April 26, 2002, Chronicle of Higher Education)
   -ESSAY: A Senseless Salute: The boy soldier salute, made popular by Ronald Reagan and used by President Bush, represents an exaggeration of the president's military role. (JOHN LUKACS, 4/14/03, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: How Certain Foreigners Saw New York (John Lukacs, Autumn 1993, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: HE WENT THERE: THE TALE OF A DISPLACED PIANIST (John Lukacs, December 2017, First Things)
    -AUDIO: Book Examines Relationship Between Hitler and Stalin: (Talk of the Nation, April 27, 2006)
    -INTERVIEW: History in a Democratic Age: A Conversation with John Lukacs (Bruce Coles, January 2003, Humanities)
    -ESSAY: The Price of Defending Hitler : A historian explains why a leading voice of 'Holocaust denial' lost his libel case (John Lukacs, April 24, 2000, Newsweek International)
    -ESSAY: 1945 and All That (John Lukacs, The National Interest)
    -REVIEW: of The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945; Michael Beschloss (John Lukacs, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Eisenhower and Churchill, by James C. Humes (John Lukacs, Harper's)
    -REVIEW: of Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, by John Cornwell (John Lukacs, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of COPENHAGEN By Michael Frayn (JOHN LUKACS, The Los Angeles Times)
    -REVIEW: of Bernard Norling. Timeless Problems in History (John Lukacs, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of L. Salvatorelli. Guglielmo Ferrero: Histoire et Politique au XX Siecle (John Lukacs, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of Roy Douglas. The Advent of War, 1939-40  (John Lukacs, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of J. Lee Ready. Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments, and Lesser Powers to the Allied
Victory in World War II. Volume 1, The European Theater; volume 2, The Asian Theater (John Lukacs, American Historical Review)
    -INTERVIEW : "Vegetables Don't Have a History":  A conversation with historian John Lukacs. (Donald A. Yerxa and Karl W. Giberson, Books & Culture, Jul/Aug 2000)
    -ESSAY: The Reactionary Loyalties of John Lukacs (Lee Congdon, Summer 2003, First Principles)
    -ESSAY : Turning-point politics: from salvaging the past to protecting the future (Tom Nairn, 16 January 2002, Open Democracy)
    -ESSAY: Truth, not justice (David Warren, May 26, 2002, Sunday Spectator)
    -ESSAY : Differences, Patterns . . . Barbarity (Milo Clark, June 17, 2002, Swans)
    -ESSAY : Continuing Explorations In Perception And Perspective (Milo Clark, July 15, 2002, Swans)
    -ARCHIVES: "john lukacs" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : The New York Review of Books: John Lukacs
    -ARCHIVES: "john lukacs" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Richard Grenier,
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Michael McMenamin, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Shimshon Arad, Jerusalem Post)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Michael H. Shirley, Historian)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (Michael Korda, Harper's)
    -REVIEW: of Five Days in London (David Pryce-Jones, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. 1945: Year Zero (Melvin Small, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. The Last European War: September 1939/December 1941 (Gordon Wright, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. A History of the Cold War (John L. Snell, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW : of John A. Lukacs. The Great Powers and Eastern Europe (E. C. Helmreich, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. Decline and Rise of Europe: A Study in Recent History, with Particular Emphasis on the Development of a European Consciousness  (E. C. Helmreich, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century (John Braeman, Journal of American
    -REVIEW: of John Lukacs. Historical Consciousness: Or the Remembered Past (Donald M. Lowe, American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE HITLER OF HISTORY By John Lukacs (V. R. Berghahn, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Hitler of History (Richard Brookhiser, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Hitler of History (Walter Sundberg, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (DAVID FUTRELLE, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (Dennis Skiotis, Book Wire)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (Sara Coelho and Doree Shafrir, Penn History Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (American Historical Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (Good Reports)
    -REVIEW : of The Hitler of History (Russel Lemmons, Historian)
    -REVIEW: of THE HITLER OF HISTORY (Ian Ousby, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW : of A Thread of Years By John Lukacs (Fareed Zakaria, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of A Thread of Years (John Derbyshire, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of A Thread of Years. By John Lukacs (George McKenna, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of A Thread of Years (John Dorfman, Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW: of A Thread of Years (Christopher M. Bellitto, America)
    -REVIEW: of At the End of an Age By John Lukacs (John Derbyshire, NY Sun)
    -REVIEW: of At the End of an Age (John J. Reilly)
    -REVIEW: of At the end of an age (Jules Wagman, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
    -REVIEW: of AT THE END OF AN AGE By John Lukacs ( Blair Worden, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian, by John Lukacs (Geoffrey Best, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of CONFESSIONS OF AN ORIGINAL SINNER By John Lukacs (David Pryce-Jones, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of DEMOCRACY AND POPULISM: Fear and Hatred By John Lukacs (Owen Harries, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of DEMOCRACY AND POPULISM: Fear and Hatred By John Lukacs (David Marquand, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of At The End Of An Age by John Lukacs (Blair Worden, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of June 1941: Hitler and Stalin by John Lukacs (Tim Rutten, LA Times)

Book-related and General Links:


Your review is spare prose as a book review ought to be. There is an important consideration or two not mentioned, so if I may?

It was clear to Churchill that Germany was the preeminent industrial nation in Europe and that Britain was no match. By securing the 'Axis' agreement with Musselini and the Anschluss with Austria, Germany became virtually impregnable. Sharing central Europe with Italy and the entire German-speaking Reich, Hitler could have very likely cemented control over Western Europe for a generation.

Hitler considered that Western Europe was secure for Germany without a British surrender because he believed the USA would not make war on him. The Japanese didn't confer with Berlin prior to the Pearl Harbor attack; the Germans were more surprised than Roosevelt. It was still uncertain that America would declare war on Germany even after Dec7th 1941; Hitler declared war on us before it became necessary for Roosevelt to take that question to Congress. And even then, Hitler did not foresee that 70% of the US war effort would be directed against him.

Given the (reasonable) assumptions the Hitler Gov't made, their attack on the Soviet Union was also reasonable. They would have secured oil supplies and the wheat fields of the Ukraine while pinning the Red Army on the eastern side of the Urals.

Possibly you'd have pointed this stuff out in a more complete statement. But it seemed from the cursory treatment in your review that you were over-estimating the Anglo-American strength, under-estimating, first, German power in 1939 and second, Soviet power in 1945. This is a characteristic of the Yalta-denouncers and Roosevelt-was-a-Communist wing of the most rabid and foolish wing of American conservatism. Surely you know better that they.

Thank You John McCann St Petersburg FLA

- JohnMcC

- Oct-15-2007, 17:29