The Legacy of the Second World War

John Lukacs, Author . Yale Univ. $26 (201p) ISBN 978-0-300-11439-3

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.)

Reviewed on: 01/25/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-300-18096-1
Paperback - 201 pages - 978-0-300-17138-9
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