A LOW DISHONEST DECADE: The Great Powers, Eastern Europe, and the Economic Origins of World War II, 1930–1941

Paul N. Hehn, Author . Continuum $35 (560p) ISBN 978-0-8264-1449-6

The worldwide depression at the end of the 1920s exacerbated commercial and diplomatic rivalries as nations attempted to rehabilitate their balances of trade. Fixing on unstable eastern Europe as the focus of the fierce contest for markets, Hehn (The German Struggles Against Yugoslav Guerrillas in World War II) sees economic factors as at least as crucial in the post-Versailles world as military, political and ideological ones. Although this focus downplays the obsession with racist ideology that drove Hitler, Hehn's imperialist theme is compelling. Without other countries' resources, such as oil, iron and copper, the burgeoning German war machine could not function. Further, Hitler had to buy the fealty of the middle classes and the industrial barons. To maintain as much as was possible of the interwar status quo, according to Hehn, the weakened and timid Western powers bargained with, brokered for and bailed out the insatiable Nazi regime, hoping to contain it. If German hegemony to the east created Armageddon with communism, that would postpone the confrontation for predominance elsewhere, and the West could live on the fiction that both the Hitler and Stalin regimes might collapse. Besides, war had its positive side, stimulating depressed economies. Hehn's quotes, sometimes private ones, from shapers of policy, are withering. His analysis targets not only the usual villains but the failures, hypocrisies, greed and venality of England, France and the United States, and powerfully argues for their role in bringing on WWII. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/21/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Paperback - 516 pages - 978-0-8264-1761-9
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