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Oct 21, Steven Z.
This should not be surprising based on the myriad of books that have been written about the war that fostered mass killing on a scale that had never been seen before. The Nazis perpetuated the industrialization of death almost until they ran out of victims.
In the skies the combatants laid waste to civilian areas fostering terror and destruction unknown to mankind before the war. The book is entitled Winik opens his narrative by describing the Teheran Conference of November, which most historians argue was the most important wartime conference as the major outline of post war decision making took place.
Here we meet Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, before Winik switches to the massive allied bombardment of Berlin that would shatter the faith of the German people in their government, as it could no longer protect them from the developing superiority of allied might.
The author offers very little if anything that is new dealing with the war. Its strength lies in its synthesis of the massive secondary literature that the war has produced.
Winik has mined a voluminous amount of material, but very little of it is primary and one must ask the question; what purpose does the book have if it adds little that is not already familiar for bibliophiles of the war? Winik writes in an engrossing manner that creates a narrative that is accurate with sound analysis of the major characters and events discussed.
Most of the decisions involving major battles are discussed in depth ranging from D-Day, the invasions of North Africa and Sicily, to biographies of lesser known characters like, Rabbi Stephen Wise, a leader of the American Jewish community, but also a friend of FDR; Rudolph Vrba and Eduard Schulte who smuggled out evidence of the Holocaust as early as November and made their mission in life to notify the west what was transpiring in the concentration camps with the hope that it would prod the allies to take action to stop it, or at least, lessen its impact.
Winik delves deep into the policies of the State Department, which carried an air of anti-Semitism throughout the war. The attitude of the likes of Breckenridge Long are discussed and how they openly sought to prevent any Jewish immigration to the United States.
When the issue of possibly bombing Auschwitz is raised we meet John J. Roosevelt was a political animal and refused to use any of his political capital, no matter how much pressure to assist the Jews. FDR was fully aware of what was taking place in the camps and did create some window dressing toward the end of the war with the creation of the War Refugees Board that did save lives, but had it been implemented two years earlier might have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
A number of these works appear repeatedly, i. In addition, there are many instances when endnotes were not available, leaving the reader to wonder what they have just read is based on. We see a Roosevelt who is clearly dying at a time when many momentous decisions must be made, but the president feels that he was in office when the war began, and he must complete his task.
It seems that no matter the situation the author finds a way to link the Holocaust to other unfolding decisions and events, particularly during and after.
The author also does a superb job describing the human element in his narrative. The plight and fears of deportees to Auschwitz, the anxiety of soldiers as they prepare for Operation Overlord, the chain smoking General Eisenhower as he awaits news of battles, and the fears and hopes of FDR on the eve of D-Day are enlightening and provide the reader tremendous insights into historical moments.
If his goal was to add an important new interpretation of the wartime decision making centering on FDR and as the turning point in the war, I believe he has failed.
Overall, this is an excellent book for the general reader, but for those who are quite knowledgeable about World War II you might be disappointed.One of the most exciting aspects of studying psychology is the fact that this knowledge can be applied to so many different career paths.
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