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9780684810270

The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945

Beschloss, Michael R. Author

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9780684810270: The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945

The Conquerors provides a fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes negotiations during World War II that led to the emasculation of Germany. As Presidents Roosevelt and Truman led the United States in World War II in Europe, they had to deal with the question of what kind of government should be imposed on Nazi Germany to ensure that Germany could never again drag the world into war. The Conquerors tells the story with much intimate detail and colour of how Roosevelt and Truman privately struggled in their own minds and with titanic allies like Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, through summits and secret messages, to answer this question. Roosevelt did not react to increasing evidence of the Holocaust, but close friend and Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., privately pressed Roosevelt to accept what was soon called the "Morgenthau plan" - teach the Germans a lesson and destroy their ability to make war by destroying their industrial base and letting many Germans starve to death. Bechloss also revels how Harry Truman, on abruptly assuming the Presidency, was briefed on the Morgenthau Plan and was appalled. Truman, backed by Cabinet members, turned his back on the plan, fired Morgenthau, and moved toward Germany's division between East and West, allowing West Germany to become the bulwark of Western opposition to Soviet expansionism in Europe.

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Review:

Long before an Allied victory was assured during World War II, the Big Three--Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin--began discussing how to prevent Germany from ever again threatening the world. The fact that Germany today is a peaceful, democratic ally of the U.S. is "one of America's great twentieth-century international achievements," writes esteemed historian Michael Beschloss. How such a transformation was accomplished is the subject of The Conquerors.

Drawing on thousands of previously unreleased documents, secret audio recordings, private diaries, and other information recently made available, Beschloss details the complex diplomacy between the Allied leaders, including their differences over whether to demand Germany's unconditional surrender; how, if at all, to divide Germany after the war; and how to effectively punish Germany without creating the kind of resentment that led to the rise of Hitler. The relationship between the three leaders, and later, Truman, is fascinating, as Beschloss reveals private conversations, ulterior motives, and numerous back-channel deals that took place. Of particular interest is the maneuvering of Roosevelt and Churchill, who were both concerned that the Soviets would attempt a postwar power grab in Western Europe if given the chance. The book also deals with Roosevelt's reluctance to deal with Germany's systematic extermination of the Jews, and the role that his old friend and Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., played in pushing the President into action. After learning of the Holocaust, Morgenthau became obsessed with punishing Germany severely, drafting a plan that called for the complete destruction of their mines and factories as a way of forcing Germany into subsistence farming--ideas that put him at odds with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and many others in the administration.

The Conquerors is a superbly written, if brief, treatment of the political events leading up to the defeat of Germany, with the main players brought vividly to life by Beschloss's keen eye for detail and his ability to expose the human strengths and weaknesses of the participants. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Michael Bechloss has been called 'the nation's leading presidential historian.'by Newsweek, (U.S). Author of six previous books on the history of American presidents and global affairs, he is a frequent lecturer and regular commentator on US television.

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