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This text offers interviews with witnesses who knew Stalin and Hitler, together with documents from Russian archives. It explores in detail the reasons why Hitler invaded Russia, why it was a mistake to believe Hitler was a reasonable conqueror, and, ultimately, was Stalin another Hitler?
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Labeling the Second World War battles between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia on the Eastern Front as the War of the Century is asking for trouble. What about the First World War, not to mention the other theaters of the 1939-45 conflict? Laurence Rees argues that the brutality of the fighting was unprecedented and that the outcome, with the annihilation of the German troops, was pivotal to the Allies' eventual victory. On both counts, he is absolutely right. The severe cold, hunger, shelling, and hand-to-hand street-fighting decimated both sides, and the casualties ran into the millions. And, yes, Germany never did recover neither physically nor mentally. The supposedly unbeatable one had been beaten. But does this make it a war of the century? To decontextualize the Eastern Front is to miss the bigger picture. This was not just a war between two competing ideologies--Communism and Nazism. The Russians, whatever their politics, were Britain's and America's allies; they may have had a separate private agenda in the war--what country didn't?--but they were on the right side and part of an overall allied effort. Moreover, Rees's position lets the Germans off the hook somewhat. It allows them to make the revisionist claim that they were fighting Communism--something that became a holy cause in the West in the postwar years. They weren't. They were Nazis fighting the Allies. End of story. Rees also goes on to make the somewhat bizarre claim that the German defeat unleashed the Holocaust against the Jews. This will come as a massive surprise to the millions of Jews who were persecuted in the 10 years prior to 1943. It is true that the death camps went into overdrive after the defeat in Russia, but this would almost certainly also have happened if the Germans had won. The result on the Eastern Front was immaterial. However, there is also much to recommend in War of the Century. The comparisons between Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's state capitalist U.S.S.R. are well made. Repression and contempt for life existed on both sides. Rees has found much new material from the newly opened Soviet archives and has also turned up many eyewitnesses from both sides, and their accounts provide a compellingly readable narrative. For this alone, the book is worth reading. At times it feels as if Rees is being willfully controversial simply to be noticed. But he needn't have bothered, because there was a fascinating book there anyway. --John Crace, Amazon.co.ukAbout the Author:
Laurence Rees is the editor of Timewatch, BBC Television's historical documentary series, which has won three Emmy Awards in three years. He is the author and producer of the award-winning book and documentary The Nazis. Ian Kershaw, a professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, England, is a leading authority on Adolf Hitler. His most recent book is Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris.) Laurence Rees has won the British Book Award for History Book of the Year 2006 for his international bestseller Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'. His career as a writer and filmmaker, focusing on the Nazis and World War II, stretches back nearly 20 years and includes the acclaimed television series Nazis: A Warning from History, War of the Century, Horror in the East and, most recently, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'. The body of work has won him a myriad of awards including a BAFTA. a Grierson Award and an international Documentary Award. He was educated at Solihull School and Oxford University and is Creative Director of BBC TV History programmes.
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