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Hitler's War: Germany's Key Strategic Decisions 1940-1945 Hardcover – 1 Aug 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Inc; New edition edition (1 Aug. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076073531X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760735312
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,638,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

This is the book that answers the question: Could Germany have won World War Two? What if Germany¿s key strategic decisions had been different ¿ what would have happened? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Heinz Magenheimer is one of Austria¿s most respected historians and commentators. Since 1972 he has been a member of the Academy of National Defence, Vienna, and since 1993 a permanent member of the editorial staff of the Austrian military periodical OMZ. In addition to five books, he has written more than a hundred articles in periodical and compendia on the subjects of military strategy, security politics and the history of warfare. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jan. 1999
Format: Hardcover
It is interesting to contrast this book to the 1995 work "Why the Allies won" by Richard Overy. Both books have been written a considerable distance from the events and with the benefit of more material from the Soviet Union than was available for earlier histories.
Overy in his book tried to answer the question why the allied forces were able to defeat the Axis after they had conquered Europe and thus had access to vast economic resources. In his book argues clearly that the allies had vastly more economic resources than the Axis powers. He believes that this factor alone was not critical in the victory of the allies. The German Armed forces were significantly outnumbered during the battle of France and during the early parts of the Russian campaign when they were successful.(In the Barbarossa campaing the German Army was able to put in the field around 3,500 tanks. The Soviet Union had 20,000) It is his conclusion that both the Axis powers Germany and Japan were dominated by military elites. These elites were able to gain success on the field of battle but were poorer in marshalling resources and developing and changing tactics as circumstances changed. The allied powers by way of contrast initially performed badly in the field. Over time they changed and developed their tactics and were able to transform their economies to achieve a numerical and qualitative superiority over the Axis powers.
Magenheimer's book Hitler's war is different. It follows the various German campaigns and try's to see if there were particular turning points, or decisions that were fatal to the outcome of the war. His book is more of a military history.
Magenheimer's book occasionally reads like a revisionist text.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thoroughly absorbing material. Excellent response from seller with thoughtful packing. Many thanks.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Fresh Insights on Military Decisions and Strategy 27 Oct. 1999
By Boyd D. Cathey - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Heinz Magenheimer is Austria's pre-eminent military historian and strategist. In his recent volume, HITLER'S WAR, gracefully translated into English, he analyzes in depth a series of significant decisions made by the German military High Command and Hitler, himself, that determined the course of World War II. Having examined and sifted through the vast quantity of material, files, reports, memoirs, and archives available to historians, including information recently declassified or only recently made available to Western historians, Magenheimer does much more than simply discuss military decisions. Indeed his volume explores reasons BEHIND these decisions, examines how the decisions were reached, and what could have happened if alternative options had been followed. Nevertheless, unlike some of the "what if" books on World War II that have recently been published, Magenheimer avoids the more speculative or fantastic aspects of such efforts; his judgments are generally conservative and based firmly in an understanding of the very legitimate opportunities that were missed or discarded by the High Command. Additionally, Magenheimer's encylopedic knowledge and familiarity with his subject enables him to offer superb--and often very personal--illustrations supporting the points he makes. I did not find this study dry or stiff at all. Rather, the situations and history Magenheimer recounts are sharply and crisply discussed--at times I couldn't put the volume down. Excellent bibliography, good notes, and index. A very important contribution to our understanding of WWII, how it was fought--and how it was lost.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Common Sense Is Not A Strategy 8 Mar. 2001
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Heinz Magenheimer, an Austrian historian, has attempted to write an analysis of Hitler's key strategic decisions in the period 1940-1944 and asks if Germany could have "won" the Second World War. Ostensibly, Magenheimer's methodology is to focus on a specific period which required a strategic decision, then outline what facts the German leadership had available, what alternatives they had and to ask if there was a better potential outcome. This is a good methodology but unfortunately, Magenheimer does not stick to it very well.
Organizationally, the book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter focuses on the Battle of Britain and the coming confrontation with the Soviet Union. The second deals with the turn of the war in the autumn on 1941. The third covers the final loss of the strategic initiative in 1942, the fourth with the failure to defend the peripheries of Fortress Europe in 1943 and the final chapter with the collapse in 1944. There are several decent maps and charts, but no appendices. The bibliography, which covers many German language sources, is extensive and quite good.
There is nothing particularly new in Magenheimer's analysis, although much of what he says appears quite true fifty years after the fact. Yes, if Hitler had been less ambitious or fanatical perhaps the 6th Army wouldn't have been lost at Stalingrad. Yes, if Hitler had been more flexible on retreats, the Wehrmacht might have done a better job on mobile defense. Yes, if the Luftwaffe had focused more on fighter production and stepped up the Me-262 program then it would have been more difficult for the Allies to gain air superiority over Europe. All these issues represent common sense - hence they are not contentious - but they actually offer no new insight. There is no doubt that with better decisions and choices, the Third Reich might have done better in the war but in most cases, "doing better" means surviving longer than May 1945. Even with jets and a stronger, mobile defense, Germany was waging war against the three strongest industrial powers on earth and no tactical magic was going to alter that fact. What Magenheimer offers is a common sense alternative to Hitler's quixotic strategic direction, but common sense is not a strategy (it essentially says, 'we shall do nothing foolish or extreme,' without saying what will in fact be done).
By avoiding 1939 in his book, Magenheimer avoids the whole issue of Hitler embarking upon a major war with an inadequate military-industrial base. Magenheimer blames Hitler for seeking only militaristic solutions to all his problems and neglecting potential political solutions, like a separate peace with the Soviet Union. However Hitler had pretty much used up his political cards prior to the war and even Stalin was unlikely to consider seriously negotiating with the man who broke the 1939 Non-aggression Pact only two years later. Once the war was rolling, Hitler was left with only military solutions; the weak enemies like France were quickly knocked out of the war and the survivors, like Britain and the USSR, also wanted military solutions. Magenheimer avoids the question of whether Germany should ever have attacked France and the Low Countries in 1940 at all; had Hitler not widened the war and brought Churchill into power, the Chamberlain and Daladier governments had little motivation to invade Germany or initiate a strategic bombing campaign. Quite possibly, the "Phoney War" might have dragged on for a year or two and then fizzled, with eventual peace negotiations. Hitler might have gotten to keep all or part of Poland and that would have been a "victory". However no German historian is likely to criticize the "easy success" of the French campaign.
Magenheimer implies that Hitler's attacked on the Soviet Union was in the nature of pre-emptive strike, based upon post-war revelations of Soviet war plans supposedly set for the autumn of 1941. Readers should treat this discussion of Operation Barbarossa with caution, since Magenheimer greatly exaggerates the likelihood of a Soviet attack upon Germany in 1941 (see David Glanz' recent Stumbling Colossus, which points out how ill-prepared the Red Army was for offensive combat in 1941). The author then adds insult to misconception by claiming that it was primarily the Soviets who were responsible for initiating the many atrocities on the eastern front.
While Magenheimer rejects the idea that Germany's defeat was inevitable, this is probably not far from the truth. After all, Germany waged war against virtually the same coalition in the First World War and lost it without any help from Adolph Hitler. The fact is that it is very difficult for even a well-led continental power with limited resources to challenge two or more great powers for global hegemony. It didn't work for Napoleon, or Kaiser Wilhelm or Hitler. Even in the best-case world, such as Napoleon faced at Tilsit in 1807, the aggressor gained only a breathing space before new coalitions were raised against him. Thus, more common sense in Berlin might have changed some of the dates, but baring a total collapse of the Allied will to resist, it was unlikely to have altered the final result.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This clear & concise book is required reading for historians 14 May 2004
By Collins G.B - Published on
Format: Paperback
Strategy is a concept that is abstract, complex and open to different interpretations, but this book steers the reader away from these problems. At the other extreme, more readable books about WW2 tend to be packed with historical detail, with the result that they tend to obscure the strategic considerations behind the war.

Magenheimer's book breaks the mould, because the author takes a step back from the detail of history to reveal the reasoning behind Hitler's decision making. In the process has revealed that Nazi Germany may have come closer to defeating the Allies (or ending WW2 in stalemate) than has been previously thought.

In short, this clear and concise book is required reading for historians studying WW2 strategy who ask the question, "why did Hitler loose the war?".

Where this book is fresh and provides new insight is the way the author clearly analyses events that lead up to "turns" (the points at which circumstances change) in the war, and whether Hitler's decisions could have altered the outcome. For this reason alone, this book is well worth reading, as the threats and opportunities facing Hitler and his commanders at each "turn" become transparent.

The main focus Magenheimer's book is understandably on the Eastern front, where the balance of power in the East shifted back and forth between Hitler and Stalin, and when the opportunity to take the strategic initiative was open to both, making the outcome of the war far from certain.

It is Magenheimer' view that it might have been possible for German invasion to have reached Moscow by before the winter of 1941, in which case Hitler dream of European hegemony might have been realised.

Despite the German ability to wage "lightning war" in the East and North Africa (as well as the submarine war in Atlantic), Magenheimer argues that Germany lost the initiative to the Allies, not just because they adapted quickly to the changing situation more quickly (which they were good at doing), but because Hitler did not "invest" both military and diplomatic resources to available him to bring the war a successful conclsion for Germany.

Where the book is weak is in the author's own argument (used frequently by historians elsewhere) is that the German industrial-military complex was not ready for total war in 1941.

This book does not answer the question why Hitler did not (or could not?) plan for total war, despite his political programme being based on the stuggle for "living space" would be inevitable.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Hitler's War (Magenheimer 1999) 25 Aug. 2000
By Alfred Wollmann - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Magenheimer, member of the editorial staff of der Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift (ÖMZ) presents a readable, up-to-date and lucid survey of the strategic options available to the German leadership in the various phases of World War II. The dust jacket question »Could Germany have won World War II?« has been raised earlier for instance by Max Klüver (»Den Sieg verspielt?«), a book curiously not mentioned in the bibliography. Magenheimer carefully revises many seemingly established notions of key strategic decisions, for instance the »Haltebefehl« of the Dunkirk encirclement commonly but according to Magenheimer (and convincingly) wrongly attributed to Hitler's alleged anglophile penchant. In German (that means »BRD«-) political correct terminology Magenheimer's book in some passages approaches much loathed »revisionism« but exactly this in turn may qualify the treatise as a realistic and sober analysis of Hitler's strategic options not obstructed by ideological preconceptions. Remarkably up till now the book is not reviewed in the »Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen« edited by Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Potsdam. In my view it is a surprising fact that despite the huge literature on World War II it is still an unsettled question which motives underly Hitler's political and military actions for instance in the decision to stage »Unternehmen Barbarossa«. Magenheimer rightly opposes the communis opinio that Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union was the apogee of a »Drang nach Osten«- and »Lebensraum«-ideology allegedly conceived in »Mein Kampf«. Hitler's decision-making was guided by the immediate political circumstances and by much improvisation, not by an ideological plan of the twenties invariably carried through in the fourties . Magenheimer consequently dismisses the usage of the term »Vernichtungskrieg« (war of annihilation) with respect to the »Ostfront«. In my view it is a term of propaganda, since any full-scale war is an attempt at the destruction of the bases of livelihood of the opponent and might be -- but is not -- applied with the same justification to the Anglo-American strategic bomb offensive against German cities. In the light of new documents discovered in Russia during the last decade Magenheimer discusses and summarizes the much disputed thesis of »Barbarossa« as a preventive strike designed within a very short time span as a contingency plan and which he concurs in the framework of geopolitics and grand strategy, but not on the strictly military level of the Eastern theatre (p. 56-7) since the Germans only learned very late of the real magnitude of the Soviet build-up. There can be no longer any doubt that in June 1941 the Soviet army was nearing completion of an overtly offensive deployment and that Stalin was not really surprised by the German attack (actually he seems to have learnt of German preparations as early as December 1940), perhaps only by its short-term timing. The German term »Überfall« therefore is not appropriate in this context. The first turning point of the war was already reached with the failure of the »Battle of England« which among many other factors can be attributed to leaving intact the coastal radar stations and the robust and underestimated British air defence. »Barbarossa« was a subsequent indirect strategy by eliminating the continental »sword« of England in a very short time before Germany again could deal from a strengthened continental basis with the Anglo-Americans. Magenheimer states that the USA was a constant and by no means underestimated factor in Hitler's strategic thinking. Since the timing of »Barbarossa« was very tight the US had to be kept out of the war as long as possible. The viciousness of warfare in the East was not primarily, as one often can read today, the result of high-level orders but the consequence of »the direct experience of the soldiers on both sides« (p. 101). One of the main German failures in the East was -- besides notoriously overtaxing of the troops and overstretching of the frontlines -- the gross underestimation of the Soviet reserves which led to the disastrous belief of the General Staff in July and August 1941 that the war was nearly won. Hitler's much criticized »Weisungen« No. 33, 33a, 34 tried to redress the strategic focus which apparently was lost in the OKH (p. 88) and therefore cannot »be described as blunders« (p.89). Hitler's insistence on the North (Leningrad) and South (Ukraine, Donez, Kaukasus) prongs was right not only from the military-economic standpoint (see also now Bernhard Zürner, »Der verschenkte Sieg« Berg: VGB Berg 2000), which is often described as Hitler's steckenpferd. One of the more grave German mistakes was the failure to adapt the armaments programs to defensive operations in time due to the changing situation in the East and later to the increasing air warfare of the Anglo-Americans in the West. The Mediterranean theatre was essentially lost due to the fact that Malta was not taken. This can be attributed to Hitler's neglect or hesitation, although Hitler was conscious of the importance of the Middle East as is also shown by the attempt of Heeresgruppe A to cross the Kaukasus. In sum the book leaves one with the impression of a high degree of inevitability in the course of the war from the very beginning. The strategic options realistically available to Hitler were rather limited given the the uncompromising and essentially germanophobe (not only anti-«Nazi«) attitude of the Anglo-Americans on the one hand and Stalin's imperial claims disguised as the attempt at a communist world revolution on the other (for Great Britain's attitude see Sir Robert Vansittart's revealing statement, 6.9.1940, p. 26). Germany's European allies were weak and a real coalition warfare with Japan against the Soviet Union never substantiated. However, Magenheimer convincingly brings home to the reader that until the first half of 1943 there were numerous 'virtual' turns in the course of the war which would have changed or improved the strategic situation of Germany. Therefore it is simply not true that the war was lost from the very beginning. Magenheimer also points to the fact that from hindsight Soviet victory turned out as a pyrrhic one which caused Russian historians to question even the term »victory« (pp. 271-4). While clearly describing various strategic and operational mistakes, for instance the division of forces in the attack on the Stalingrad area and simultaneously on the Caucasus, Magenheimer refrains from cheap criticism of German leadership. The main fault of German strategy was the reliance on purely military means while completely neglecting political options especially in dealing with the occupied Russian territories and with Stalin's tentative peace feelers in 1942. Magenheimer's »Final Considerations« (pp.277-89) should deserve thoughtful reading especially by contemporary politicians but one suspects that the current western political class, one shouldn't be surprised, is not really susceptible to military-strategic thinking. The book contains informative notes and an extensive bibliography with the German book titles also translated into English. There are very few misprints: the author »Frieser« ist not printed in the bibliography (p. 320 infra); p. 285 »Bagdolio« means Badoglio.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good book on WWII strategic options from the German point of view 13 Feb. 2014
By William A. Thayer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book which clearly presented the strategic options from the German point of view. Excellent bibliography. There are many books on the battles of WWII but few on the strategic choices made and those that were possible.

It is pretty easy to see that Hitler and his Army Staff thought that they could defeat the Soviets in 12 weeks. After all, the Soviets had pretty much blown the war against tiny Finland. Hitler had wiped out most of the Army staff during the Great Purges of the 1930s. Frankly, if I had been in his spot, I think I would have had the same evaluation.

I think one particularly good aspect of the book was the treatment of the Mediterranean option for Hitler and Italy. They had the chance to defeat the British there. If they had, they could have seized the oil in Iraq and Iran. They desperately needed this. Instead, they made the choice to get the oil in 1942 by attacking the Russians through the Caucasus. Not a good choice.

I would make a couple of observations. The book is German centric. Japan and Italy are hardly mentioned. This was the root of the German problem. They didn't think in terms of allies. The US and UK did. The US held back from attacking Japan (which most Americans wanted to get revenge for Pearl Harbor) to go for the larger Allied aim of defeating Germany first. That was a good and critical Allied strategic decision. If the Japanese had foregone their ambitions in Indonesia and instead of attacked the Soviet Union from their position in Manchuria, the Soviet Union probably would have fallen. But the Germans and Japanese were more of co-belligerents than Allies. This point is mostly missed by Mr. Magenheimer.

Another aspect that is missed is Air Power. Yes, he does do a good job of suggesting of how the Luftwaffe could have been used better and why the Germans should have built more air defense fighters. But he ignores the rising strength of the US Army Air Corps. The B-17 could carry about 4,000 lbs. of bombs and cruise at 200 mph. The B-29 could carry 20,000 lbs. and cruise at 350 mph. Furthermore, the B-29 was designed for the 1,500 miles from Saipan to Tokyo and another 1,500 miles back. Given that the distances from air bases in Britain to Germany were more like 600 miles, the B-29s could have probably carried a 40,000 lb bomb load. Thus 100 B-29s would be like 1,000 B-17s. The US had 200 B-29s in June 1944 and more coming off the production lines. In other words, the bombing damage that eliminated the synthetic German oil production would have happen much earlier if B-29s had been used against Germany.

Finally, it is indeed fortunate that Germany fell before July 1945. Why? Well, the Japanese suffered two atomic bomb attacks at the beginning of August 1945.

In short, while Mr. Magenheimer discusses the various German options after Dec 1941 when the US entered the war, the fate of Germany was decided by Hitler's fatal declaration of war on the US. There were no options for Germany after that. But it is very interesting to understand his reasoning which gives insight into the German reasoning.

Both WWI and WWII were disasters for Europe which is why I support the European Union. Cooperation not conflict will lead to greater prosperity for all. The post WWII German generations are not all like the Hitler generation.
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