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Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders Paperback – 3 Sep 2007


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'Gerhard Weinberg is probably the world's leading expert on Hitler's foreign policy … Visions of Victory is a beautifully written and wide-ranging synthesis of a large and burgeoning literature. It is based on deep knowledge and profound judgment. It is a masterpiece of historical writing that should be read by anyone interested in the origins of the world in which we live.' Financial Times

'It is an extraordinarily well-informed and well-crafted book which explains how great were the stakes of the Second World War, and how lastingly important was the achievement of the Allies in forcing 'unconditional surrender' by Germany and Japan.' The Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

Visions of Victory, first published in 2005, explores the views of eight war leaders of the major powers of World War II - Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, Churchill, de Gaulle, and Roosevelt - and compares their visions of the future assuming their side had emerged victorious.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
One of the Great Masters of World War II History 31 Aug 2005
By T. Berner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I envy anyone who studies under Gerhard Weinberg. As someone who studied under Stanley Payne, another great scholar of World War II, I appreciate Weinberg's intellectual rigor, his ability to balance objectivity without in the least abandoning his morality (a surprisingly rare feat in modern academia) and his clear and compelling prose.

This book examines a subject which has not, surprisingly, been examined before in much detail: what the ideal post-war would have looked like to eight of the principal war leaders. It is a fast, exciting read. Suffice it to say that everyone in the world is better off that the war ended the way it did.

I think Professor Weinberg is too charitable toward FDR (Stewart Alsop, who was a cousin of FDR, once said that FDR would have been disturbed to see the erosion of WASP control of America and that is reinforced here by his vision of the UK remaining a superpower after the loss of its colonies), but one can disagree with the good professor's conclusions precisely because he is so scrupulously honest and thorough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Fine material undermined by poor format 5 Aug 2007
By Adam Windsor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The actual content of this work is solid. The author provides a description of each leader's 'vision' for the world. The degree of detail varies from leader to leader, depending on the amount of research material available and the scope of the leader's ideas, but that's to be expected. Where the work falls down for me is in the way the information is presented. It would benefit a *great* deal by the inclusion of more maps, especially where the author describes the sweeping changes planned by Hitler, for instance. The organisation of each entry also leaves a bit to be desired. Breaking up the text with sub-headings that call out specific regions or topics would really have helped for those who want to refer back to the book for specific details at a later date. At around 250 pages of fairly large font, the book is also a bit on the brief side for my tastes.

A decent introduction to the various leaders' objectives, but I was hoping for more 'meat' to this meal.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Good as far as it goes, but felt surprisingly lightweight 19 Nov 2008
By Jeffrey W. Heikkinen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This was, as I understand it, meant to be something of a supplement to the same author's A World At Arms (which I recommend highly), but is actually a surprising contrast to its larger cousin.

Somewhat more speculative than A World at Arms, this book discusses what we know, or the author surmises, about the war aims and postwar hopes of eight major World War II leaders - Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Tojo Hideki of Japan, Chaing Kai-Shek of China, Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, Winston Churchill of the UK, Charles de Gaulle of the Free French, and Franklin D Roosevelt of the USA. Eight chapters, one on each of these men, are followed by a ninth on the actual postwar world, and how little it resembled the visions of any of them, even the victors.

In addition to being much shorter by page count than A World at Arms, this book is in a larger typeface, making for a much quicker read than you might expect. It doesn't hurt that the often dense prose style of Weinberg's past work has here given way to a somewhat simpler and more readable one. But one gets the impression that these contrasts originate, at least in part, in the author just having a lot less to say here. While I learned something from nearly every page of A World at Arms, here Weinberg spends a great deal of time stating the obvious (Hitler would have been disappointed with the way Germany has gone since his death - you don't say!), and what in-depth analysis he does do is largely (though by no means entirely) repeated from A World at Arms.

The broad strokes of Weinberg's conclusions are nothing terribly new, even if some of the details are original to this book. In the short term, Stalin did the best of all the leaders discussed here; an antiquated colonialism coloured much of both Churchill and de Gaulle's thinking; the war was, unfortunately for Chiang, the best thing that ever happened to the Chinese Communist Party; and so on. Nothing that any serious student of the war doesn't already know. However, it is still well worth reading the book to see how Weinberg refines and adds nuance to these conclusions, and to read his refutations of some of the contrasting views that have on occasion been defended. And this book also has a strong human element that was sometimes lacking from its predecessor; in a book about some of the most cherished hopes of eight very specific individuals, one can't help but paint a picture of who they were as people, a luxury the sheer breadth of A World at Arms seldom allowed him.

This book will be an enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in the Second World War, even if it is only occasionally, rather than consistently, a thought-provoking one. But then again, perhaps it is a compliment to the characteristic clarity of Weinberg's analysis - or to the newfound clarity of his writing - that this book leaves one wanting more.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Gem To Be Treasured, by Our Finest Historian of World War Two 30 Dec 2009
By Peter Ramming - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This relatively short book is an enlightening addendum to Gerhard Weinberg's 1994 masterpiece, "A World at Arms: A Global History of WW2." It depicts, as its subtitle states, "the hopes of eight WW2 leaders" (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, Churchill, de Gaulle, and FDR) for the world each envisioned if they were victorious. Clearly Hitler and Mussolini were the big losers, and Stalin and Roosevelt the big "winners."
Weinberg's great strength as a historian is his extraordinary knowledge of the truly vast source material. ALL of his works are thoroughly footnoted, and the footnotes are often intriguing and eye-opening. Thus Weinberg can effectively back-up all his historical analysis, much of it groundbreaking more than 60 years after the end of WW2. Weinberg was a refugee from Hitler's Germany, presumably spoke German as his first language, and has worked in the archives since the 1940s. It was in the Nazi Archives that Weinberg discovered Hitler's little-known sequel to "Mein Kampf," written in the late 1920s. This work has subsequently been published.
But Weinberg is also an excellent writer of English historical prose. All his talents are well-deployed in "Visions of Victory." I will not detail all of Weinberg's revelations here, but comment briefly on the more "minor" figures of Mussolini, de Gaulle, and Chiang. Mussolini led a country woefully under-industrialized for his grand colonial designs. His folly resulted in hundreds of thousands of Italian troops perishing on the steppes of the USSR, and Germany effectively occupying non-Allied-controlled Italy from 1943-45, thus damning large areas of Italy to two additional years of destruction and starvation. De Gaulle did his best to frustrate Allied execution of the war; determined to hold on to France's colonial possessions in Indochina and Africa (leading to subsequent French defeats in Vietnam in 1954 and Algeria in 1962); but also represented the only credible French resistance to the Axis, and counterweight to Vichy. Chiang, though his regime was riddled with corruption, had a remarkably clear-eyed view of post-WW2 Asia, and thought it unwise for the U.S. to become involved in Indochina. Chiang also was not totally defeated, retreating to Formosa, which became the strong post-war U.S. ally of Taiwan and a successful market economy, and eventually democracy. Tojo was prime minister of the more significant power of Imperial Japan, and while initially reluctant to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, he was bouyed by the Wehrmacht's seemingly imminent conquest of Moscow, and "took the plunge" on Dec. 7, 1941. Within two weeks, the Red Army had staged its successful counter-offensive and defense of Moscow, losing close to a million soldiers, but also inflicting heavy losses on the Germans. But Tojo entertained grandiose plans for Japanese rule in North and South America, extending even into the Caribbean. And though Japan controlled vast petroleum, metals, agricultural and forest resources in the former French Indochina, Dutch East Indies, and Burma, these materials had to be transported thousands of miles to the Japanese home islands. This, of course, became exceedingly difficult as the U.S military swept into the western Pacific. Moreover, Japanese cooperation and coordination with its German "ally" was dismal for two such ambitious regimes.
Churchill was an extraordinary leader of Britain in its darkest days and years, but he was intent on maintaining the British Empire (including, of course, the Indian Subcontinent), which led to friction with the anti-colonial Roosevelt. Churchill was voted out of office in 1945, before the end of hostilities in the Pacific theater. Churchill did, significantly, succeed in persuading Stalin to allow Greece to be occupied by Britain. But six years of war had drained the British purse and people, and rationing would continue in the UK until 1951.
Stalin, though victorious and determined to hold onto as many spoils as he could obtain, ruled over a Soviet Union hobbled by massive human and material losses, and deprived of U.S. reconstruction aid by his anti-West hostility. In "Visions of Victory," we learn how Finland lost its Arctic coast, and Norway gained a border with the USSR; how Poland received Bialystok, but Stalin insisted on retaining Lvov in the Ukrainian S.S.R.; how Poland received the large German port of Stettin as recompense for Stalin retaining the former Prussian capital (and port), Koenigsberg; and how Stalin's assent to the North Korean invasion of South Korea solidified U.S. resolve to maintain American military forces in Western Europe and eventually agree to a rearmed (West) Germany.
FDR's post-war plans probably came closest to complete fulfillment. The U.N. was created (with Roosevelt insisting on China as a permanent member, to the bemusement of Churchill and de Gaulle); an international trade treaty (Bretton Woods) was agreed upon, along with the World Bank; the European colonial empires were progressively dismantled; but Poland's wartime democratic government-in-exile was prevented from assuming power as the Soviet Union set up communist puppets in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria; with communist regimes in the neighboring Yugoslavia and Albania.
But it is Adolf Hitler's "vision" for a victorious Germany that is most memorably elucidated in Weinberg's "Visions of Victory." Hitler's plans are sickening, and should disabuse anyone holding illusions (or fantasies) of Hitler's true intentions. Hitler's "Thousand-Year Reich" would be devoid of both Judaism and Christianity. All the Jews in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East were to be exterminated. Hitler intended to kill all political opponents, all Christian clergy, and even all his generals. The eradication of "useless-eaters" such as the handicapped, mentally ill, retarded, and even severely wounded German soldiers was to continue after Nazi victory, just as they had begun in 1940. The unlucky Slavic inhabitants of the eastern "Lebensraum" would be eliminated through starvation (as had already befallen millions of Red Army P.O.W.s) and slave labor, and, Weinberg speculates, would be subjected to mass-sterilization techniques being innovated in the Nazi death camps. German males would be allotted farms in the East on this newly-depopulated land, and, as the war continued to kill German men, these surviving Germanic males would be allowed multiple Germanic wives for rapid re-population. Liberal Arts education would be eliminated, to be replaced by military and physical-fitness training for future German soldiers. The buildings of the Reich would be of massive stones, designed to last more than a thousand years, and awe future generations as Roman, Greek, and Egyptian structures impress us today. Contracts for this stone were being finalized in Scandinavia in 1943, and concentration camps (e.g., Mathausen) were being positioned to provide slave-labor. Hitler's brave new world would be not only inhumane, but inhuman.
Instead of these further abominations, Nazi Germany's defeat led to 5.4 million German military deaths (the United States suffered ca. 410,000 military deaths in WW2: in Europe AND the Pacific), in addition to millions of maimed, and 3 million civilian deaths in the post-war expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. Germany lost 1/3 of its territory, including coal- and industry-rich Silesia, and agriculturally fertile Pomerania, Mark Brandenburg, and West and East Prussia. The industrial ports of Stettin, Danzig, and Koenigsberg were lost, and much industrial equipment stripped by the Soviets (to reconstruct their own denuded landscape), as well as by France and, to a lesser extent, Britain.
But West Germany developed into a robust post-war democratic federation, and, with substantial U.S. aid, embarked on a successful, massive urban and economic reconstruction program. Eventually the Federal German Republic was re-united with the formerly communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany), and today provides a solid, democratic anchor in Central Europe, and enjoys a strong friendship with previously vilified Poland, and even with Russia.
If Hitler had had his way, there would be no Germany today, as he gave orders from his bunker in Berlin in April 1945 for German cities and industry to be razed, convinced that the German people had failed him, and thus deserved to be vanquished by their stronger foes. Of course, all of this could have likely been avoided if the German people had not democratically elected Hitler "Fuhrer" in 1933.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great overview of Leaders' wartime goals 13 Jun 2014
By R. W. Levesque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gerhard Weinberg has written a very interesting little book (only 233 pages of text) on the end-state goals of each of the major leaders of WW2. The author examines the war aims of Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, Churchill, de Gaulle, and Roosevelt with the goal of showing how each envisioned a post-war world from a geographical, political, social, and, in some cases, urban planning perspective. For example, in the case of Hitler, Weinberg examines the dictator’s territorial goals vis-à-vis not only his desire for land in Eastern Europe, but also the future status of the British Isles, the Scandinavian countries, and how Europe’s colonies would be divided between Germany, Italy, and a notional, larger South African state, and the rest of the world. The author also reviews internal, to Germany, political and social changes, urban planning with a new capital of Germania at its heart, and how Germany would rule the states under its control. Hitler’s “means” to achieve his goals included a sequential series of wars with one building off the other, until he could transform the world, which puts some of his “irrational” decisions in context.

He does the same with the other world leaders with varying degrees of detail, depending on available sources. Unlike Hitler’s plan to change the world order, Mussolini and Tojo had a more limited perspective based more on traditional territorial acquisition without the desire to change the world’s political or social structure. Also, whereas Hitler intended to carry out a massive policy of racial extermination and ethnic cleansing, putting Germans on the acquired lands of Eastern Europe, Italy and Japan intended to rule their conquered territories with an Italian or Japanese elite at the top of the hierarchy.

Although the book has some weaknesses, as the author admits, these are based more on the lack of surviving sources or the lack of access to existing papers rather than any weakness from an analytical standpoint. At the same time Weinberg identifies other areas into which further research needs to be done.

Overall a very interesting book, and worth a read.
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