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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study of how decisions were made
Kershaw examines ten choices that changed the world between the spring of 1940 and the end of 1941. Each of them could have been different (though Kershaw shows that the alternatives, usually lengthily and therefore somewhat repetitively rehearsed, were not very appealing, and sometimes not even sensible), and had they been different, the history of the Second World War...
Published on 29 May 2008 by Ralph Blumenau

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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine idea badly executed
Kershaw's book is a great idea: what were the decisions taken in 1940 - 41 which ultimately decided the course of the Second World War? What was the context behind these decisions and how did they play out? There's a great deal of scholarship in here and each chapter is well-researched, even if the conclusions could be summarised much more concisely than here...
Published on 23 Oct. 2007 by Dogbertd


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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study of how decisions were made, 29 May 2008
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Kershaw examines ten choices that changed the world between the spring of 1940 and the end of 1941. Each of them could have been different (though Kershaw shows that the alternatives, usually lengthily and therefore somewhat repetitively rehearsed, were not very appealing, and sometimes not even sensible), and had they been different, the history of the Second World War and of the world following it would of course have been very different, too.

The first choice Kershaw examines is that of Britain refusing to negotiate with Hitler after the fall of France. The decision to fight on alone was taken by the inner war cabinet of only five men. Among them only the Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax, argued strongly for exploring possible peace terms. The others (and the members of the outer cabinet whom Churchill briefly addressed rather than consulted) were won over by the new prime minister's charisma.

The British refusal to negotiate surprised Hitler. He believed that the British were holding out only because they hoped that the United States would eventually come into the war (which Hitler also believed) and that the Soviet Union might act against Hitler. The second of the choices was Hitler's conclusion that therefore he needed swiftly to attack and defeat the Soviet Union (which he thought would be `child's play') before he could force Britain to make peace and thereby also prevent US intervention. Kershaw stresses that Hitler had no cabinet meetings after February 1938, and all major decisions were essentially his own, often in defiance of even his military advisers. The plans of the German navy to force Britain to make peace by attacks in the Mediterranean were briefly considered by Hitler as a supplement, but not as an alternative, to the invasion of Russia. Kershaw believes that from Hitler's point of view, the attack on Russia was logical.

There is a fascinating chapter on the choices made by Mussolini: to enter the war in 1940 against the pessimistic warnings of the military, of his foreign minister Count Ciano, and of the king; followed by the even more fateful decision to attack Greece in 1941, this time egged on by Ciano who wanted to extend his quasi-fiefdom in Albania, but against the advice of the military and against German attempts to restrain him. Three times as many men were sent to Greece as were then in the Italian army in Libya. Had they been sent to Libya instead, the outcome of the African campaign might have been dramatically different.

Then there are the fateful choices made by Stalin: the emasculation of his armed forces in the purges of 1937; his pact with Hitler in 1939; and his refusal to the very last moment to act on intelligence information that Hitler would attack in 1941 rather than, as Stalin had anticipated, in 1942 at the earliest. Here again Kershaw is careful to examine alternative choices that could have been made, concluding that actually Stalin's choices narrowed greatly after the Purge.

Two chapters plot in great detail the slow but steady involvement of the United States in helping Britain with Lend-Lease, underlining Roosevelt's anxiety to do everything short of war to support Britain, even though Lend-Lease was likely to make American entry into the war almost unavoidable. Although public and congressional opinion supported these measures, Roosevelt dared not ask Congress for a declaration of war, fearing that at worst he would be defeated there, or at best that he would take a divided nation into the war. In all the other chapters decisions were made essentially by one man (in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union) or by a small elite (in Japan - though with much debate within that elite -, and, in the first chapter, by Britain). Roosevelt was the only leader whose scope of action was restricted by democratic institutions. Only Pearl Harbour and Hitler's declaration of war on the United States resolved this dilemma for him.

Two chapters trace the choices was made by the Japanese. The first had been to attack China. China was too big a morsel to swallow whole, but enough to set Japan on a collision course with the United States. The second choice was to take advantage of the defeat of France and the expected defeat of Britain by planning for an expansion towards the south, deliberately running the risk that this was likely to bring the United States into the war. The debate inside the Japanese armed forces about this policy will be unfamiliar to most readers, and continued almost up to Pearl Harbour.

Immediately after Pearl Harbour, Hitler chose to declare war on the United States. Kershaw finds that decision more explicable than most other historians do, on the assumption that, sooner rather than later, the United States would have declared war on Germany even while at war with Japan. It seems to this reviewer the least convincing argument in the book.

The last `choice' Kershaw examines is the destruction of the Jews of Europe. This had always been in Hitler's mind, especially since he saw the Jews as responsible for Germany's defeat in the First World War and as steering the policies of Germany's two main enemies, the United States and Bolshevik Russia in the Second. The only question was how this destruction was to be accomplished. Hitler's choice was of course fateful for the Jews; but, unlike all the decisions described in the other chapters, it did not affect the outcome of the war; and the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, which sanctioned the `Final Solution', also falls just outside the period in the book's subtitle.

Only this last chapter lacks that tension of decision-making which gives the rest of the book such compelling quality.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The unpredictability inherent in human affairs, 26 July 2007
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product". Eric Hoffer

Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940 - 1941" is an elegantly-written masterful work of history. In "Fateful Choices" Kershaw cast a critical eye over ten decisions taken during a 19-month period at the beginning of the Second World War that, according to Kershaw, determined not just the outcome of the war but also (in good part) the structure of the post-war world.

Taken as a whole, the greatest value in Kershaw's book is to be found in his comparison of the decision-making process engaged in by the five nations involved. Three of those nations (Germany, Italy, and the USSR) were totalitarian states where decisions were invariably made by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin with little input other than sycophancy from those around them. Collective decision-making was the norm in the United States and Britain. Both Roosevelt and Churchill (more so during the early months of Churchill's leadership) had cabinet members who were not afraid to speak up and challenge their President of PM's approach to a specific issue. Japan's decision-making process was also a group process but Kershaw does an excellent job of explaining how the dominance of Japan's military created a very different decision making dynamic than that found in the U.S. and Britain. Kershaw advances a compelling argument that the dysfunctional decision-making methodology found in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USSR led to some disastrous choices.

In each chapter, Kershaw starts with the decision in question but leads the reader back to a logical starting point and then through the series of events leading up to that decision. It seems axiomatic, but Kershaw adroitly shows how previous events have a way of narrowing ones options so that what may in retrospect look like an irrational choice is, however, one of the few options left at the time. What Kershaw has also done, and done very well, is to examine these decisions in the context of the times and on the basis of the information available at the time rather than through the prism of knowledge gained by historians after the fact.

Taken individually, Kershaw's examination of these ten decisions provides the reader with a wealth of information. For example, Kershaw's examination of the British war cabinet in May, 1940 to stay in the war and not seek a settlement with Hitler was very informative. Churchill had only been PM for two weeks and had no real power base. His war cabinet included former PM Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, two of the architects of Britain's policy of appeasement. It is no small bit of irony that it was Chamberlain who eventually sided with Churchill's argument to stay in the war and that Chamberlain's decision caused Halifax to make the vote unanimous.

I was also struck by Kershaw's look at Mussolini's unilateral decision to invade Greece. As Kershaw notes, the resulting conflagration in Greece in the Balkans caused Hitler to delay his invasion of the USSR by five weeks. Kershaw does not adhere to the argument (advanced by Hitler as the war came tumbling back on his head) that this delay may have cost Hitler victory on the Eastern Front. However, Kershaw than moves on to the discussion of the Japanese government's decision to turn its interest towards southern Asia (including Indochina, Indonesia, and Singapore) rather than advance its claims against eastern Russia in the north. This decision allowed Stalin to relocate troops and munitions from its positions in the Far East to help mount the Red Army's first real counterattack as the Russian winter began to slow the advancing German armies. Those two decisions certainly had to have had an impact on the outcome of the war on the eastern front.

Kershaw devotes two chapters to Roosevelt's relationship with Britain in the months before the U.S. entered the war. Kershaw does an exemplary job with this discussion. I also very much appreciated his examination of Japan's decision-making before the war. Most of my reading on the war has focused on Europe and Kershaw provides a lot of information in a concise and eminently readable way.

All in all, Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices" is a compelling book. It is a book that manages to combine excellent academic research (the book is immaculately annotated and contains an extensive bibliography) with a writing style that makes this book accessible to any reader with an interest in the period.

Highly recommended. L. Fleisig

The ten Fateful Choices that comprise Kershaw's work are:
1. The British War Cabinet's decision in May, 1940 to continue the war rather than negotiate a settlement with Hitler;
2. Hitler decides to attack the Soviet Union.
3. Japan decides to seize the "Golden Opportunity" and turn south, going after the colonial empires of the countries that have fallen to Hitler.
4. Mussolini decides to join the war on Hitler's side to grab a share of the spoils.
5. Roosevelt decides to lend a helping hand to England.
6. Stalin decides he knows best and ignores all the clear signals that Germany is going to invade.
7. Roosevelt decides to wage undeclared war.
8. Japan decides to go to war against the United States.
9. Hitler decides to declare war on the USA.
10. Hitler decides to commit genocide.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well-written, but no breaking news, 7 Nov. 2007
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This is a very well-written narrative that you will find hard to put down once you have started reading. At the same time, those already fairly familiar with the history of WW II will find much that they already knew. For them it is hardly a surprise that Hitler reached his decisions without consulting anyone, that Stalin refused to believe that Russia was about to be attacked, that Mussolini was obsessed with the fear of being left out of the glory and spoils of the war that Hitler seemed to be winning hands down, and that it took Rooseveld a lot of cajoling to get his isolationist country into the war. But these are stories very well told, to the extent that you are annoyed that the story simply stops once the decision has been reached. But of course that is the point of this book.
Certainly for those who only know the big picture on WW II-history, this book provides valuable insight in how its major developments came about.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb and lucid history, 17 July 2007
By 
Ian C (Staffordshire) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who has considered WWII would have thought "Why did they do that?" about some of the choices made. Ian Kershaw's book answers that question for 10 of the most important decisions, each of which shaped our world today.

He does so with a rigour that fully gets to the heart of each decision from the perspective of those making it, without the knowledge (that we have) of what the other side was thinking.

He also writes in a style that brings the reader along through complicated events with a wide range of players, many of whom will be unfamiliar except to scholars of the period.

I have read no other history that has left me with such a clear understanding of the why, and not just the what.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very precious thing, studying decisions which decided the fate of whole humanity for 50 next years - and even more..., 14 May 2013
By 
Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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I read this book with real pleasure and I learned a lot, even if I am quite familiar with this period of history.

Ian Kershaw had an excellent idea when he decided to focus on this crucial period of World War II between May 1940 and December 1941 during which indeed almost all most important decisions were taken which would determine the fate of the whole humanity for the next 50 years. Author also very well establishes connections between those decisions, showing how each one of earlier ones greatly helped to decide the later choices.
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The ten Fateful Choices that comprise Kershaw's work are:

1. The British War Cabinet's decision to continue the war rather than negotiate a settlement with Hitler.

This was maybe the most difficult and the most crucial of all the ten decisions described here. In my opinion, there is no doubt that British leaders held in their hands in May and June 1940 the fate not only of their country but that of whole humanity. Settling with Hitler in June 1940 would mean safety and peace for United Kingdom, but Nazi domination for many, many years to come for continental Eurasia, as it would also most probably seal the fate of Soviet Union... The decision to fight on taken unanimously by Churchill, Fairfax, Attlee, Chamberlain and Greenwood saved humanity from Nazism and Fascism - but as all five men knew, it was also a death sentence for British Empire... All the circumstances of this terrible dilemma are here well described.

2. Hitler decides to attack the Soviet Union.

Once again, a well described point, establishing firmly that Hitler decided to attack Soviet Union soon after his victory over France and decided to do it as soon as possible as the result of British persistence to resist him. In this point however author describes also very well that once United Kingdom decided to fight on, Hitler found himself without a plan and as a consequence he wasted all oportunities of alternate strategies (especially the Mediterranean/Near Eastern one) in futile and half-hearted negotiations with Spain, Italy and Vichy France...

3. Japan decides to seize the "Golden Opportunity" and turn south, going after the colonial empires of the countries that have fallen to Hitler.

A very interesting point which especially well illustrates how extremely weird and complicated was the process of decision taking in Japanese government in those times. This decision was not entirely irrational or wrong, because even if it placed Japan on a direct collision course with United States and United Kingdom, there was still room for future negotiations. One thing however, which I will never understand, is why the heck the Japanese, when occupying French Indochina, failed to secure in the same time the strategically crucial New Caledonia...

4. Mussolini decides to join the war on Hitler's side to grab a share of the spoils.

The decision itself seemed rational at this time - but the abysmal performance of Italian army in North Africa and Greece transformed it into a disaster not only for Mussolini but also, very luckily for the rest of the world, for Hitler. In fact, in a certain way, the only thing that Mussolini managed to do when entering the war, was to HELP the allies and doom Axis...

5. Roosevelt decides to lend a helping hand to England.

A very good account of Roosevelt relentless but extremely cunning manoeuvring to push his country into war. Roosevelt knew immediately in 1939 that war in Europe was not only a problem but also an occasion to seize to establish American dominion over the planet - and he was determined to do it at all costs! In fact, he wanted to do exactly the same thing that the Japanese and Mussolini wanted - get his share of spoils. But unlike the Japanese and Italians, he had the means of his ambitions...

6. Stalin decides he knows best and ignores all the clear signals that Germany is going to invade.

After five finally rather rational choices, here we enter the realm of stubborn folly. A great point, well described - but not explained as irrational madness can simply not be explained. It cost Soviet Union millions and millions of perfectly avoidable casualties, both military and civilian...

7. Roosevelt decides to wage undeclared war.

Once the possibility of Axis triumph over Soviet Union and Hitler's domination over the whole Eurasia appeared, Roosevelt found it much easier to steer his country towards war. He just needed a priming charge, to detonate the enormous potential of USA. By pushing Japan to the limit with the embargo and pushing III Reich to the limits with aggressive moves in Atlantic Roosevelt was certain that one of those countries will oblige him by attacking first. And he was not disappointed...

8. Japan decides to go to war against the United States.

Unlike what author states, I believe this decision was not as irrational as it may seem and I think Japan could have fought USA to a standstill awaiting German victory in Europe - but the initial Japanese strategic war plan was so wrong that it simply guaranteed American victory. Also, between June and December 1942, a certain admiral Yamamoto simply handed to the Americans two major victories, at Midway and in naval Guadalcanal battles and therefore greatly shortened the war...

9. Hitler decides to declare war on the USA.

Author describes this point very, very well indeed, offering, I believe, a good insight into Hitler's mind and states here that war between USA and III Reich was in December 1941 simply unavoidable. Well, maybe. But still I think that this is another case of irrational folly. It was in Hitler's best understood interest to delay war with USA as long as it was humanly possible - instead he decided to make things easy for Roosevelt and simply declared war himself... Quem Deus vult perdere, dementat prius...

10. Hitler decides to commit genocide.

The most irrational and the most abject and evil decision EVER taken in whole human history. There is no rational explanation for this move, which was made by Hitler for reasons which could be fully understood by his own sick mind. Author couldn't of course explain WHY Hitler did it - but the whole ideological process which brought Hitler to take this step and the circumstances in which his orders were given to his henchmen is well described.

I personally always had the impression, that even if Holocaust started already on 22 June 1941 on Nazi-occupied Soviet territories, it was Hitler's defeat at Moscow in December 1941 that decided him to launch the extermination of Jews in the whole Europe, because deep inside him he already knew at that moment that he was going to lose - and he wanted to make certain, that Jews, whom for some irrational reason he considered as his deadliest enemies, would not survive him, so they cannot laugh at his defeat...
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If there is one more decision that I believe could and should figure here it is the choice Hitler made to treat Ukrainians, Belarussians and Russians like chattel and slaves, rather than potential allies. Hitler had a great opportunity to recruit hundreds of thousands of devoted soldiers for his fight against Stalin, as in many regions, especially in Ukraine and Belarus, German soldiers were initially welcomed with flowers by civilian populations! And even many Russians were ready to join the Germans (some actually did) if offered a perspective of future non-communist Russian government. Instead, in barely six months Hitler turned most of populations in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia against the Germans by his crazy racial ideology and the incredible, absurd brutality of his security forces...

Another strong candidate would be the decision taken by Roosevelt on 9 October 1941 to approve the atomic program, with the first meeting of S-1 Uranium Committee held on 18 December 1941, during which it was decided to develop an atomic bomb based on uranium. It could also cover the point of co-operation with United Kingdom on atomic problem, a co-operation boldly refused by the British in January 1942 - something that would be greatly, greatly regretted by all British Prime Ministers from 1945 to 1956...

CONCLUSION: I liked this book a lot, I read it with real pleasure and I learned a lot. I am going to keep it preciously for a future re-reading and later for my children. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten decisions that changed the world indeed, 15 Mar. 2009
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In "Fateful Choices", Ian Kershaw looks at ten decisions taken between the Spring of 1940 and December 1941, which have shaped the second World War and indeed the world since then. In doing so, the author looks at how the decision makers arrived at what they eventually decided upon and what other options they had in deciding on the subject matter.

What he doesn't do is to take the decisions for them, which would result in history turning out differently that it has, also known as fiction or fantasy. Besides, this would be a pretty useless exercise for a historian and Ian Kershaw says as much in his `Forethoughts'.

In detail, the ten decisions he looks at are:
Great Britain decides to fight on;
Hitler decides to attack the Soviet Union;
Japan decides to seize the `Golden Opportunity';
Mussolini decides to grab his share;
Roosevelt decides to lend a hand; (a rather snappy title I think this is)
Stalin decides he knows best;
Roosevelt decides to wage undeclared war;
Japan decides to go to war;
Hitler decides to declare war on the United States; and
Hitler decides to kill the Jews.

It is of course possible to add other fateful choices. Alternatively, you could make up your own top ten but I would wager that your list would not be very different from that of Ian Kershaw.

`Hitler decides to kill the Jews' I found an odd choice. Granted it was a rather fateful choice, but it had no impact on the outcome of WWII and the obvious alternative would have been not to do it, although I would agree that Hitler would not have been able to take this decision without pulling the ideological carpet from underneath himself.

The most intriguing chapter I found `Mussolini decides to grab his share'. His attack on Greece was supposed to show Hitler that Il Duce was just as good a military man as the German dictator. But by messing it up he forced Hitler to intervene and postpone his attack on the USSR by a month and that month delay may have cost him victory or so it would appear from reading the book. Hence, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Il Duce's inferiority complex vis-à-vis Hitler has gone some way towards helping the Allies win the War in Europe. But I suggest you read the chapter yourself and decide whether you would agree or disagree with my notion.

Language-wise, this is an academic study and it reads like one. Kershaw packs a lot of information into his sentences, but with a reasonable understanding of the English language you should have no difficulties following the red line in this book.

All told I found this book excellent and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this period of history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well-presented study of some key WW2 decision points, 28 Oct. 2014
By 
TREX (Dublin, Ireland.) - See all my reviews
This book posits ten seemingly momentous choices presented to WWII political leaders in the period 1940-41. Most of the decisions made helped to tip an initially Western European conflict into an irreversibly continental one; and eventually a global one. Seen from afar, it might appear that if these decisions were made differently then a wider conflict might have been averted.
An established authority on WW2 and the workings of the Third Reich, Professor Kershaw explores the process of each decision in a manner that is generally chronological but with consideration of the wider economic, social, political and bureaucratic contexts.
He covers Britain's decision to fight on after the fall of France; Hitler's decisions to invade USSR, declare war on USA and kill the Jews; Roosevelt's manoeuvrings to support Britain short of entering the war; Japan's decision to annex Indonesia and later attack the USA; and Mussolini's vainglorious move into Greece.

The author's sources are extensive and respectable. His analysis of decision alternatives is generally cogent enough. Many historians show the link between the post-WW1 economic crises and nationalistic regimes in both Europe and Japan. So too with Kershaw, who also details the economic logic to Nazi expansionism as well as the material & production constraints affecting some of Hitler's war gambits.

I felt that in the chapter on Britain's decision to fight on alone that he gave Halifax's antics a very indulgent verdict. Personally, I wished he'd wondered (in print) just HOW a bloke like Halifax - even allowing for his shire estate advantages - could have risen to such a level of national responsibility so far beyond the merits of his spirit.

The most important - and, to me, most moving - chapter is the last one on Hitler's policy of annihilation of the Jewish peoples of Europe. I had not realised the extent to which this policy was developed and propagated through euphemisms, signals and response-actions. Proffering suggested "solutions" to "the Jewish question" thus became the sure means of advancement through the Nazi hierarchy for ego-ambitionists like Heydrich.

Kershaw's writing style is a bit '50s-ish but he mostly avoids long sentences, so it's an easy enough read.

If you are into critical political decision points of WW2, this book is worth a look over.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Choices or inevitability, Kershaw argues the case, 22 Jun. 2010
Ian Kershaw analyses ten decisions taken in the early stages of the second world war and, in most cases, reaches the conclusion that there really was no real choice after all, that for a variety of reasons the path chosen was inevitable. Alongside that, Kershaw clearly shows that it was so often the will of an individual that held sway and made the final choice, though not always for rational reasons.

Churchill stubbornly and calculatingly decided that one might as well go down fighting Hitler as capitulate, and he persuaded his contemporaries who were minded to seek terms by using arguments built up over time and by using the course of events unfolding on the continent to conclude that no real alternative existed. Mussolini on the other hand, used little if any rational argument when he elected to invade Greece, indeed, Kershaw makes it quite clear that he was simply driven by hubris and a childs pugilistic response to always coming off second best, in this case to Hitler, in making his fateful decision.

What Kershaw does superbly is to explain why these decisions were so momentous in the longer term, just why they determined the fate of their maker and others. Hitler's invasion of Russia, his opening up of a second front, was the key to his ultimate defeat, although Zukov's persuading Stalin to stand and fight was clearly a turning point. Meanwhile Roosevelt's decision not to turn his back on Britain inevitably led to the US eventually entering the war in Europe. Perhaps amongst all the episodes the Japanese decision to attack the United States is the most sadly fatalistic. Kershaw's analysis shows that all the Japanese high command knew they could not be victorious in such an encounter, that ultimately their resources were simply insufficeint to overcome the wealth of America and that such a course of action must fail, and yet they went ahead anyway because the alternative, in their judgement to be relegated to an also-ran on the world's stage, was unacceptable.

Kershaw's style is methodical, he makes the case for examining each decision and then sets about analysing the background, context, individuals involved and the options, before explaining why a particular path was chosen. At times this becomes a little repetitive, but it does serve to reinforce the key points.

One case examines a decision that was not taken for militaristic purposes, the anihilation of the Jews by the Nazis. Possibly the most momentous and certainly the most horrific of them all, this cemented a judgement in history that towers over all the others. Kershaw's step-by-step approach to the inevitability of the "final solution" is a chilling portrayal of how, by exploiting circumstances and personal prejudice, a modern nation can be persuaded that the wholesale extermination of a race of people is a justifiable act.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The decisions that led to world war, 18 Dec. 2013
Ian Kershaw undoubtedly knows his area of expertise like the back of his hand. In this book, he steps away from his subject of choice - Nazi Germany - to look at the wider Second World War. In particular, Kershaw examines the "fateful choices" made by world leaders during 1940 and 1941. It's an intriguing idea. Many historians and readers will come up with their own list of key decisions and may have a few quibbles with Kershaw's choices - did Stalin really decide to "trust Hitler" in 1941, or was that really a decision from 1939? Also, Kershaw sticks with high foreign policy and doesn't consider too much military history - could there have been a chapter on Hitler deciding to cancel his invasion of Britain plans? It means that there is an emphasis why various countries entered the war and how it turned into a world war rather than a European conflict. Kershaw delivers his thoughts with plenty of convincing evidence to back it up. As always with Kershaw, the writing style is a little long-winded and overly complex, but this is still worth persevering with.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read, 21 Aug. 2010
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This is one of the best books I've read on the Second World War. It was like reading a thriller; I couldn't put it down even knowing how it ended. This book clarified for me the events leading up to the war. I had many misconceptions of how it came about. For instance I had always thought that Hitler was just nuts for not invading Great Britain and for going ahead to invade the Soviet Union. Now I understand the reasons. I can understand Hitler's position and thinking which prompted his actions. I must mention that Kershaw's writing is very reader friendly. He writes in a conversational style even using a slang expression now and again. It is anything but pedantic. This book is a thriller. Anyone who wants to understand the greatest and most destructive debacle of recent centuries can do no better than to start here.
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