Top critical review
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Too short to bite
on 26 December 2009
This short book concentrates very specifically on politics a few days either side of the German attack on Poland and on the expectations of the leadership of Germany, Poland, France and Britain.
The style achieves a balance between being easily readable and rigorous.
The author's thesis is that rather than the outbreak of a general war being foreordained, both sides suspected the other of bluffing. Hitler wanted only a local war (against Poland) in 1939 and given his earlier diplomatic successes, thought France and Britain would back down. France and Britain assumed that against their slightly bigger combined war potential, Germany would not be so rash as to seriously follow through with a full scale war and Hitler could be made to back down by their warning that they would honour their pledge to protect Poland. He emphasises the role of personality, exhaustion and intuition in the diplomatic exchanges leading up to the eventual allied declarations of war.
The focus is likely to be too narrow for those with a casual interest in WWII. But for those with a deeper interest, this book is unsatisfying. Even with its narrow focus, it's so short that it leaves out relevant detail available from more general books. Another shortcoming is the absence of a timeline to make the narrative easier to follow.