World War Two: Behind Closed Doors: Behind Closed Doors - Stalin, the Nazis and the West Hardcover – 15 Sep 2008
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"Laurence Rees, who created a memorable series on Auschwitz, now seeks to address some less familiar issues of the second world war, throwing light upon its darker nooks and crannies...Rees is vastly well informed about the second world war. His judgments can seldom be faulted...there are many surprises here, and much good detail....The relationship between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill makes an ugly story, and Rees tells it extraordinarily well. -- Andrew Roberts, The Sunday Times
"a thoughtful and thought-provoking introduction to many of the shadier deals of the Second World War...The real virtue of this book lies in its ability to blend the experience of ordinary people into the narrative of public events...memorable in the extreme" -- Richard Overy, Literary Review
"a thoughtful and thought-provoking introduction to many of the shadier deals of the Second World War...The real virtue of this book lies in its ability to blend the experience of ordinary people into the narrative of public events...memorable in the extreme"See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Laurence Rees has done an admirable if difficult job of explaining how Eastern Europe was not liberated after the War, but thrown to the wolves. In part this is was possible, because of the new political reality post 1990 in Europe. Previously documents that were not accessable can be studied and eye witnesses can discuss openly what happened when previously they were in danger of persecution. It also reflects the influence that was exerted to keep these events "quiet".
The Poles especially have had difficulty getting their side of the story across, because of sympathy among some in the West for the Communists of the Soviet Union and left-wing ideology in general, irrespective of the appalling human rights record in places such as Russia and China.
Thankfully authors such as Laurence Rees, Norman Davies, Niall Ferguson and Timothy Snyder, among others are prepared to go some way to righting the crooked picture that has been painted of some aspects of the war era.
We are shown that Churchill and Roosevelt went out of there way to build a personal relationship with Stalin. This was often done at the expense of the other leader. Agreements were made that weakened the position of each Western leader as they set out to get the best from the discussions.
We also find that neither Churchill or Roosevelt understood that Stalin was a dictator and therefore not subject to public opinion or pressure from other members of the politburo. In fact they chose to believe that the Soviet leader was able o change position on subjects and alter his policy to suit his own ends.
Two of the biggest shocks were that both Churchill and Roosevelt were happy to sell the Polish nation down the river and unilaterally agree to giving Stalin the Eastern half of Poland that he'd taken in 1939. In addition we see that the "special relationship", that we all grew up believing in, never actually existed.
Roosevelt was happy to belittle Churchill and to make decisions without his involvement. Equally Churchill had less influence over Roosevelt than we had previously thought. There was no doubt which country was the senior and the ultimate powerbroker here.
This is a highly recommended read and is fast paced - on occasion a little to fast as you seem to move through long periods of time in a few pages.
The personalities of Stalin Churchill Roosevelt and Truman are made clear and the effect that had on the decisions they reached.
The stories of individuals who took part and suffered in the fighting or deportations juxtaposed with the machinations of the politicians and their egos makes uncomfortable reading. Some of the ordinary people's stories of injustice and ill treatment would make a book in themselves
After reading the book I felt I understood why Truman used the atomic bomb and why the Cold War was necessary, things that have always puzzled me.
Now I hope Laurence Rees will turn his attention to the effect that spies had on the outcome of the war. From reading this book you get some sense of how highly placed some of these were
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