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Customer Review

on 23 September 2009
For this outstanding book, military historian Max Hastings researched in the archives of four countries and conducted 170 interviews with survivors of the war. Brilliantly written, it conveys the horror of war, without idealisation. Throughout, he makes realistic judgements.

For example, he writes of the Warsaw uprising, "the Polish commander wanted it both ways: the success of his revolt hinged upon recognising Russian military support, while its explicit objective was to deny the Soviet Union political authority over his country."

Hastings asserts, "the British Joint Intelligence Committee had concluded that, if the Poles carried out their long-planned uprising, it was doomed to failure in the absence of close co-operation with the Russians, which was unlikely to be forthcoming. It seems lamentable that, after making such an appreciation, the British failed to exert all possible pressure upon the Poles to abandon their fantasies."

He points out, "Despite some historian's idealisation of those who were ruthlessly returned to Stalin, the murderous record of Cossacks who served the Wehrmacht in northern Italy and Yugoslavia deserves more attention than it has received."

He observes, "Stalin's people were overwhelmingly responsible for destroying Hitler's armies." He cites American historian Forrest Pogue who wrote that the Soviet forces "broke Germany and made the [D-Day] landing possible." Hastings judges, `the single most impressive ground operation of the war' was Operation Bagration of July-August 1944, and Stalin was `the most successful warlord of the Second World War'.

The key dilemma at the end of the war in Europe was whether the Anglo-American forces should try to take Berlin, which was a hundred miles inside the agreed Soviet occupation zone. Hastings applauds Eisenhower's decision not to try, and shows that no Anglo-American action in spring 1945 could, or should, have undone the agreements reached at the Teheran and Yalta conferences.
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