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World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West Hardcover – April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Rees commendably keeps his reader-viewers in touch with a history inexorably receding from living memory." — Booklist

“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.” —Sir Max Hastings, author of Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945
 
“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
 
"Readers of this book… are in for a shock…This book illuminates many shady corners of Britain's and America's dealings with Stalin and each other. The famous trust between Churchill and Roosevelt is shown to be far from perfect.”–Peter Lewis, Daily Mail

“This splendid book centres on the question of how personality affects historical change. The answer is plain: when all account is taken of structural determinants in history, key individuals played roles that were unique and indispensable.”–Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution

“Fascinating and engaging...highly readable.” –Jewish Book World 

About the Author

Laurence Rees is the writer and producer of the BBC/PBS television series World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West. His previous work includes the acclaimed television series and books The Nazis: A Warning from History, War of the Century, Horror in the East, and Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution," for which he received the British Book Award for History Book of the Year. His other awards include the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award and the Grierson Award. He lives in England.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030737730X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377302
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mannie Liscum on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West by Laurence Reis is a decent attempt to better illuminate the complex relationships and political-social results of the strange alliance between the Western democracies and the communist Soviet Union in WWII. It is easy for most 21st Century readers (especially Western) to now see how `strange' indeed this alliance was, how it could have resulted so easily in fracture, and how less than desirable outcomes resulted from it. However, at the time this alliance was needed to defeat Hitler's legions these piece of hindsight weren't even clear foresight, and even in cases when the foresight proved apt the common Nazi foe was deemed sufficiently menacing to justify the predicted social and political fallout. What Reis attempts to do in World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West is to highlight the interaction, how they arose and were maintained, and what resulted from them. He also attempts make sense of the sacrifices the Western allies made in dealing with the Soviet `devil' that was Stalin and his regime.

Separated into eight basic elements (an Introduction, six main chapters and a Postscript), World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West is by-and-large a well organized read that is likely to provide a decent primmer to the Western-Soviet alliance to those less versed in this crucial aspect of the Second World War. Yet, at times Reis loses focus in ways that obscure his points.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schranck on June 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mr Rees has written a critical book of the events and relations of the three leaders that made up the Grand Alliance
This narrative is highly focused on the machinations of the three leaders in order to propagate their agenda at the expense of the other two. Once you read this you'll definitely come away thinking that this alliance was one of perceived necessity and not convenience or friendship. Mr Churchill knew Britain couldn't defeat Germany alone as well as keep the empire together so he courted the two major powers to come to his aid. President Roosevelt, the ultimate politician would try to supply Russia in order to keep her going and in so doing reduce the number of American casualties in order to win in 1944. For both of these leaders they would forgo their moral values and the Atlantic Charter agreement of August 1941 to appease Stalin. Stalin who outplayed the others in this world class poker game needed huge quantities of supplies and even more urgently a second front. While never forgetting the differences in heritage as well as ideology between Stalin and the other two, the Soviet dictator was able to manipulate them to overlook his brutal deeds, break their moral codes and fulfill most of his wishes. (Hitler and Nazism are not part of this book and the cover is a puzzle.)

Mr Rees has done his homework including using recently available material from Russia to write a fairly comprehensive history of these leaders. The book starts soon after Churchill becomes Prime Minister who has to decide whether to follow Halifax's advice to sue for peace with Hitler or to carry on the cause of defiance and try to hold on until America came into the war.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Henry Cohen on October 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, which is a page-turner from which I learned much. It is about the horrors that Stalin perpetrated during the war, such as the Katyn massacre and the relocation of the Crimean Tatars, and Churchill and Roosevelt's willingness to not notice them. Rees portrays Churchill and Roosevelt, after their meetings with Stalin, as being genuinely impressed with Stalin as a person, and as not even thinking about the fact that they have just been conversing with history's greatest mass murderer. (After all, after Hitler invaded Russia, Stalin became THEIR mass murderer.) Stalin comes across as cleverer than Churchill or Roosevelt in his ability to dupe them. Rees' overall point is to condemn Churchill and Roosevelt for allowing Stalin to take over Eastern Europe after the war. By the way, the word "Nazis" in the subtitle is misleading, because the book has little about them.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By N. Ravitch on August 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We know the criminal records of Hitler and Stalin, two of the worst evildoers in history. But we have known relatively little about the very mixed record of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, our supposed glorious heroes, when it came to the prosecution of World War II.

Laurence Rees has given us a very readable account of the behind-the-scenes bargaining and machinations of allied leaders, interspersed with memories of ordinary Soviet, Polish, and other participants in the war.

Churchill, despite his disastrous advocacy of the Gallipoli disaster in WWI apparently had learned nothing about how to conduct a successful incursion on enemy coastlines when he advocated the invasion of Italy by allied troops. This tied down troops in a terrain not suited for swift victorious action and postponed the Normandy landings for a long time. Churchill also had been one of the most anti-Bolshevik leaders in the early 20th Century; he had urged the allied intervention against the Bolshevik regime and mistrusted the Soviets all through his career. Yet as Prime Minister during WWII he was willing to betray the Poles who valiantly fought the Nazis and the Soviets, to rearrange their borders without their consent or participation, to yield up most of eastern Europe to Stalin without getting anything in return. He thought he could "handle" Stalin. Roosevelt had a Wilsonian vision of a world assembly of nations, the UN, and this vision -- delusion might be more accurate -- took first place in his thinking, causing him as with Churchill to betray the Poles and other peoples of eastern Europe, since he also thought he could "handle" Stalin.
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