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Customer Review

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Word War II, May 10, 2002
This review is from: The Origins of The Second World War (Paperback)
This book examines the battle of words of diplomats involved with appeasing and then confronting Hitler before the real war. Hitler was not a madman warmonger, Taylor declares, but rather an opportunist whose stategy was one of waiting for something advantageous politically to happen rather than willing it to happen. He was a master of bluff, presenting himself as a leader of a country greatly wronged by the Versailles Treaty, which the English especially agreed with. He would recite the injustices of the treaty and would make pleas to have the land that was lost after the treaty returned to Germany. Other times he would threaten war, although Taylor claims that Hitler and Germany were not prepared for war and Hitler had made no plans to conquer Europe, except maybe to take the Ukraine. To quote Taylor: "In considering German armament we escape the mystic regions of Hitler's psychology and find the answer in the realm of fact. The answer is clear. The state of German armament in 1939 gives the decisive proof that Hitler was not contemplating general war, and probably not intending war at all."
Taylor looks through the diplomatic records of the European countries and finds that the English especially wanted to give Hitler what he wanted to avoid war. This book is not the most exciting reading in the world, given that he covers the endless political maneuverings of different diplomats from different countries. Indeed, it's a bit difficult to keep up with all the names and countries and what their stances were. A parody of the writing of the book would be: "England said that, but France wouldn't go along with it because they we're allied with Poland, but the Soviets we're also interested in alliance with Poland, which deeply disturbed Italy, who then petitioned England to change their mind and give Germany one more chance..." Taylor sometimes shows a very dry, subtle wit as he covers the actions of diplomats who desperately seek peace, but keep moving inexorably closer to war. Taylor also does not cover how Russia and the US got into the war and why Germany declared war on them, giving the reader the sense that the book is incomplete. He mentions that Hitler was unethical, wicked, antisemitic, and not a man of his word, but he generally de-emphasizes the psychological examination of Hitler.
Taylor thinks that war came out of the mistakes made at the treaty of Versailles and it began because these problems were not solved. He also states that the origins the second world war had not been sufficiently studied and his book fills the gap in the research on WWII. It is a good book for studying diplomacy and the grievances of Germany over the Versailles treaty. Hitler's racist doctrines and how they affected the war are really not the focus of the book--and this probably a deficit. Taylor says that Mein Kamph was merely violent talk that many leaders have engaged in historically, but have not acted on.
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