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How Hitler Could Have Won World War II: The Fatal Errors That Led to Nazi Defeat Hardcover – December 5, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Adolf Hitler rose to political prominence by quickly identifying his opponents' weaknesses and turning them to his advantage. As a military leader, however, he rarely exercised the same talent for exploiting weak spots. Instead, he threw the bulk of his armies against his enemies' strongest positions, sacrificing much-needed forces at Stalingrad and Tobruk, among other places.

Had he done otherwise, writes Bevin Alexander, Hitler might well have carried the day. His strategy until mid-1940 had been flawless, Alexander argues: "He isolated and absorbed state after state in Europe, gained the Soviet Union as a willing ally, destroyed France's military power, threw the British off the Continent, and was left with only weak and vulnerable obstacles to an empire covering most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East." After 1940, however, Hitler committed a legion of failures. Ignoring his field commanders' urging, he refused to commit armored divisions to seize the Suez Canal, which would have secured most of the Mediterranean and given the Third Reich easy access to oil. He diverted resources from the navy, allowing the Allies to gain control of the Atlantic Ocean and maintain nearly unbroken supply lines between the United States and Britain. And he weakened Germany's abilities to wage war by turning his armies' energies to carrying out the Final Solution. These and other miscalculations, Alexander suggests, cost the Reich many hard-won strategic advantages, and eventually any chance of victory.

Second-guessing history is an endeavor fraught with peril, and in any event, many historians have discounted the possibility that the Nazi regime could have emerged from global war undefeated. But Alexander's arguable exercise in counterfactuals soon gives way to a thoughtful, generally uncontroversial survey of the war in Europe, one that is of use to students of military history and tactics. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Hitler's skills at spotting an opponent's weaknesses brought him an uninterrupted string of victories from the fall of Weimar in 1933 to the fall of France in 1940. Afterwards, argues Alexander (Robert E. Lee's Civil War), he began believing his own press clippings. Invading Russia became a recipe for defeat when Hitler insisted on simultaneously persecuting a population he could have won over and pursuing offensives without regard for the operational situation. Above all, Alexander continues, Hitler failed to see that Germany's way to victory led not through Moscow but through Cairo. Even a fraction of the resources squandered in Russia would have enabled Germany to create a Middle Eastern empire that would have forced the U.S.S.R. to remain neutral, marginalized Britain and kept the U.S. from projecting enough power across the Atlantic to invade the continent against an intact Wehrmacht. This is an often-rehashed, often refuted position. German scholars like Andreas Hillgruber and Gerhard Schreiber have successfully and painstakingly demonstrated that the Mediterranean was a strategic dead end, despite its seeming operational possibilities. As a counterpoint to Hitler's shortcomings as a war leader, Alexander offers the usual Wehrmacht heroesDRommel, Manstein, Guderian. In praising their operational achievements, however, he omits discussion of the generals' consistent collaboration with their f hrer in military matters, or about the absence of significant dissent throughout the war. Instead, Alexander accepts the generals' long-discredited argument that had Hitler been willing to listen to those who understood the craft of war, things might have been different. This one-sided perspective significantly limits the book's value to both specialists and general readers. (Dec. 5)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (December 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812932021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812932027
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Many people feel that D-Day was the decisive turning point of the war. Others feel that Barbarossa deserves that honor.
After reading this book, however, I tend to agree with the author that the African campaign now deserves the title of "the one that got away".
From a strategic standpoint the Mediterranean was ignored, not only by Hitler, but by most history-buffs as well. Even as late as 1943, had Hitler diverted attention from the Balkans and attacked Malta, moved into Egypt and grabbed the Suez - bye, bye England. Bye-bye launch pad for D-day. Even Churchill, who had a very acute eye for strategy, most of the time, felt that Africa was his biggest nightmare.
A point to remember when reading this book - it is not a 'what-if'. It is a lesson in defeat, basically, what it takes to lose a war. We all know Hitler's ideology and blind hatred of the Slavic people, in attacking Russia, cost him ultimate victory. What we don't always remember, or even want to admit, is that Germany had the greatest military the world had ever seen. Even in 1942, after the biggest chances for victory in Russia were over, the Wehrmacht was still capturing hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners in encirclement battles. Imagine if Hitler had listened to those that knew best. Of course, had he been a personality that listened to advice, chances are he would never have come to power in the first place. The ultimate conundrum.
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Format: Paperback
Despite my attempt at a witty review title, I did enjoy reading this book. I most say, however, that I am probably the poster child for the target audience of this book. I am a reader of mostly non-fiction with a predilection for military history, and I am a bit of a Germanophile, which I find to be common in other readers of the same bent. Also, I have played my share of wargames, and can appreciate, to some extent, how the Axis may have won WWII. So, I SHOULD really like this book. A whole lot. Well, I just can't say that I do. This book could have been better, and this is somewhat bothersome to me, as I think the author really missed what was an easy mark, and I was really looking forward to a good read. As other reviewers have said, Alexander wrote an excellent "big picture" overview, discussing several crucial points where the course of the war may have taken a different turn, occupying maybe a third of the book. Alexander then sinks into re-telling European WWII in extreme tactical detail, especially in his treatment of the North African and Italian theaters. This detail is actually interesting for what it is, and even somewhat on-point as it deals with Allied and German blunders which may have effected major battle outcomes, but it drags down the book. My attention began to wander and I kept waiting to get back to the what I thought was the thrust of the book - what Germany could have done to win the war. What I continually was presented with, however, was how the Allies failed to exploit some tactical victory somewhere, or mis-used their armor in some minor battle - a sort-of Allied "bloops and blunders" which simply indicated to me that Germany would have lost sooner, if not for these Allied mis-steps.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well written, easy to read, overview of the critical military decisions in Europe and North Africa during World War II. What it is not, as some might surmise from the title, is a "what if" text that reviews the alternative outcomes of the decisions not made.
The author does an excellent job of reviewing the various opinions offered Hitler by his various military advisors, and he does an excellent job of outlining their merits. Furthermore, at every turn he makes a compelling case for what he considers to have been the proper course of action. Unfortunately, Alexander frequently bogs down in narrative of the various battles, and loses his focus on the critical decisions not made. Furthermore, with a few notable exceptions, he generally does not project these alternate decisions into a long term view of the war.
This is an enjoyable little book, that offers an excellent overview of some of the critical German military decisions of WWII. However, anyone looking for a more serious work would do well to consider Murray & Millett's outstanding "A War to Be Won".
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Format: Paperback
Although that's the title, it isn't actually the focus of the book itself. Alexander starts out decently - in the prologue he states how he believes Hitler could have won the war (by focusing on North Africa and the Middle East and not attacking Russia). After that, however, things go downhill.
The bulk of _How Hitler Could Have Won World War II_ is a survey of the war itself, from the invasion of France to Germany's surrender. During parts of the narrative, there are connections made to the book's subtitle: "The Fatal Errors That Led To Nazi Defeat." Alexander takes a critical look at many of Hitler's military decisions, especially those that brought him into conflict with his generals. Although these "fatal mistakes" are mentioned, not much more is said about how Hitler could have won World War II.
Even as a history of the war, Alexander's book doesn't stand up very well. It is short (300 pages paperback) and is only able to give a cursory glance at much of what went on in the European theater. The Pacific theater is ignored. Alexander tends to focus disproportionately on events in North Africa and Italy, without giving the other fronts all the attention they deserve. This could be excusable if he used the opportunity to elaborate on his theory of how Hitler could have won - but unfortunately he does not.
Personally, I felt that _How Hitler Could Have Won World War II_ was a decent book, but I felt it could have been better. It takes shape as little more than a brief history of World War II, and there are other books that do a much better job with that topic (like _The Second World War_ by John Keegan). This book strikes me as one that should be borrowed from the library and read; if I were able to do it all over again, I probably wouldn't choose to buy it.
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