- Hardcover: 672 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 22, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060580976
- ISBN-13: 978-0060580971
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A moral history of WWII would be brief, said one wit, but respected British historian Burleigh (Blood Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism) delivers a long, riveting account of awful events and the perverted reasoning behind them. Communist, Nazi, Fascist, and Japanese systems claimed to be regimes of public virtue carrying out inexorable historical processes. Proclaiming that the only evil was obstructing this march to utopia, all discarded the rule of law and alternative moral authority (religion, ethics). The Holocaust and other familiar WWII atrocities top off an exhaustive litany of mass murder, brutality, and squalid cruelty perpetrated by governments, military leaders, local officials, and ordinary individuals who, acting without moral values, became monsters. Burleigh does not ignore Hiroshima and Allied mass bombing campaigns, but deplores the current fashion for balancing the moral books. All nations acted shamefully, he concludes, but denies that Eleanor Roosevelt's youthful anti-Semitism made America complicit with Hitler, as one recent revisionist implied. 16 pages of color photos. (Apr.)
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“A bold, blunt, and sometimes beautiful defense of morality in history . . . . Mr. Burleigh poses the moral questions to the people that mattered at the great turning points of a vast war.” (Timothy Snyder, The Wall Street Journal)
“Chilling. . . . A deeply researched and vividly written book.” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“This is a superb work of scholarship with fresh insights on nearly every page that will likely leave the reader asking hard and troubling questions long after finishing it. . . . An exceptionally important book.” (The Christian Science Monitor)
“Burleigh has written a powerful, gripping book that will be essential reading for an understanding of World War II. It is worthy of anyone’s attention who is interested in that war.” (The Washington Times)
“Burleigh serves up an array of new interpretations which is not simply a new overview of the war, but rather an examination of the prevailing moral sentiments of entire societies and their leaderships.” (The Tucson Citizen)
“Michael Burleigh has long been one of our foremost writers on the importance of ethics in history, and in this deeply researched, closely argued and well-written analysis of the moral issues thrown up by the Second World War he has reached the zenith of his career.” (Andrew Roberts, National Review)
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Top customer reviews
Among the topics are the mechanics, attitudes, and behaviors of occupying powers and occupied peoples, the moral dilemmas of high-ranking officers who knew of atrocities and found varying ways to deal with them: open support, tacit support, ignoring, or even full protest. Some did all of the above.
World War II was unique in that it was a war that offered a clear-cut "good and evil" split line. The Nazis didn't just wage a war to destroy human beings, although killing people was central to the Nazi agenda. Hitler was obsessed with destruction -- cities, civilizations, ideas. The Nazis waged a war on the mind, seeking to destroy ideas and knowledge that they opposed, which was seen in the book-burnings, exodus of intellectuals, and the rebuilding of German education in Hitler's image.
The Japanese pursued a different version of this, with the Emperor as a god-like head of a nation that was destined to rule all the world -- or at least Asia -- under four corners of one roof. The Soviets were the vanguard of world Communism and the instrument of Stalin's paranoia.
All of these subjects are deftly explored, analyzed, and written in Professor Burleigh's book, and it contains numerous very human touches to keep it from being a dry academic work -- we learn about how Hans Frank's imperious wife, as Poland's uncrowned "Queen," spent her days driving hard bargains for Jewish furs in Polish cities while her son stuck his tongue out from the Frank limousine at Jews being rounded up for execution.
This is a fascinating, thought-provoking work that makes one realize just what World War II was ultimately about -- not control of land or resources, but a death struggle to save the planet from tyranny and what Churchill rightly called "a new dark age."
It contains stories not generally found in WWII histories.
Gives great understanding to the particular terror of the Germans in eastern europe.
Provokes thoughts about inevitability of brutality in war and of systemic atrocities by totalitarian regimes
His account of the prosecution of the war itself is as balanced and nuanced an account of that period of history as I've come across. Excellent read!
This is a rather 3 star book of WWII. Despite the claims by some of the 5 star reviewers in my opinion it does NOT pay any more attention to morality than any other author. This rather ticks me off because I obtained this book because I've have read dozens of general treatments of WWII and wanted something specifically about the moral choices of our leaders such as the British decision to specifically target non-combatants in Germany, or the decision to fire bomb Hamburg or Dresden.
Well, forget it. There is nothing . . . I mean nothing particularly in depth about the above aspects of WWII.
So if you are looking for that forget it. If you are looking for a general history of WWII there are plenty of much much better books which are much more entertaining.
BTW, I took off one star for what I suspect is duplicity by the publishing company and I suspect by the author to find a selling point for this book . . . ie, refering to the Moral aspect of combat when in fact there is little in the book to justify such a misleading title. I've seen this trend in tittle recently, implied content, that is just not met in the book and is IMO just an attempt to increase sales. As one who readings a couple books or more a week this really ticks me off.
Hope this was helpful.
Most recent customer reviews
Please read the reviews carefully as I would not...Read more
One reason is the subject matter. The carnage detailed is considerable as well as often jarring.Read more