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War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941 (Total War: New Perspectives on World War II)

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0742544826
ISBN-10: 0742544826
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Editorial Reviews


Balancing his presentations of the front line and the rear areas, Megargee integrates the strategic, operational, and ideological aspects of Germany's 1941 invasion of Russia into what is both an excellent introduction to, and a superior analysis of, Operation Barbarossa. (Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College; author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century)

Dr. Geoffrey Megargee has written an extraordinary account of the Wehrmacht's wholehearted cooperation in the drastic radicalization of the Final Solution in the course of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Combining his own research and the revolution in scholars' understanding of the German Army's participation in the Third Reich's crimes, he has provided us with an account that is both gripping and grim. (Williamson Murray, professor emeritus, Ohio State University, and senior fellow at the Institute of Defense Analysis)

Megargee has written an extremely important book, firmly linking the German army to the criminal regime it served. It is essential reading for students of World War II. (Rob Citino, Eastern Michigan University)

It is about time for a careful survey of the initial stage of the German invasion of the Soviet Union that combines the military and ideological aspects of the titanic conflict, deals with them in their relationship with each other, and does so on the basis of current literature that all too often treats them in isolation from each other. Here it is. (Gerhard L. Weinberg, author of A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II)

In the popular mind, German generals have often escaped responsibility for both the failure of the Blitzkrieg in the east and its criminal nature. Megargee is to be lauded for this succinctly written book. He provides a much-needed and eminently readable correction to both images. This study is an invaluable contribution to the history of Operation Barbarossa and its singular linkage between strategy and mass murder. It can be highly recommended to all those who wish to bring themselves up to date on this most important aspect of the Russo-German war. (Jürgen Förster, independent scholar and adjunct faculty member at the University of Freiburg)

Geoffrey Megargee provides a splendidly succinct double context for understanding the Nazi 'war of annihilation' in the east and the emergence of the Final Solution. First, he explores the relationship between the Nazi regime and the Wehrmacht, with particular attention to shared ideological values and mistaken expectations concerning the waging of war in general and the campaign against the Soviet Union in particular. Second, he demonstrates how the mass murder of Soviet Jewry was embedded in sweeping and pervasive criminal occupation policies that also victimized millions of POWs and non-Jewish civilians. In so doing, he lays waste to what he aptly terms 'the dual myth of German military genius and moral correctness.' (Christopher R. Browning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; author of Origins of the Final Solution)

Elegantly researched and written . . . this magnificent book serves as a bitter indictment of force without accountability and ranks as a cautionary saga of how this war of aggression ground to a halt. Highly recommended. (CHOICE)

Provides readers with thorough information and a good deal of up-to-date analysis, underlining popularly overlooked connections between German warfare and mass murders that belong to the most notorious in history. (American Historical Review)

An excellent synthesis . . . that manages to be both concise and yet surprisingly substantive. . . . Geoffrey Megargee has written a very fine, readable survey of the first six months of the Nazi-Soviet war, one that effectively demonstrates the relationships, on any number of levels, between the military sphere of strategy and operations and the political imperative, which encompassed ideology, economics, culture, and racial policy. (H-German)

Megargee's book appears particularly useful for the college classroom. His style is clear and concise. (The Journal Of Military History)

Combining evidence from untapped German documents and the wealth of scholarship on the Eastern Front, Geoffrey Megargee, of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, provides a concise and quite comprehensive look at the German campaign against Russia. . . . The book looks at events both at the front and behind it, providing detailed, grim evidence directly from German sources. War of Annihilation is an essential work for anyone with an interest in the Second World War. (The NYMAS Review)

About the Author

Geoffrey P. Megargee is the author of Inside Hitler's High Command, which won a 2001 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for Military History and was a Main Selection of the History Book Club. He is an applied research scholar at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Product Details

  • Series: Total War: New Perspectives on World War II
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742544826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742544826
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For far too long historians of the Russo German war focused on either the military operations or the abuses of the civilian population in Soviet Russia. The most notably of these were obviously the Jews, although the Slavs and others suffered terribly. Although, in some instances Wehrmacht rear service units and the general staff have been identified as contributing to the escalation of brutality, for the most part the work of murder and starvation has been attributed to the various civil administration authorities and most notably, the SS. It is to this lack of connection between the occupation policies in Soviet Russia and the actual prosecution of the war that Geoffrey P. Megargee addresses in his book. Before I get any further however, let me be clear as to what this book is and is not. As the author informs the reader in the introduction, this book is not a comprehensive history of the Russo German war told from both sides of the story. It is primarily told from the perspective of the German plans and actions. This book is also not a shocking piece of new scholarship. What it is though, is a refreshingly new look at all of the pieces of evidence that have been laid down by other researchers and not previously seen for their interconnected nature. This book is a concise history of both the Nazi war against the USSR and the occupation policies and how the two inevitably led to the defeat of the Germany.

Finally there is the issue of the author's style. Simply said, it is excellent and the book is laid out in a very readable way. Each chapter is divided into sections describing military operation and rear area operations in regards to partisan warfare, POWs and `Jewish actions'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Geoffrey P. Meagagree's book title WAR OF ANNIHILATION is a successful attempt of explaining the issues the stupidity of political "thinking" and ideology which helped explain the horrible tragic loss of life on the Russian Front during WW II. Bad intelligence, or no actual intelligence, helped explain fierce Soviet resistance from 1941-1945. One may wonder "What in the hell were Hitler & co. thinking" when the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa on June 21, 1941.

Animosity re Germany's Jewish population was maligned after WW I when the Germans lost WW I. The "rumor mill" claimed that German Jews were malingerers during WW I. Yet, the statistics showed that those of the Jewish faith had a higher percentage in the German army from 1914-1918. In fact, during the 1920s, German and Soviet diplomatic relations were good. The Germans and Soviets basically had barter trade which benefited both parties.

Yet, once the Hitler regime got power, the myth that the Germans faced Jewish Bolshevism which was viewed as a threat to Germany and Western Civilization. Because of the unreasonable terms of the Versailles Treaty (1919) caused bitter resentment in Germany, and the propaganda of the Hitler regime fed on the myth that German Jews, Communists and Socialists somehow betrayed the Germans causing the German loss during WW I.

Again, as the undersigned mentioned, the Germans had no understanding what a German invasion would face invading the USSR. Hitler and some of his advisers erroneously thought that an invasion of the USSR would be easier since the Soviets faced a potential Japanese threat to invade Manchuria and Siberia. The Germans should have known better.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first book on the Russo-German war I have encountered that specifically synthesizes a serious if broad operational history of "Barbarossa" in 1941 and the perpetration of genocide that was one of its major goals. As the author points out, the history of the "Eastern Front" and the history of the Holocaust are usually treated as separate subjects, with military historians often ignoring the racial and ideological components of the war, and Holocaust historians being weak on sound analysis of the fighting. Megargee, who, by his own admission, is not introducing any new theses or scholarship, concisely integrates these two topics.

Readers familiar with the subjects under discussion will probably find nothing earth-shattering here, although as a general refresher to inspire further research it's well-worth the modest investment of time, but those who are well-versed in the strictly operational side of the Russo-German conflict but not the Holocaust and Nazi colonialism, or vice-versa, might find this an excellent starting point to a broader understanding of the war, and of how and why it was fought.

My only reservation would be that this new approach to such an important subject perhaps demands a more massive and densely-documented book, or books, but as far as it goes, it's a valuable contribution.
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This fairly short book offers a helpful overview of the evolution of military operations and genocide in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's June 22, 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. As the author states in the preface, "War of Annihilation" does not involve much original research, but rather seeks to offer a unified synthesis of German actions in the east in 1941 in terms of both military operations at the front and atrocities against POWs, civilians, and special targeted groups (Jews, Communists, the disabled) in the conquered areas. This integrated approach is needed, and Megargee largely succeeds.
This book is not an exhaustive treatment of either battles or atrocities, but, rather, surveys both the military aspects and genocidal actions that unfolded in the east. There are myriad books on either the military developments or the genocidal policies in the Nazi war in the east. This book melds both aspects in a single, manageable treatment, and is to be welcomed.
A virtue of this approach is that Megargee offers a concise and cogent account of German military operations in the first six months of Operation Barbarossa. It is a helpful primer (or refresher) on the military situation on the vast Eastern Front in June-December 1941. There are excellent maps, the author has a lucid and engaging style, and Megargee handles the material with easy familiarity, offering a clear and efficient overview of strategic military developments in the German-Soviet war. The book is worth reading for this superb summary of the German-Russian war alone.
Megargee follows each military section with a consideration of the atrocities that followed in the wake of the Nazi advance.
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