The newest immensely original undertaking from the historian who gave us the defining two-volume portrait of Hitler, Fateful Choices puts Ian Kershaw?s analytical and storytelling gifts on dazzling display. From May 1940 to December 1941, the leaders of the world?s six major powers made a series of related decisions that determined the final outcome of World War II and shaped the course of human destiny. As the author examines the connected stories of these profound choices, he restores a sense of drama and contingency to this pivotal moment, producing one of the freshest, most important books on World War II in years?one with powerful contemporary relevance.
Tracing the thought processes behind crucial turning points in WWII's most crucial 19 months, Kershaw, the author of a major biography of Hitler and professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, reminds us that nothing in that titanic struggle was predetermined. Events might have run a very different course had Great Britain decided to negotiate peace with Hitler in June 1940, or if Japan had attacked the Soviet Union from the east as Germany invaded from the west in June 1941. Kershaw shows that Germany's war on two fronts and Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor, though ultimately disastrous for those countries, were the results of chains of reasoning based on political and military goals, however despicable. Though the author makes deep, intelligent use of archival materials, he provides little new information. Rather, his analysis focuses on the structure of decision making and its consequences. Kershaw depicts Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union as severely hampered by one man giving the orders, getting input only from subordinates too fearful to say anything he didn't want to hear. The slower democratic process enabled many voices to be heard and better informed judgments to be made by Churchill and Roosevelt. This subtext adds a note of hope to a text depicting one of humanity's darkest periods.