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In 1940 the world was on a knife-edge.
The hurricane of events that marked the opening of the Second World War meant that anything could happen. For the aggressors there was no limit to their ambitions; for their victims a new Dark Age beckoned. Over the next few months their fates would be determined. In Fateful Choices Ian Kershaw re-creates the ten critical decisions taken between May 1940, when Britain chose not to surrender, and December 1941, when Hitler decided to destroy Europe’s Jews, showing how these choices would recast the entire course of history.
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.