Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter

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Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Quite an academic tome, but this look at WWII from just beyond its dying days provides a very different slant to modern volumes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 408 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Continuum
ISBN: 9781441196354

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Just how and why did Hitler lose the Second World War? The message in Fatherland by Robert Harris is that he spent too much effort killing Jews to concentrate on anything else. Remarkably, this look at more explicit reasons for the end of the Third Reich barely mentions the Holocaust. What we have is Some Weaknesses in German Strategy and Organisation 1933-1945 - a document drawn up by what would now have to be called Whitehall Mandarins, written during a year of war and a year of peace, that itemises for those with enough security clearance just what Hitler's chain of command was, and what his thinking was for each theatre of the War. It was never Top Secret, but was classified for thirty years and has spent about as long waiting for this hardback version.

It boils down, again, however, to the verdict that Hitler overstretched himself. Not only did he take too much upon himself with not enough hours in the day, not enough tactical nous (Speer concludes that Hitler's decision to make himself Commander-in-Chief in 1941 was the most unfortunate decision taken in the war) and with too many pills rattling around to counter his mental and physical problems, but he demanded too much too soon of his armies. He saw only small windows to win this victory, beat that enemy, and anyone who said the materiel wasn't ready, or the front line would be too far from back-up, could go hang.

This is certainly a document of its time. Tripoli is Tripolitania, a coup is a coup d'Etat when we've now dropped the capital, % is per cent. with abbreviating (and confusing) full stop. Oddly, at least nine times out of ten the UK or Britain is called England, as if Hitler could never have seen any need in attacking Scotland or Wales.

The fact that there is none of the modern sensibility - and none of the Holocaust - allows for a lot of detail about other things. The amount of time given to the differences between the OKH and OKW (basically the army ministry and the armed forces ministry) is quite academic, and sheds great light on the mindset of the authors and audience of the original text. But it also drops in on very interesting detail and can probably teach the general reader a lot about underexplored corners of the War's passage - Hitler and Franco, or the U-Boat history, for example. But then, I am of a generation who prefers their history in factoid-sized spurts. Can I believe the memorable trivia that 4,980 people were executed because of the 20th July bomb plot? Possibly not, as (I assume) the scanning of the original document from the archives has left a nigh-frustrating proof-reading failure.

Paul Winter puts a heck of a lot of work into his introduction, if his notes are anything to go by, and provides us with some extra food for thought, especially on what isn't in the book, and what didn't happen in the war. Hitler had the wrong impression about nerve warfare, and we never bothered to study Mein Kampf to learn what he was about in the first place. It's a shame that the original text runs to so many pages, for an annotated edition with commentary could make this priceless for the student.

As it is, it is a very interesting window into the considerations of those in the Corridors of Power. Yes, it is over-stuffed, yes it is best approached in bite-sized chunks, but for the level of contemporary thinking and detail, and the odd flash of the less formal (Jost... was an ineffective man, with ... only limited intellectual capacity...) it would do many a WWII buff proud to own a copy of this unique version and verdict on the war.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Killing Hitler by Roger Moorhouse looks at some of the reasons the war managed to be so prolonged, in detailing all the failed ways in which the Fuehrer was not assassinated.

Buy Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Defeating Hitler: Whitehall's Top Secret Report on Why Hitler Lost the War by Paul Winter at Amazon.com.

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