"Entertaining, informative, easy to read; a good book that moves at a brisk pace and is full of spirited discussion"
From the Preface:
Conventional wisdom explains German defeat during World War II as almost inevitable primarily for brute-force economic or military reasons created when Germany attacked the Soviet Union and entered into a two-front war. This book challenges that conventional wisdom via three interrelated arguments. First, qualitative differences between the combatants proved more important in determining the war’s outcome than have the quantitative measures so commonly discussed in the past. Second, attacking the Soviet Union represented Germany’s best opportunity to win a war that, by commonly cited numerical measures of military potential, Germany never should have had even a remote chance of winning. Third, for reasons frequently overlooked and misunderstood, Germany came far closer to winning the war than has previously been recognized.
National Socialist Germany sought to build a self-sustaining European empire capable of challenging the United States of America for global dominance via creating Lebensraum, or living space, for the Germanic people. This was to be done at the expense of Eastern Europe’s Slavic and Jewish populations. The German armed forces, or Wehrmacht, represented the primary instrument for implementing these strategic goals, a military establishment that early in World War II achieved some of the most stunning victories in modern military history. Thanks to these victories, Germany possessed the surprising opportunity to reshape history as have few other nation-states in the modern era. That said, misunderstandings about not only how the Third Reich built its impressive war machine but also how and why the war ended as it did have produced a vibrant debate regarding the historical record.
Traditionally, the story of World War II is told as beginning with the infamous German blitzkrieg sweeping through Poland and western Europe, propelled by hordes of Panzers overwhelming their foes. Germany, however, missed its golden opportunity to win the war by ripping out the British jugular at Suez, and then taking the Middle Eastern oil fields. Paradoxically, Germany turned on its Soviet ally instead, a decision dooming Germany to defeat in a two-front war as the faceless Soviet colossus used little more than mass alone to overwhelm the Wehrmacht. In this war, described almost exclusively from the German perspective, the narrative virtually ignored the genocidal war of annihilation that the German state and Wehrmacht fought against the Soviet Union. Moreover, this story of the war glosses over how the Wehrmacht’s decline and Hitler’s failure to secure the bounty of economic resources in the western and southern Soviet Union worked in conjunction with the Red Army’s qualitative resurgence to determine the colossal eastern European war within a war. In addition, this narrative posits that Germany never could have secured hegemony over Europe via attacking the Soviet Union. Instead, Germany lost the larger war either once it attacked the Soviet behemoth or, at the latest, with the German defeat before Moscow in 1941, and consequently collapsed in defeat under the sheer weight of numbers.
By forging a new conceptual framework for approaching victory and defeat in a total war context, Why Germany Nearly Won challenges this narrative long used to describe Hitler’s bid to create a European empire and why he subsequently failed. Simply put, Germany lost the war because…