The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939-1945

By McIntyre, Jesse,, III | Military Review, September-October 2016 | Go to article overview

The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939-1945


McIntyre, Jesse,, III, Military Review


THE GERMAN WAR

A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945

Nicholas Stargardt, Basic Books, New York, 2015, 704 pages

Nicholas Stargardt, a widely published professor of history at Oxford University, has delivered another outstanding book with The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945. The German War provides an unprecedented portrait of wartime Germany from the perspective of the German people. Stargardt weaves first-person testimonies of Germans from all walks of life to chronicle the German population's evolving attitudes during the war. Germans found themselves having to reconcile patriotism with the brutal reality that was taking place inside and outside Nazi Germany. Stargardt illustrates how German propaganda, belief in Nazi ideology, and the humiliation of losing World War I combined to create a resiliency in the German populace, which enabled Germany to withstand a level of destruction never experienced in world history.

Stargardt states Germany entered World War II knowing it could not win it. He recounts a conversation on 29 November 1941 between Adolf Hitler and Fritz Todt, Reich minister of armaments and munitions, in which Todt warned Hitler that the war could not be won by military means but only politically. Todt further warned Hitler of the dire consequences for Germany should the Americans become a direct participant in the conflict. Stargardt asserts that Hitler was not surprised by Todt's comments but had himself shared months prior with Joseph Goebbels his doubt whether the Soviet Union or Germany could ever defeat each other. Hitler would decide to ignore Todt's warning and his own concerns in declaring war against the United States on 11 December 1941.

Stargardt's research challenges the widely held perception that German civilians were unaware of the atrocities committed by German soldiers during the war. …

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