The War in the West: Germany Ascendant, 1939-1941

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  • Author:
    James Holland
    The National Socialist Party of Germany began it's ascendancy to power in the early part of 1930,however many setbacks were suffered before they eventually rose to the position in which Adolf Hitler was able to demand the position of Chancellor - even as a minority party. Once that position was secured, it was a relatively short period until the party was able to pass the legislation that made Germany a one party state.Events moved fairly swiftly after this, and the National Socialist Party - better known as the Nazi party -moved from strength to strength, guided by Hermann Goering, who with his tremendous charm and important contacts, re-built the Party finances, rearmed and strengthened the armed forces and began the process of 'ridding the country of undesirables'.

    The desire of Germany, led by it's leader, for economic stability, social advancement and living room - Liebensraum -put the country on a collision course with Great Britain and France. The outcome is well known now; a war.

    A massive oversimplification of history and politics, for which I apologise, but it serves as an introduction to this new book by James Holland, which far more ably explains the rise of Germany in the 1930s and especially during 1939. In this new history of that period, James details the early beginnings of the Nazi party, the machinations of the leaders, and more importantly, the road to a world war.

    This is a history of a period not always covered in such depth and by concentrating on the years between the beginning of the war and up until the time that the United States of America joined in, he is able to explore in depth the reasons for the ascendancy of the Nazi party and the resulting turmoil that ensued.

    This is an excellent history, well written, very accessible and it flows like a novel. The major players are well documented and in this book, James also details and illustrates the parts played by those who fought in the battles, those who were not the great generals or politicians but rather were the more human face of the war.

    There are a good selection of photographs, detailed maps and tables on military strengths. There is a good glossary and a superb index as well as a detailed timeline. Added to this, James Holland's inimitable writing style and one has a most readable and valuable book on a very important period in the history of the world. A highly recommended read.
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  1. Wordsmith
    Two reviews for the price of one: old_fat_and_hairy got the American version of the book for review, while I got the UK one. Our perspectives will be a little different because my taste runs to extensively researched, academically heavyweight books.

    This book is the first of a multivolume history of the Second World War and covers the period from the outbreak of war up until the invasion of Russia. It is a well researched book, but generally from secondary sources – the author making little use of the papers in the National Archive for example. This is understandable because of the scope of the book.

    As might be expected from a book researched from books such as official histories, biographies and works on the varying campaigns, much of the material in the book is familiar, but James Holland has also unearthed some interesting material that has not had much of a previous airing.

    A good example of this is the genesis of the Liberty ships – mass built merchantmen that replaced the millions of tons sunk by Doenitz’s U-boats. The shipbuilder that negotiated their design and construction with the US got a firsthand demonstration for their need – he was sunk by a U-Boat while returning to the UK (although he was fortunate enough to survive).

    This book is written for a definite audience – readers who want a reasonably in depth picture of the war without being bogged down in technical complexities. As such it is stronger on explaining what happened rather than explaining the underlying reasons why. That said; it is a good general introduction to the early part of the Second World War. And with further volumes on the way, it will eventually be extended to cover the whole of the conflict.

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