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June 1941

June 1941

John Lukacs
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    June 1941
    Book Description:

    This brilliant new work by the author of the best-sellingFive Days in London, May 1940is an unparalleled drama of two great leaders confronting each other in June 1941. It describes Hitler and Stalin's strange, calculating, and miscalculating relationship before the German invasion of Soviet Russia, with its gigantic (and unintended) consequences. John Lukacs questions many long-held beliefs; he suggests, for example, that among other things Hitler's first purpose involved England: if Stalin's Communist Russia were to be defeated, Hitler's Third Reich would be well-nigh invincible, and the British and American peoples would be forced to rethink the war against Hitler.The book offers penetrating insights and a new portrait of Hitler and Stalin, moved by their long-lasting inclinations. Yet among other things, Lukacs presents evidence that Hitler (rather than his generals) had moments of dark foreboding before the invasion. Stalin could not, because he wished not, believe that Hitler would choose the risk of a two-front war by attacking him; he was stunned and shocked and came close to a breakdown. But he recovered, grew into a statesman, and eventually became a prime victor of the Second World War. Such are the ironies of history; John Lukacs paints them with a shining narrative skill.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18093-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Limitations. Acknowledgments.
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE A Historical Perspective
    (pp. 1-4)

    In 1941 the twenty-second of June fell on a Sunday. Before dawn—it was already half-light on this, the longest day of the year—Hitler’s German armies invaded the Russian empire, Stalin’s Soviet Union. On the evening of the twenty-third of June in 1812, one hundred and twenty-nine years before, French patrols had crossed the Niemen River into Russia, advance guards of Napoleon’s Grande Armée that began moving across the next day. Eventually Russia and the Russians defeated both Napoleon and Hitler. But the consequences of their comeuppance were not the same. The Russian triumph over Napoleon confirmed and extended...

  5. PART I Hitler and Stalin

    • CHAPTER TWO Hitler
      (pp. 7-42)

      Hitler’s decision to invade Russia developed through stages. The decisive stages were his orders on 31 July 1940 and on 18 December 1940 and on 21 June 1941. On 31 July 1940 he ordered a few of his generals to prepare an—eventual—campaign against Russia; on 18 December he ordered the plans for the invasion, Operation Barbarossa; on 21 June 1941 came the definite and irrevocable instant order “Dortmund,” the war to begin early next day. We shall follow these stages, which were not inevitable and not entirely foreseeable. Hitler himself arrived at them after considerable speculation.

      Most people,...

    • CHAPTER THREE Stalin
      (pp. 43-86)

      That Stalin did not want war in June 1941—that much we know. But: did he want war at another time, a war of his own choosing? Did he not expect, and hope, that the other European powers would exhaust themselves in a great war, after which the Communist Soviet Union, unbroken and powerful, would enter Europe and dominate it?

      Yes and no. Yes: that was a Communist expectation: after a great war between the capitalist powers they, no matter who the relative victor, would barely survive, badly mangled and torn, at a time when Europe would be ripe for...

  6. PART II The Twenty-Second of June

    • CHAPTER FOUR Berlin
      (pp. 89-94)

      On Sunday morning the people of Germany woke up to learn that they were now at war with Russia. In Berlin the weather was hot and sunny, uncomfortably so. (Goebbels complained in his diary of the warm nights—this was of course before air conditioning.)

      It is not easy to reconstruct the reactions of the German people. They were not uniform. The secret “surveys of sentiment” organized by Heinrich Himmler’s office stated that people supported the Fuhrer’s decision. We may add: by and large, but perhaps not entirely. Contemporaries have used the wordshock. There were conservative Germans who welcomed...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Moscow
      (pp. 95-100)

      On the morning of 22 June, Hitler had his customary amount of sleep. Stalin had not. He retired after the men of the Politburo had left: according to Mikoyan, this was close to three, according to Molotov at one. Around four the telephone rang. It was Zhukov. The first German bombs had already been cast on Russian cities and towns; German troops, guns, horses, and tanks were already well within Soviet territory. For a few minutes Stalin was not roused. According to Zhukov, he did not speak at first, and his breathing was heavy. Then he got up and dressed...

    • CHAPTER SIX London
      (pp. 101-108)

      In London, too, the 22nd of June was a day of hot sunshine, sinking into a warm evening. The Sunday newspapers had been printed before the invasion. The British people heard the news of the new war from the BBC; and then their prime minister spoke to them at nine that night.

      How different was London from Moscow and even from Berlin then! We may as well contemplate a vanished world. There were still roses in the parks and squares; women in printed frocks and wide-brimmed straw hats walking into churches; shiny automobiles moving around Mayfair; a few well-booted horsemen...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Washington—and Across the World
      (pp. 109-114)

      Across Eurasia broke the news on 22 June. To the United States it came the night before, sometime before midnight in the East, earlier in the Midwest and the West. But most of the Sunday newspapers had been printed; there was no chance to change their early editions except here and there. The readers and the commentators of the great radio networks broadcast the news, including American newsmen in London and even in Berlin. President Roosevelt was prepared for it. On Saturday, 21 June, he had a fairly leisurely day. The Crown Princess Martha of Norway, a beautiful woman of...

  7. PART III Unintended Consequences

    • CHAPTER EIGHT The Immediate Crisis
      (pp. 117-128)

      On the twenty-second of June—as indeed during weeks before as well as after that fateful day—the best military experts throughout the world predicted the defeat of the Soviet Union within a few weeks, or within two months at the most. These estimates were about the same on both sides of the world struggle. Four to six weeks, generals and heads of intelligence services predicted; six or eight weeks, estimated others; that is what it would take for the armies of the Third Reich to destroy the armed forces of the Soviet Union, to conquer European Russia. These predictions...

    • CHAPTER NINE Unintended Consequences
      (pp. 129-146)

      About twenty-four hours before Stalin’s historic address something happened in Tokyo that was—almost—as decisive, as consequential as was Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June. A secret conference (a crown council) met in the palace of the Emperor Hirohito. The conclave lasted, according to one source, nearly sixteen hours. Imperial Japan had a choice. Her opportunity, as in the First World War, was to advance in the Far East while the great European powers were tearing at each other on the other side of the globe. Yet unlike during the First World War, this was now...

  8. Appendix The Mystery of Hitler’s “Letter” and the Courier Plane
    (pp. 147-158)
  9. Documents, Books, and Articles Consulted
    (pp. 159-164)
  10. Index
    (pp. 165-169)