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The Legacy of the Second World War

The Legacy of the Second World War

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Legacy of the Second World War
    Book Description:

    Sixty-five years after the conclusion of World War II, its consequences are still with us. In this probing book, the acclaimed historian John Lukacs raises perplexing questions about World War II that have yet to be explored. In a work that brilliantly argues for World War II's central place in the history of the twentieth century, Lukacs applies his singular expertise toward addressing the war's most persistent enigmas.The Second World War was Hitler's war. Yet questions about Hitler's thoughts and his decisions still remain. How did the divisions of Europe-and, consequently, the Cold War-come about? What were the true reasons for Werner Heisenberg's mission to Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in September 1941? What led to "Rainbow Five," the American decision to make the war against Germany an American priority even in the event of a two-ocean world war? Was the Cold War unavoidable? In this work, which offers both an accessible primer for students and challenging new theses for scholars, Lukacs addresses these and other riddles, revealing the ways in which the war and its legacy still touch our lives today.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18096-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ONE Seventy Years Later: The Legacy of the Second World War
    (pp. 1-15)

    This is not a historyofthe Second World War but a book about its history. It was written and it will be published about seventy years after the Second World War began, and more than sixty years after it ended. The Second World War was the last of world wars, and with it ended an entire age of history—I shall attempt to argue that a few pages anon, in Chapter 2. One, but only one, reason for this book is that interest in the Second World War goes on and on, more enduring than interest in the First...

  4. TWO The Place of the Second World War— At the End of an Age
    (pp. 16-53)

    The widespread appellation Second World War suggests the second of a series, the second chapter or perhaps even the continuation of the First World War. There are reasons for this formulation, but our perspective must be wider. Nineteen forty-five, the end of the Second World War, marked many things. It was the end of a period of great wars; it was the end of the European Age; it was the end of colonial empires; and perhaps the end of the entire Modern Age.

    If by “world war” we mean a war between great states that is fought across seas on...

  5. THREE The Division of Europe
    (pp. 54-85)

    The division of Europe was one of the main results of the Second World War. It was not only one but the main cause and condition of the following cold war. But before attempting to describe the development of that condition, we ought to ask the question: was there a “Europe” in 1939? The answer must be ambivalent: yes and no.

    Yes, there was a Europe in 1939 as it had been for a long time. But geographically not more than a peninsula of Eurasia; indeed, the geographical definition of Europe was made as late as 1833 by a German...

  6. FOUR Hitler, Questions Still Extant
    (pp. 86-108)

    Hitler was not simple. The popular attribution of his character and of his life is that of a narrow-minded fanatic: but this is incorrect, imprecise, and insufficient. He was hate-filled, rather than narrow-minded: two inclinations that are not the same (for one thing, hate sharpens the mind, while narrow-mindedness obscures and limits it). Categorizing him as mad, or even psychotic, absolves him of responsibility for what he did and ordered and said. It absolves us, too, from thinking about him, by sweeping the Hitler problem under the rug. This will not do. There are still prevalent (and debatable) questions about...

  7. FIVE The Germans’ Two Wars, Heisenberg and Bohr
    (pp. 109-132)

    I begin with something that is (or should be) obvious. The history of the atomic bomb (more accurately: the history of the first three atomic bombs, Alamogordo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki) is part of the history of the Second World War. The history of these bombs—as indeed the history of every human product—is the history of the men and women who invented them, designed them, planned them, and constructed them. The history of science not only is inseparable from the history of scientists: it is the history of scientists. No scientists, no science. This is because history is not part...

  8. SIX Rainbow Five
    (pp. 133-160)

    Rainbow Five was the code name of the American strategic war plan, according to which in the event of a two-ocean and two-front war, administering the defeat of Germany (together with America’s allies) must occur first and foremost, before defeating Japan. The plan was adopted in 1941, months before Pearl Harbor, and before the German invasion of Soviet Russia. The latter, in retrospect, was the most consequential event of the Second World War. But Rainbow Five—secret as it was, unannounced to a then still divided American people—was hardly less consequential. How it came about is the subject of...

  9. SEVEN The Second World War and the Origins of the Cold War
    (pp. 161-192)

    Many people, including political “scientists” and historians, have seen and still see the “cold war” as a consequence of World Communism. In the United States leading “conservatives,” James Burnham and William Buckley, wrote that in 1917 “history changed gears.” In Germany, Ernst Nolte, a historian, wrote that beginning in 1917, with the Communist revolution in Russia, the entire history of the twentieth century thereafter was that of a “European civil war.” This is—they are—wrong. The “cold war” was a consequence of the Second World War. Its cause was the nature of the Russian occupation of most of Eastern...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 193-194)
  11. Index
    (pp. 195-202)