Catalogue


Nineteen weeks : America, Britain, and the fateful summer of 1940 /
Norman Moss.
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
description
400 p.
ISBN
0618104712
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
isbn
0618104712
catalogue key
4846026
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Norman Moss is a journalist and the author of books on the making of the hydrogen bomb and the espionage case of Klaus Fuchs
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
1 POSTWAR World War One cast a long shadow over Europe in the 1920s and '30s. Some 615,000 British men and women died between 1914 and 1918, and many more returned wounded or maimed, constant reminders of the war. Every village green had its war memorial, and they are there still, usually a stone or granite cross or slab, bearing the names of the young men of the village who went away and did not return, often, heartbreakingly, two or three family names the same. Railroad stations, public buildings, even major corporations all had and still have on their walls granite plaques with the names of employees who, as it is said, gave their lives. The two-minute silence of remembrance was observed solemnly at 11 o'clock on November 11, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Business stopped and people fell silent to remember the war dead. The war changed Britain in many ways. Britain entered the war the world's biggest creditor nation; when the war ended, most of its overseas assets had been sold and it was in debt to the United States. It was no longer the world's economic powerhouse. Its empire was larger, for Britain took over some of the Arab world from the Ottoman Empire, but it was weakened economically. Other nations suffered even more. France lost 1.3 million men, 27 percent of all men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven, and 7 percent of its territory was devastated. Nearly two million Germans were killed, and two million Russians before Russia quit the war in 1917. Its effect on people's minds was all the greater because it came as a shock. No one knew there could be such a war. The century before 1914 had seen the greatest growth in wealth in history. Populations, resources, and machine power had all increased many times over. All were available to be poured into a war not just of armies but of whole nations, which went until one after another was exhausted. Nothing had prepared people for the war. There was no contemporary literature of war to match the realistic memoirs, novels, and poems that were to come out of World War One. Most images of war were of patriotic adventure, of brave men in splendid uniforms, of charges and retreats, of gallant deeds and valiant deaths. When the war came in August 1914, crowds in Berlin and Paris cheered. In Britain, which unlike the Continental countries had never had conscription and had never maintained a large army, men rushed to enlist, eager to see action before it was over. The poet Rupert Brooke exulted at the opportunity for youth to prove itself. "Thank God that he has matched us to this hour," he wrote. The war was fought on several fronts and at sea, and for the first three years the Germans were heavily engaged in Russia. But for the majority of British, French, Germans, and Americans who took part, the war was the Western front, two lines of trenches that separated the Allied and German armies, in which millions of men lived and died in mud and filth for four years. It was a uniquely static war fought over a small area of France and Belgium. The battlefield was a symmetrical one. The trenches on the Allied side looked much like those on the German side, and the men in them lived the same lives exposed to the same dangers and the same horrors. This gave rise to a sense, particularly after the war, that there was another division besides that of the two armies, a division between those at the front, on both sides, linked by a common experience, and those back home who had sent them there, or cheered them on, ignorant of what they were enduring, either through naivete or callous indifference. One of the most widely read war novels was by a German, Erich Maria Remarque:
First Chapter
1 POSTWAR World War One cast a long shadow over Europe in the 1920s and "30s. Some 615,000 British men and women died between 1914 and 1918, and many more returned wounded or maimed, constant reminders of the war. Every village green had its war memorial, and they are there still, usually a stone or granite cross or slab, bearing the names of the young men of the village who went away and did not return, often, heartbreakingly, two or three family names the same. Railroad stations, public buildings, even major corporations all had and still have on their walls granite plaques with the names of employees who, as it is said, gave their lives. The two-minute silence of remembrance was observed solemnly at 11 o'clock on November 11, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Business stopped and people fell silent to remember the war dead. The war changed Britain in many ways. Britain entered the war the world's biggest creditor nation; when the war ended, most of its overseas assets had been sold and it was in debt to the United States. It was no longer the world's economic powerhouse. Its empire was larger, for Britain took over some of the Arab world from the Ottoman Empire, but it was weakened economically. Other nations suffered even more. France lost 1.3 million men, 27 percent of all men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven, and 7 percent of its territory was devastated. Nearly two million Germans were killed, and two million Russians before Russia quit the war in 1917. Its effect on people's minds was all the greater because it came as a shock. No one knew there could be such a war. The century before 1914 had seen the greatest growth in wealth in history. Populations, resources, and machine power had all increased many times over. All were available to be poured into a war not just of armies but of whole nations, which went until one after another was exhausted. Nothing had prepared people for the war. There was no contemporary literature of war to match the realistic memoirs, novels, and poems that were to come out of World War One. Most images of war were of patriotic adventure, of brave men in splendid uniforms, of charges and retreats, of gallant deeds and valiant deaths. When the war came in August 1914, crowds in Berlin and Paris cheered. In Britain, which unlike the Continental countries had never had conscription and had never maintained a large army, men rushed to enlist, eager to see action before it was over. The poet Rupert Brooke exulted at the opportunity for youth to prove itself. "Thank God that he has matched us to this hour," he wrote. The war was fought on several fronts and at sea, and for the first three years the Germans were heavily engaged in Russia. But for the majority of British, French, Germans, and Americans who took part, the war was the Western front, two lines of trenches that separated the Allied and German armies, in which millions of men lived and died in mud and filth for four years. It was a uniquely static war fought over a small area of France and Belgium. The battlefield was a symmetrical one. The trenches on the Allied side looked much like those on the German side, and the men in them lived the same lives exposed to the same dangers and the same horrors. This gave rise to a sense, particularly after the war, that there was another division besides that of the two armies, a division between those at the front, on both sides, linked by a common experience, and those back home who had sent them there, or cheered them on, ignorant of what they were enduring, either through naivet or callous indifference. One of the most widely read war novels was by a German, Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front. It was a bestseller in many countries. British, French, and American veterans as well as Germans could identify with the protagonist's experiences in the trenches, and also with his disgust when he went home on leave and saw the patriotic bombast and glorified images with which schoolboys were being fed. Even Rudyard Kipling, that most patriotic of poets, whose only son was killed on his first day on the Western front, could write in 1919, in the persona of a dead soldier, "If any question why we died / Tell them "Because our fathers lied."" Governments had lied to their publics, it was now clear. The Germans had not cut off the hands of Belgian children, as British newspapers reported, nor had they struck a medal to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania. The British had schemed to get America into the war. While professing noble aims, the Allied powers had been concluding secret treaties carving up the territories to be wrested from the defeated. The war was widely regarded as either a fraud perpetrated on gullible publics to turn them into cannon fodder, or else a mistake, the inevitable result of the system of alliances which had dragged the nations in one after another like mountain climbers roped together. (This ignores the aggressive designs of the kaiser's Germany, some of which only came to light in documents uncovered in the 1950s.) The war produced some fine literature poetry, novels, and memoirs, written with a brutal realism. In the works of fiction particularly, the war was seen not as a dramatic struggle but as industrialized slaughter, a destructive and dehumanizing process that reduced men to a mass, "these unheroic dead who fed the guns," in the words of the poet Siegfried Sassoon. These spoke to a generation across national borders. They were a reaction against the values that had taken young men willingly to war. The war shattered the belief in progress and rationality that had prevailed in European culture since the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment, and this was much more so in Europe than in the United States. The British scientist Freeman Dyson, when he first visited America in 1947, found that American students "lacked the tragic sense of life which was deeply ingrained in every European of my generation," and which stemmed, he said, not from the Second World War but the First. To some, the answer to war lay in the League of Nations, created in 1920. This body would ensure that international life was regulated by laws much as civil life is, and that nations would band together to enforce the law and punish the transgressor. A public opinion poll in Britain in 1935 showed that 78 percent thought that supporting the League was the best way to preserve the peace. Others rejected war entirely. In Britain 130,000 people joined the Peace Pledge Union, promising never to fight another war. In 1934 the Oxford Union, the university debating society that was and is a training ground of Britain's future leaders, voted for the proposition "That this house will never again fight for King and country." This sent shock waves through the country, and produced anxious editorials about the moral fiber of the nation's youth. But the students were rejecting, not all war, but the simple-minded patriotism that impelled young men to march off in 1914. Most people in Britain supported the League of Nations and collective security, but they were reluctant to rearm. Armaments were deemed to be bad because they meant preparations for war, as well as spending money that could otherwise be used to improve people's lives. Socialists and Communists called for a stand against the fascism that was emerging in Europe, but they also voted against increasing armaments budgets. One slogan seen frequently on the Left was "Against Fascism and War." Soon, people would have to decide which they opposed more. The American experience of World War One was different. Americans fought and died, but American losses were a fraction of those of the European countries, fifty-three thousand killed. It was a year after America entered the war in April 1917 before American troops went into combat. Two million American soldiers went to France, but fewer than a million saw combat, and most of those for only a few weeks. Many young Americans who did not get into combat felt, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, that they had missed a great adventure. The United States entered the war for more noble reasons than selfish gain, or so President Woodrow Wilson insisted, and it maintained a lofty detachment from the war aims of Britain and France. It did not become one of the allies but a cobelligerent. Official communications referred to "the Allies and associated powers." American troops were not placed under the Allied command. Wilson enunciated America's war aims in the Fourteen Points, which called for a settlement that would not be a victors" peace but would establish a just international order. The United States had entered the arena, but it was going to change the game, to raise standards to a higher moral level. The League of Nations was to be a cornerstone of this new order. But the U.S. Senate would not ratify American membership in the League. The senators were willing to go along with most aspects but were not willing to commit the United States to collective action, and Wilson, a stubborn, willful man, demanded an all-or-nothing response. Even so, a majority of senators voted for the treaty something that is usually forgotten but not enough to give it the two-thirds majority required. In the event, the nations that committed themselves to take collective action against an aggressor did not do so anyway. If the war was widely seen to be a mistake, the peace certainly was. The Germans had asked for an armistice on the basis of Wilson's Fourteen Points, but the Allied powers had suffered as America had not, and they were in a mood to extract retribution. The Versailles Treaty, which the Allies imposed on Germany, required Germany to accept sole responsibility for starting the war and to pay huge reparations to France and Britain. Germany had to give back Alsace and Lorraine, the two territories it had taken from France in 1871. It was made to disarm and to have only a small army and no air force. The Rhineland, the area bordering on France from which invading armies had come in 1870 and 1914, was to be demilitarized, for what France wanted above all else was security from its larger neighbor. Germany had to give up part of its eastern territory to the newly created Poland, and its few colonies in Africa and the Pacific were taken away. France, which had suffered most among its enemies and was the most vindictive, added to Germany's humiliation in 1923 by sending an occupation force into the Rhineland because Germany had not paid some of its reparations. Germany was acquiring victim status. The reparations terms generated enormous resentment in Germany but most reparations were never paid. Nonetheless, Germans blamed their economic and other troubles on the Versailles Treaty. One German politician at least was frank in his intention to exploit the national resentment: "What a use could be made of the Treaty of Versailles . . . How each one of the points of that treaty could be branded in the hearts and minds of the German people until sixty million men and women find their souls aflame with a feeling of rage and shame, and a torrent of fire bursts forth as from a furnace, and a will of steel is forged from it," Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf. At Versailles, the leaders of the victor nations invented new countries out of the pieces of the shattered Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Austria, no longer the head of an empire, was now a republic, a small country of 8 million people. The Versailles Treaty banned its union with Germany, which would have strengthened Germany. In the new countries, nationalities and ethnic groups were intermingled. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Balkan states all had ethnic and linguistic minorities, potential causes of discord for those who wanted to exploit them. As America made war separately, so it also made peace separately. Since the Senate had rejected the Treaty of Versailles, America had to conclude its own peace with Germany. The treaty was signed by American and German representatives in 1921 almost furtively, in contrast to the ceremonial signing by the other powers in the Palace of Versailles. Ellis Loring Dressel, a diplomat who held the title of U.S. Commissioner for Germany, and four American officials signed the peace treaty at the German Foreign Ministry on August 25, along with the German foreign minister, Friedrich Rosen. No announcement was made in advance. In 1920 the American people elected as president Warren Harding, who, unlike Woodrow Wilson, had no ambitious plans for America or for the world. In his inaugural address Harding said: "Our policy is non- involvement in Old World Affairs . . . This is not selfishness; it is sanctity. It is not suspicion of others; it is patriotic adherence to the things which made us what we are today." This was the feeling of most Americans. Isolation from the affairs of Europe was the natural state of things, part of what made America a special country. Harding promised the country normalcy, and normalcy meant distance from Europe's untidy politics. One issue left over from the war was the question of war debts. The U.S. government had loaned money to the Allies. The Allies were slow in paying it back, partly because they counted on reparations from Germany to pay it. Britain had loaned money to the other allies and agreed to pay the United States when its own loans were repaid. Truth to tell, Europeans did not feel indebted to the United States, so great were their losses in lives and wealth sacri.ced for the common cause compared to America's. Several schemes for debt repayment were floated, and then in 1932 the remaining debts were written off along with German reparations. But the issue rankled with many Americans and was seen as one more reason not to get involved with those ungrateful Europeans. To reduce competition in armaments, the United States, Britain, and Japan reached an agreement on naval disarmament in Washington in 1922. They agreed to maintain warship levels at a ratio of five-five-three, with the United States and Britain having five major warships to every three of Japan's. This showed how much Britain had been weakened by the war. Before 1914, no British government would have agreed that another country should have parity with the Royal Navy. Britannia ruling the waves was not only a part of every Briton's image of their country: it was also an essential part of maintaining Britain's worldwide empire. Britain took another crucial decision at this conference. It had an alliance with Japan that had stood it in good stead during the war, protecting its Far East empire. The agreement expired in 1922. Now Japan's expansion in the Far East created a potential conflict with American interests. Britain had to make a choice, and it chose to let the alliance lapse in the interest of friendship with America, changing Japan from an ally into a potential enemy. America's contribution to the postwar world was, characteristically, a collective promise of good intentions. Secretary of State James Kellogg drew up with French foreign minister Aristide Briand a treaty in which signatories promised to forsake war as an instrument of national policy. All the major nations of the world signed the Kellog-Briand Treaty in 1928, and its authors were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.The war ended with the overthrow of the kaiser in Germany, but the republic set up at Weimar in 1919 did not establish firm roots in German political life. Hyperinflation in 1923 shattered Germans" national confidence almost as much as the defeat in 1918 had. Right-wing extremists took up the myth of the "stab in the back," claiming that the German army was never defeated but was betrayed. Since there were no foreign troops on German territory when the war ended, this could be made to seem plausible. The republic was shaken by attempted coups by Left and Right. The army, small as it was because of the Versailles Treaty limitations, operated as an independent force. It organized training in Russia in secret and backed favored political parties. The worldwide depression triggered in 1929 hit Germany particularly hard as much of its industry relied on foreign investment. With widespread poverty and 6 million unemployed, the Nazi Party bounded from 810,000 votes in the election in 1928 to more than 6 million in 1930. The Nazis promised to end Germany's economic and political humiliation and make Germans a proud people again. They blamed the nation's troubles on Communists, Jews, and traitors. They were radicals, promising to sweep away the old institutions, such as parliamentary democracy, which seemed to be failing, and create a new nation. Hitler got financial backing from the industrialists by playing on their fear of Communism and political support from the army by promising to remove the restrictions imposed on it by the Versailles Treaty. Under the Weimar constitution, the head of state was the president. He could appoint a chancellor, who was the chief executive. No one party got a majority in the 1932 election and there was an almost permanent political crisis, with one coalition government following another. The leaders of the conservative and Catholic parties decided that they might achieve stability with a coalition government in which Hitler was chancellor but the Nazis had only three seats in the cabinet, restricting their power to act. This was one of the bad ideas of history. In 1933 the president was the eighty-four-year-old Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, a stout, upright figure with a walrus mustache, a symbol of German conservatism and patriotism. On the morning of January 30 in the Kaiserhof, the presidential palace, von Hindenburg, wearing full- dress military uniform, swore in Adolf Hitler as chancellor of the German republic. Hitler was the third chancellor in a year. That evening, thousands of brown-shirted Nazi Party storm troopers, braving bitter cold weather, marched through Berlin carrying flaring torches and swastika flags and singing Nazi anthems to celebrate the triumph of their movement, and Berliners got an inkling that this chancellor might be different. Hitler's achievement was extraordinary. He did not, like Stalin, take over a revolutionary movement that was already in progress. He created the Nazi Party and Nazi Germany. He transformed the sick man of Europe into a disciplined, powerful nation that would within ten years conquer Europe from the Volga to the Pyrenees. Adolf Hitler was an Austrian from a village close to the German frontier, the son of a low-ranking customs official, self-educated. The family moved to Linz. Hitler tried to get into art school and failed. He went to Vienna and lived there in poverty, sleeping in flop houses; he earned a meager living doing odd jobs and by selling small water color paintings of city scenes. One of the surprising things in his book Mein Kampf is a sensitive account of the demoralizing effects of poverty on individuals and families. He moved to Munich and joined the German army on the outbreak of war. He was a brave and highly motivated infantry soldier, earning an Iron Cross second class and a corporal's stripes. He was blinded by poison gas and was in the hospital with bandages on his eyes when Germany surrendered. After the war, in Munich, he moved into the shadowy world of extreme right-wing politics, joining and then taking over the tiny National Socialist Workers" Party, making it a power in Bavaria and then in the whole of Germany. He proved to be a natural leader and a spell-binding orator. Hitler set out his philosophy in Mein Kampf, the book he wrote in 1924 when he was thirty-five years old and was in prison in Munich after leading a failed putsch, dictating much of it to Rudolf Hess. It is part autobiography, part exposition of a nationalist and racist ideology, and part prescription for Germany. Hitler never deviated either from the ideology he expounded in the book or the policies he prescribed. Hitler saw all human life as a struggle. This is central to his thinking, and it comes out again and again in his book. "He who does not wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, does not have the right to live." And "Nobody can doubt that this world will one day be the scene of dreadful struggles for existence on the part of Mankind . . . Before its consuming fire, this so-called humanitarianism, which connotes only a mixture of fatuous timidity and self-conceit, will melt away as under the March sunshine. Man has become great through permanent struggle. In permanent peace his greatness must decline." He returned to this theme in an election speech in February 1928: "In the struggle, the stronger, the more able, win, while the less able, the weak, lose . . . It is not by the principles of humanity that Man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world but only by the most brutal struggle." There were slaves and enslavers, and there was no doubt what he wanted his people to be. His people were the Germans, and he conceived of them as a race, with a history going back thousands of years. Inferior races deserved to be enslaved and forced to serve them. Another so-called race, the Jews, were malignant, vile beings, a permanent threat to all that was decent in the world. The Jews were behind Germany's defeat in 1918 and the rise of Bolshevism. Democracy was enfeebling because it substituted quantity for quality, the rule of numbers rather than the leadership of a man or men who are strong and enlightened. Usually when one quotes a book that a political figure has written earlier in his career, it is to discomfort him by citing views that he left behind as he matured. But Hitler's views and his policies remained consistent. After this he wrote little, and even as chancellor he rarely put his policy aims down on paper. He expounded them sometimes at formal meetings, but more often in off-the-cuff conversations. Even important orders were often given verbally and passed on as "It is the Fuehrer's wish that . . ." This has left room for historians to argue about what he was intending at any given time; for David Irving, who has demonstrated a sympathy for Nazism, to say that Hitler did not order the Holocaust or even know about it; and for the distinguished British historian A. J. P. Taylor to argue, with less malign motives, that Hitler did not plan a campaign of aggression but simply took advantage of opportunities. In Mein Kampf Hitler set out his aims for Germany. The German race should unite and then conquer more land, because a great nation must have a large territory. They must "acquire soil for the German plow by means of the German sword." That land was to be found in the Ukraine and Russia and was there for the taking. "No nation possesses a square yard of ground by decree of a higher Will and by virtue of a higher Right . . . The possession of such territory is a proof of the strength of the conqueror and the weakness of those who submit to him." Furthermore, "Destiny seems to point out the way for us here," because Bolshevism had corrupted the Russian state. France had to be defeated because it would always be an enemy to Germany and would want Germany to be weak, for reasons which were quite understandable. Hitler seems to have seen this as an unfortunate necessity rather than a primary aim. Britain was a different matter. Hitler chided the kaiser's government for challenging Britain's naval supremacy and for seeking to emulate it as a colonial power. Britain should be sought as an ally, not challenged as a rival. Germany's destiny did not lie overseas but in Europe, in conquering lands to the east in the footsteps of the Teutonic knights of the twelfth century. He occasionally said that Germany should have its colonies taken away at Versailles returned, but he gave no sign of feeling strongly about this. As a speaker he had an almost mesmerizing ability to focus the emotions of a crowd into one narrow, concentrated stream. He also had the ability to inspire devotion, not only in the crowds who listened to his speeches with rapt expressions and shining eyes but also in some of those who became his close followers. Hermann Gring, Prussian officer and war hero, said of the ex-corporal from the Vienna slums, "From the moment I saw him I was under his spell." He was also adept in one-to-one meetings at creating the impression he wanted, even speaking through an interpreter. He could play the sober and responsible statesman, denying in his manner the extreme views and evil intent that were often imputed to him. Foreign politicians, newspaper publishers such as Colonel McCormick and William Randolph Hearst, businessmen, and even pacifists such as the British Labour Party leader George Lansbury would come away from a meeting with him reassured about his intentions. Anthony Eden, who would be an opponent of the British government's appeasement policies, told the foreign office after his one meeting with Hitler in 1933: "He is a surprise. In conversation quiet, almost shy, with a pleasant smile. Without doubt the man has charm." There were mixed views abroad about Hitler's accession and a lot of let's-wait-and-seeing. He was a revolutionary, as he had often said, but most people assumed that, like others who took a radical stance when they were not in power, he would shed some of his wilder ideas when he assumed the responsibilities of office. Britain's Daily Telegraph said in an editorial the day after he came to power: "Herr Hitler in office is very different from being the national and international peril that he has vowed himself to be given the chance . . . he is merely a party leader on a par with other party leaders." This attitude is understandable. Only a person with an excessively morbid mind could have imagined the extent to which the nightmarish fantasies of Hitler's ideology would be enacted. While the Nazis" Brownshirts bullied and murdered their opponents, Hitler pushed through emergency legislation to establish a dictatorship. When Hindenburg died in 1934, the office of chancellor was combined with that of president. From then on the Nazi Party was for all practical purposes the state, and the party symbol, the swastika, became the German flag. The party took control of every area of German life. Schools, the press, the entertainment industry, youth clubs, sports, all were put at the service of the Nazi ideology. Germans would grow up on a diet of militaristic patriotism, hatred of Jews and other supposed enemies, and devotion to their leader. The British historian John Wheeler-Bennett visited Germany in the mid-1930s and wrote later: "Anyone but a half-blind idiot could see where this was leading." All power was in Hitler's hands. The structure of government was loose and could be changed at his will. Ministers and generals were there to serve his purposes. The figure of Hitler became all-pervasive. He was the pinnacle of the gigantic pageants, the embodiment of the new Germany. In a custom not seen even when monarchs were said to be divinely anointed, a salute to the leader was made the official greeting, so that "Heil Hitler" was heard all over Germany a thousand times a day. In 1935 the Nuremberg laws put the persecution of Jews on the statute books. Jews were placed under degrading restrictions and were barred from professions and from public life. Marriage and even sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews were barred. Aryan blood must not be polluted. The government embarked on a series of public works programs, some linked to rearmament but civil projects as well. Hitler took over industry with dictatorial powers and brought Germany out of economic depression, ending unemployment, something no democratic leader was able to do. National income in 1937 was double the 1932 figure. Gring said famously that guns were better than butter, but the Germans were getting both. Hitler wanted Germany to be self-sufficient so that it could not again be crippled by a naval blockade as it had been in the First World War, and plants were set up to manufacture steel, petrochemicals, and synthetic rubber. The economy was being prepared for war. It needed war, because without it the growth could not be sustained.Hitler soon set about tearing up the Versailles Treaty as he had promised to do. For foreign consumption, he said that all he wanted for Germany was equality with other nations. In March 1934 he announced that he was introducing conscription, breaching the restrictions on the size of the German army. He followed this a few days later with a speech in the Reichstag allaying fears that he was embarking on a path to war. "National Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions," he declared. It was a trick he was to pull again and again: an aggressive move accompanied by a declaration of peaceful intentions. Most foreign diplomats in Berlin could see what was happening. The British ambassador, Sir Horace Rumbolt, told the Foreign Office a few weeks after the Nazis came to power that "hooligans" were now in power, "ruling Germany with a frivolous disregard for all decent feelings without precedent in history." U.S. ambassador William Dodd arrived in Berlin a year after Hitler came to power. Dodd, a history professor who had gained his Ph.D. at Leipzig University, had edited the papers of Woodrow Wilson, and he embodied the Wilsonian concept of the American abroad as a missionary for democracy. His daughter Martha, who accompanied him to Berlin, said later that he had hoped to exercise a moderating influence on the German regime and thought there would be "a chance to bring them back to reason, to recall forcefully to them their democratic past." He was quickly disillusioned and wrote in a dispatch: "The Hitler regime is composed of three rather inexperienced and very dogmatic persons, all of whom have been connected with more or less murderous undertakings in the last eight or ten years . . . In the back of [Hitler's] mind is the old German idea of dominating Europe through warfare." Martha Dodd found a more active outlet for anti-Nazi feelings. She copied confidential embassy documents and gave them to her Russian lover, Boris Vinagradov, an agent of the KGB, the Soviet secret service, with diplomatic cover. Unwisely, they asked his superiors in Moscow for permission to marry. He was recalled and disappeared. In 1935 German troops marched into the Rhineland, to be greeted by the cheers of a welcoming populace, violating the clause in the Versailles Treaty that said the Rhineland must remain demilitarized. Hitler assured foreign powers that this was purely symbolic and offered to sign a twenty-five- year nonaggression pact with France. The British and French governments hastily conferred. Should they act? The French foreign minister, Paul Bonnet, thought Hitler would back down immediately if confronted by force, but France would have to order general mobilization, which would be unpopular. The British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, told him, "Even if there was one chance in a hundred of war, I would not take that chance." There was a widespread view that, as one member of the cabinet put it, "Hitler was only walking into his own back yard." Hitler was gambling. In poker terms, he was bluffing, betting high on a weak hand, hoping the other side would back down. It was something he was to do again and again. He did not have the forces yet to challenge Britain and France. He had promised his generals that if the move were opposed he would withdraw. Hitler appointed Joachim Ribbentrop, one of his party confidants, as the Nazi Party's foreign affairs advisor. Ribbentrop had lived abroad as a child, and as a young man he had emigrated to Canada. He returned to Germany in 1914 to serve in the army and then joined his father-in-law's wine exporting firm. He was good-looking, a smart dresser, and spoke near- faultless English, with elegant manners that many found artificial. Ribbentrop negotiated successfully a naval treaty with Britain, which had the beneficial effect of making France annoyed at Britain for signing the treaty without consulting it. Hitler appointed him ambassador to Britain to pursue his policy of gaining Britain's friendship. He wanted to detach Britain from its traditional link with France and make it an ally of Germany, the policy he thought the kaiser should have followed. Hitler wanted Europe. Britain could have the rest of the world. Within his own circle he said that he respected the British, who were of the same race as the Germans. Ribbentrop set out to establish a strong presence. He rented Neville Chamberlain's house when Chamberlain was chancellor of the exchequer and lived in the chancellor's official residence, and he made headway in aristocratic circles and was a frequent guest in some country houses. But he also made blunders. He greeted King George VI with the Nazi salute. It was not the full outstretched-arm version but the one with the arm raised above the elbow; even so it caused offense. He got no response to his suggestions of an alliance. The British government did not want Hitler to have Europe. Traditional British policy has always been to maintain a balance of power in Europe. It wanted to prevent a single power dominating the Continent, particularly the northwestern part, closest to Britain. This is why Britain gave a guarantee of Belgian independence and why it went to war in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium. It did not see only Germany as the threatening power. In the 1920s, military planners envisaged France as a possible enemy. But a resurgent Germany was going to be the most powerful country on the Continent, and a Nazi Germany was particularly unwelcome. Germany was not the only country to give cause for concern. In 1932 a militaristic fascist-style government came to power in Japan, and Japan moved to the Asian mainland and seized Manchuria. The League of Nations condemned this but its members would not take any further action. Japan quit the league. Mussolini, who had invented the word fascist for the party he led in Italy, invaded Ethiopia. The League of Nations condemned the action and with Britain and France in the lead, initiated economic sanctions against Italy, but they would not extend the sanctions to cover oil, which would have made a difference. Only the Soviet Union called for full-scale action against the fascist aggressor. Britain and France earned Mussolini's antagonism without stopping his invasion. In 1936 civil war broke out in Spain when, in a growing atmosphere of instability, General Franco led a military revolt against a democratically elected left-wing government. Italy immediately sent troops to help Franco, and Germany sent squadrons of its newly formed air force, rotating them to give the maximum number of airmen combat experience. The Soviet Union alone sent military advisors to the Spanish Republic, once again the only country to stand up to fascism. The war aroused passions in the democracies. Many people called for help for the republican cause. The governments did little, but forty thousand young men went as volunteers to fight. In 1937 Japan invaded China, a country with which America had an almost avuncular relationship and with which Britain and America had close commercial links. Japan aimed to replace the Western "open-door" policy of maintaining China as an open market for all with its projected Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The European powers had empires in Asia. Japan also wanted its empire. The aggressors were on the march and a line-up was forming. It stretched right around the world.Five weeks after Hitler became German chancellor, on a blustery March day in Washington, D.C., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, leaning on two sticks and on the arm of his eldest son, walked slowly up the ramp outside the Capitol to be sworn in as thirty-fourth president, a look of strong determination on his face belying the feebleness of his body below the waist. America's national trauma was not the war but the Depression. The images etched into the national psyche were not of barbed wire, muddy trenches, and death rolls but of banks with their doors padlocked, lines of unemployed men, and soup kitchens. The economic slump was worldwide, indeed it was the single event that characterized the 1930s, but nowhere else did it strike with such suddenness and nowhere else did it reverse a nation's fortunes so totally and so rapidly. The Depression shook the American people's faith in their system of government. It scarred a generation and shaped their attitudes. It was a time of hardship and anxiety for most American families, and disaster for many. Roosevelt was elected in the depths of the Depression and foreign affairs played little part in the voters" thinking. "Our own troubles are so numerous and so difficult that we have neither the time nor the inclination to meddle in the affairs of others," said Massachusetts congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, and most people would have agreed with her. Roosevelt set out to get the economy moving again. Acting with furious energy from his first day in office, he enacted emergency measures, created new federal agencies, put new legislation before Congress and enlarged the powers of the federal government. With his smile and the jaunty angle of his cigarette holder, he radiated confidence and a spirit that told Americans that they could solve the nation's problems. His "New deal for the American people" aimed not only to create more wealth but to spread wealth and power more evenly. Roosevelt was the son of a wealthy patrician family from upper New York State, and had the education, at Groton School and Harvard, that exemplified his class. Like many with his background, he traveled and came to know Europe at an early age. From 1891, when he was nine, until 1900, he went every year with his parents to the German spa town of Bad Nauheim, because his father, James, was in poor health, and for a while he attended a local German school. Many years later, he told British officials that he had bicycled over a lot of southern Germany as a boy and gave them advice on bombing Germany. He went into politics very early on, becoming a New York state senator and then governor. He had pronounced views on foreign policy, and they resembled those of his older cousin Theodore, who, in his youthful days, he admired and sought to emulate. Like Theodore Roosevelt he believed that America should be a world power and should be ready to project its power abroad. He was very much a navy man; as a boy he had wanted to go to Annapolis. He loved the sea and was a keen sailor in his younger days. He served as assistant secretary of the navy in World War One Theodore Roosevelt had been navy secretary at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War and like Theodore, he absorbed the teachings of Alfred Thayer Mahan, with his vision of the United States as a world power and his emphasis on sea power. He was keen for America to enter World War One on the side of the Allies. When America did enter he wanted to see action, and extended his tour of naval installations in Europe to get close to the front-line trenches. His temperament as well as his viewpoint would lead him to seek an active role in world affairs. He was still regarded by most who knew him as something of a rich playboy, likable but too light-weight to be presidential timber. Then, at the age of thirty-nine, he contracted polio and, an active and athletic man, he was transformed into an invalid. He was bed-ridden for two years, and the ordeal hardened his will. Some say the experience also gave him a new sympathy for those whose lot in life had not been as fortunate as his had been up to that point. With a struggle he gained movement in the upper part of his body and learned to move about and function, and he reentered political life. Roosevelt was a consummate politician; he had to be to get through progressive legislation while heading a party that included in its natural constituency the rural South, conservative and racist, and labor unions and middle-class liberals in the Northern cities. As state legislator, governor, and president, he used persuasion, patronage, and pressure to push through his projects, sensing how far he could go, making compromises where he had to, working with anyone to achieve his ends. He was the first president to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon against opponents. But few doubted the sincerity of his ultimate purpose. When a southern senator complained that the appointment of an ambassador to the Vatican would offend many Protestants, Roosevelt wrote back saying, "If some of my good Baptist brethren in Georgia had done a little preaching from the pulpit against the KKK, I would have a little more genuine American respect for their Christianity." He worked through people rather than institutions, bypassing established channels. He had charm, a winning informality, and great persuasive powers. Joseph Kennedy did not want to be chairman of the Maritime Commission but, explaining to a friend why he took the job when Roosevelt offered it to him, he said, "I can say no to that fellow on the telephone, but face to face he gets me." He had excessive confidence in his power to charm; later he tried to deal with the Soviet government in that way, saying, "I can handle Joe Stalin." No president since Lincoln has been so loved and so hated. He inspired affection and loyalty in many who worked for him and in millions around the country. He was hated by most of the business community, who saw his New Deal program as a threat to their values and more than halfway to socialism, and was regarded with suspicion by others who worried about his arrogation of power for himself and the federal government. It says something about the respect accorded to the office of the presidency in those days that despite the hostility of many newspapers, none ever carried a photograph of him being lifted into or out of a wheelchair. Americans knew their president was crippled he drew attention to the fact by sponsoring a charity for polio research but they were not confronted with the indignities that accompany disability. Despite his international viewpoint, his first act of foreign policy as president was an assertion of American unilateralism. Within a few weeks of taking office he torpedoed the London Economic Conference by declaring that America would not take part in any international system to regulate currencies. Most Americans shared the widespread disillusionment with the war. A Gallup Poll in 1936 showed that a majority thought America's entry into World War One was a mistake. The Hollywood film version of All Quiet on the Western Front appeared in 1930 to wide acclaim. Americans responded to its depiction of the war as a pointless sacrifice. In 1934 the Senate set up an investigations subcommittee headed by Senator Robert Nye, a North Dakota Republican, to look into the links between big financiers, weapons dealers, and America's entry into the war. In two years of wide-ranging investigations it failed to establish any cause-and- effect relationship. But it showed the extent to which the house of J. P. Morgan financed the British war effort and therefore was dependent on an Allied victory for repayment of its loans, and it uncovered some shadowy transatlantic trading by munitions firms. The constant airing of the subject affected public thinking. The hearings were accompanied by magazine articles and books on the same theme. In 1934 Merchants of Death by Herbert C. Engelbrecht and Frank C. Hanigher, an expos of the armament industry, was a Book of the Month Club selection and was serialized in Reader's Digest. Walter Millis's The Road to War was another bestseller. The dust jacket spelled out its message: "This book tells how a peace-loving democracy, muddled but excited, misinformed and whipped to frenzy, embarked on its greatest foreign war . . . Read it and blush! Read it and beware!" Congress, looking at the stirrings in Europe, passed the Neutrality Acts in 1935 and 1936, with the most serious in 1937. These barred the transport of goods to belligerents on American ships, forbade American ships to sail in war zones, and forbade private credits or loans to belligerent nations. Since these were what brought the United States into the war in 1917, the Neutrality Acts were aptly described as laws designed to keep the United States out of World War One. Most Americans approved. As they saw it, their forefathers had come to America to get away from Europe's quarrels and start a new life in a country that was different, and the emigrants were wiser and more enterprising than those who remained. The country had been tricked into entering World War One, but that was a deviation from the American way and a mistake. Actually, America's supposed detachment from the affairs of Europe has always been something of a myth. It has never been totally detached. In the earliest days of the republic, the Federalist and Republican parties were divided over European affairs, Jefferson's Republicans supporting France in its war with England while Washington's Federalists argued for a strictly neutral stance. America continued to be involved, if only because three European nations possessed territory in North America contiguous to the United States. America's geopolitical interests usually coincided with those of Britain. Despite Jefferson's early enthusiasm for the French Revolution, he said when Napoleon was conquering one country after another that America would be in danger if one power ruled Europe. "It cannot be to our interest that all Europe should be reduced to a single monarchy," he wrote. This has been the prevailing view of foreign policy specialists since then, partly because much of America's trade was still with Europe but also for strategic reasons. This was particularly true when the power was militaristic and aggressive, like the Germany of the kaiser or Hitler, or, later on, ideologically aggressive like the Soviet Union. The Monroe Doctrine, warning European powers to keep out of the Western Hemisphere, was a tacit alliance with Britain. Indeed it had its origin in a suggestion by the British foreign secretary of the time, George Canning, of a joint declaration saying "Hands off the Americas" to the Continental powers. It was in Britain's interests to ensure that no European nation extended its power to the Americas, and President Monroe knew that the British navy, the most powerful in the world, would ensure that none did. At the end of the nineteenth century, America went into its imperialist phase. It sought overseas markets for its products, and the nation felt newly powerful. Manifest destiny did not stop at the ocean shore. America extended its rule to Hawaii and then to the Far East, wresting the Philippines from Spain and suppressing its independence movement, and it joined the Europeans in imposing suitable economic and trading policies on China. This did not come into conflict with British imperialism but suited its interests. Britain would much rather America expanded into territories ripe for exploitation than its Continental rivals, France and Germany. British commentators urged the United States to annex Hawaii before others did. Rudyard Kipling's imperialist ode "The White Man's Burden" was written to urge America to take over the Philippines. It was in this period that the conjunction of interests and sympathies between the British and American ruling elites developed, to the point where, as was often said, "cultural factors" made war between them unthinkable. Nonetheless, most Americans believed, as they always had, that physical and moral detachment from the world's quarrels was America's natural position. They did not know or want to know about British strategy or the British Navy. So far as they were concerned, a bounteous God had given America two oceans for its security and no further help from anyone else was required. In the 1930s there were currents at work that mitigated against detachment. In China the Japanese capture of Nanking was accompanied by an orgy of massacre and rape, and photographs and newspaper accounts brought this home to Americans. Newsreels showed the Nazi book burnings, and tales of the Gestapo terror were recounted by correspondents and, increasingly as the decade went on, by refugees from Germany and Austria. There were horrors abroad in the world that were impinging more and more on the American consciousness. Some people were roused to anger. Others silently thanked their forefathers for having had the enterprise and good sense to come to the land that was far away from these horrors, and they determined to keep it that way. The Anti-Nazi Council to Champion Human Rights was formed in 1934. It held rallies and urged a boycott of German goods. Some businessmen opposed the boycott, prominent among them the president of IBM, Thomas B. Watson, who was awarded the Order of Merit of the German Eagle for promoting trade with Germany. Trade with Germany fell off sharply, partly because of Hitler's policy of promoting self-sufficiency, although Germany's trade with Latin America increased. There was a move to boycott the Berlin Olympics in 1936 on the ground that Germany discriminated against Jewish athletes. Roosevelt was far from indifferent to aggression abroad. As early as 1935, when Mussolini was poised to invade Ethiopia, he wrote to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nevada senator Key Pittman, asking for authorization to ban shipments to one or more of the belligerents. Pittman told him the committee was almost unanimous in refusing to distinguish between belligerents and so label one the aggressor. It would remain doggedly neutral. Pittman, who was named after Francis Scott Key, his ancestor, was best known in the Senate as a vigorous defender of Nevada's silver mining interests, and he pronounced himself an enemy of the dictators, but he would not ask senators to abandon their neutral stance. Roosevelt sensed the mood of the American people, and he knew he could not go too far in involving the country in the affairs of Europe or Asia. But he wanted to show the dangers as he saw them and lead America to a more active role. He tempered his pace. As well as leading the American people, he also had to lead Congress, and Pittman's quick rejection of his request indicated that this was not going to be easy. Cordell Hull, a tall, slender Tennessean who had served for twenty- four years in Congress, shared many of Roosevelt's concerns. Hull was a figure of rectitude and probity, a cautious man who believed in the decent proprieties of international relations and in free trade as a high moral principle and a guarantor of peace. In the autumn of 1937 Hull suggested that Roosevelt sound a warning to potential aggressors, particularly in the Far East. Roosevelt chose a scheduled speech in Chicago on October 4, 1937, to warn the American people that no nation could isolate itself from economic and political upheavals. He suggested a "quarantine" of aggressor nations. "When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community," he said. He seems to have had in mind an extreme form of collective sanctions directed against Japan, although the State Department said it had no plans. The reaction to the speech was strong and largely negative. Pacifist organizations said the speech "points the American people down the road that led to the World War." Two congressmen threatened to have Roosevelt impeached. The Boston Herald said: "It may be true that the very foundations of civilization are threatened. But this time, Mr. President, Americans will not be stampeded into going 3,000 miles across the water to save them." In the ensuing weeks, magazines and newspapers featured articles with titles such as "We Don't Need to Go to War" in the Saturday Evening Post, circulation 3 million. Hull told Roosevelt he thought the speech had strengthened the isolationists. In December, Japanese warplanes attacked the U.S. Navy gunboat Panay in the Yangtze River in China, sinking the ship and killing four American seamen. The Japanese government said it was a mistake and apologized and paid indemnities. Roosevelt told his cabinet he thought the attack was deliberate and was intended to make it more difficult for the Western powers to remain in China, but there was nothing he could do about it. However, he prepared a bill to put before Congress for a two-ocean navy.Copyright 2003 by Norman Moss. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-01-01:
Although he plows no new ground, Moss effectively tells the story of the first months of WW II, evoking the sense of danger and self-sacrifice mixed with phlegmatic resolution that filled Britons. He dramatically describes US ambiguity about fighting combined with growing feelings that the Nazis were evil and that the British must be supported. Moss also has a good eye for the curious, informative, and sometimes-insightful anecdote with which to enliven his narrative. Students and most readers with a general interest in WW II will enjoy his book. Although minor errors are annoying--for example, Senator Gerald Nye is repeatedly called "Robert," Hitler's party "Nazi" before it was--these errors do not undermine any of the author's arguments and, in smaller number, might be ignored. Their frequency, however, taints the quality of what otherwise would be excellent popular history. A good read. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. F. Van Hartesveldt Fort Valley State University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-05-15:
Moss (Klaus Fuchs: The Man Who Stole the Atom Bomb) recounts here the spring and summer of 1940, when Germany conquered France, Belgium and Holland, and Britain stood alone. He describes the three men (Hitler, Roosevelt and Churchill) on whose "decisions, predilections, viewpoints, and even personalities" strategies and campaigns were based; the attitudes of the British and American people at the time; and the way that U.S. intervention paved the way for the British Empire's decline. How the U.S. perceived the German advance and early events on the battlefield are particularly well described, augmented by the inclusion of the diplomatic and political negotiations and decisions that shaped the course of WWII. The British evacuation from Dunkirk raised morale, but when (after a remarkable proposal that France and Britain unite) Paris fell and France surrendered in mid-June, Britain prepared for possible invasion. Moss cuts back and forth between nations, fronts and pivotal events with ease, showing the American domestic scene in summer 1940 (including a pro-German movement) and preparations for presidential election in November; meanwhile the British acquired a German Enigma coding machine after attacking the French fleet at Dakar. Churchill's popularity in the U.S. rose sharply after the Blitz of London began, followed by the U.S. transfer of arms to Britain, while the climatic air battle of September 15 was decisive defeat for the Luftwaffe but made the possibility of German invasion ever more real. Moss concentrates on the United States and Great Britain, emphasizing the big picture; material from individual soldiers and civilians and discussions of generals and politicians are also included throughout. This is an accurate, large-scale history of a short time frame, presented in an eminently readable style. (May 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-04-15:
In the spring and summer of 1940, the Nazi blitzkrieg stunned Western Europe with its rapid success at overrunning France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Moss (Politics of Uranium; Men Who Play God) uses published sources to expose England's desperation, culminating in their gradual decision to exchange with the United States their cash reserves and empire for armaments and their covert activities to draw the United States into war. Moss suggests that Hitler's offer of an armistice with Britain that would leave the empire intact makes their bargain with the United States indicative of deeper cultural issues, but Hitler's feelers were vague, and his offer was of dubious value. To illustrate the British Cabinet's mindset, Moss focuses on little-known and sometimes poorly documented events, including Churchill's struggle to defeat a request for an armistice, the offer of a national union with France to prop up their faltering defense, the offer of a united Ireland on condition that country join the alliance, and Churchill's decision, later confessed in his memoirs, to provoke the bombing of London and other cities to spare the Royal Air Force. Though the first three never came to pass-and at least one was never viable-they measure the depth of Churchill's will to resist invasion. Because cabinet minutes were not recorded then, Moss can't pinpoint the moment that Churchill defeated the proposed armistice, so he must instead extrapolate from diary entries and other unofficial notes. Moss reiterates known history unnecessarily (skip the entire first chapter to reach the subject at hand). In the end, he is a journalist, not a historian, and his instinct to grab the reader with histrionics and heavily freighted anecdotes threatens to undermine what is otherwise legitimate research. Ultimately, it's pretty compelling reading and recommended for public and some academic libraries.-Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, Billerica, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Summaries
Main Description
The whirl of events during the spring and summer of 1940 is boggling to contemplate: the astonishing collapse of France, the evacuation of Dunkirk, secret moves for peace, the Battle of Britain, air raids on London, the battle over isolationism in America. While Britain steeled itself for a German invasion, America argued over how to respond to the gathering storm in Europe. In December 1941, Germany and Japan would declare war on the United States, forcing the nation to join the Allied cause. But it was the extraordinary decisions made between May and September of 1940 that signaled America's willingness to emerge from its entrenched isolationism. Those nineteen weeks were, Moss shows, the crucible in which America's interventionist role in the world was forged and which ensured the decline and eventual disappearance of the British Empire. Roosevelt's battle for the hearts and minds of Americans was to have far-reaching consequences that still color the way we live today. Nineteen Weeks recounts the epic tale of these two nations, each confronting the great crush of history. Moss examines this period from the viewpoints of the leaders and policymakers, but also through the intimate experiences of ordinary citizens. A moving, prescient examination of two countries struggling with war, Nineteen Weeks opens important questions about the decline of the British Empire and the rise of America's dominant role in global politics.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Postwarp. 4
Prewarp. 26
Phony Warp. 57
Blitzkriegp. 96
Retreat and Deliverancep. 127
The Great Debatep. 158
The White Cliffsp. 188
Panzers in Philadelphiap. 224
"The Most Critical Month"p. 260
The Biggest Targetp. 288
Odds Long, Stakes Infinitep. 319
After the Summerp. 348
Notesp. 361
Select Bibliographyp. 375
Indexp. 383
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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