I’ve written earlier of my admiration for Cambridge Professor Richard J. Evans’s fluency, the extent of his learning and his indefatigable industry. I’ve also complained that I see him standing like a colossus astride the scholarly gates blocking views not to his liking. His dismissive review of a new book by Paul Kennedy, Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War, is another case in point. In his NYRB review, “ What the War Was Really About”( December 5, 2013 distributed about two weeks earlier), Evans derides a recent example of a view I’ve recently stumbled upon, namely that Hitler had to work night and day against his military commanders to keep Germany from winning WWII, and from blocking Allied victory.
My letter to the NYRB follows:
New York Review of Books:
December 7, 2013
To the editor:
Re: Richard J. Evans, “What the War Was Really About,” NYRB , December 5, 2013.
Professor Richard J. Evans dismisses Paul Kennedy’s suggestion that the Germans might have won the war as “beside the point,” writing that “Defeat was preprogrammed for the Axis by the very nature of its war aims.”
Regarding Japan few would doubt that her resources were unequal to destroying U.S. might, nor that its “brutal and sadistic behavior” in pursuit of a Co-prosperity Sphere served to doom its prospects.
But Germany is another story. Evidence suggests that it wasn’t horrific Nazi war aims, but radical interference by Hitler himself that brought German ruin. Early victories in Operation Barbarossa unveiled remarkable and still not adequately explored possibilities. Bevin Alexander (How Hitler Could Have Won WWII: The Fatal Errors that Led to Nazi Defeat [(2000]) writes of Army Group Center’s “astonishing success” advancing 440 miles in only six weeks. With few Soviet troops in their way, Guderian’s and Hoth’s tanks were only 220 miles from Moscow when Hitler issued orders that amounted to self-sabotage. He ordered a halt to the drive on Moscow, forcing instead Center’s panzer groups south to the Ukraine and north to Leningrad. Guderian was so outraged by Hitler’s deflection orders that he struggled, ultimately unsuccessfully, to force Hitler to allow him to proceed to Moscow before the end of the summer.
Surely the possibility of an early Nazi victory over Stalin and the prospect of Hitlerian world domination are topics worthy of further study.