Sincere diplomacy is no more possible than dry water or wooden iron… Joseph Stalin


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World War II behind closed doors : Stalin, the Nazis and the West  Laurence Rees  New York : Pantheon Books, c 2008  Hardcover. 1st American ed. and printing. 442, [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [415]-428) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In this revelatory chronicle of World War II Rees documents the dramatic and secret deals that helped make the war possible and prompted some of the most crucial decisions made during the conflict. The pre-publication title, Pact with the devil : Stalin and the west in World War II, would have been the most accurate title the book could have had.

NPG D23349; Franklin Roosevelt by Mark Wayner (Weiner)

Drawing on material available only since opening of archives in Eastern Europe and Russia, Rees re-examines the key choices made by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt during the war. And as the truth about Stalin’s earlier friendly relationship with the Nazis is laid bare, a devastating and surprising picture of the Soviet leaders cunning and the allied leaders ineptitude emerges.

The emotional core of the book is the amazing new testimony obtained from nearly a hundred separate witnesses from the period — former Soviet secret policemen, Allied seamen who braved Arctic convoys and Red Army veterans who engaged Germans in hand-to-hand fighting on the Eastern Front. Their dramatic personal experiences make clear in a compelling and fresh way the reasons why the people of Poland, the Baltic states and other European countries simply swapped the rule of one tyrant for another.

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Rees’ ability to weave high politics — the meeting of the Allied leaders at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam — with the dramatic personal experiences of those on the ground who bore the consequences of their decisions is eye-opening. World War II Behind Closed Doors will change the way we think about the Second World War.

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