Whoever lights the torch of war in Europe can wish for nothing but chaos… Adolf Hitler


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At some future date some objective historian will have the courage to say that neither World War I nor World War II ushered in the end of civilization in Europe. A more intelligent perspective will divine that the most heterodox  aspects of the reformation allowed ideas older than Christianity to form the underpinning of the enlightenment and all Europe was left with was competing economic systems and any national nods to the arts were incidental almost to the point of being happy accidents.

By 1939 the liberal socialists were at loggerheads with the militaristic socialists and neither trusted – but both feared – the militant socialists. What all three had in common was that they either wanted or needed war to accomplish their economic objectives and that their economic systems made war inevitable. Overy’s book is a very good description of what might be called the last tango but while he describes the dance we still don’t know who wrote the music or the lyrics.

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1939 : countdown to war Richard Overy New York : Viking, 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xi, 158 p : map ; 20 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 125-149) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The final hours of peace in Europe. On August 24, 1939, the world held its collective breath as Hitler and Stalin signed the now infamous nonaggression pact, signaling an imminent invasion of Poland and daring Western Europe to respond. In this dramatic account of the final days before the outbreak of World War II, historian Overy chronicles the unraveling of peace, hour by grim hour, as politicians and ordinary citizens brace themselves for a war that could spell the end of European civilization.

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Nothing was entirely predictable or inevitable. The West hoped that Hitler would see sense if they stood firm. Hitler was convinced the West would back down. Moments of uncertainty alternated with those of confrontation; secret intelligence was used by both sides to support their hopes. The one constant feature was the determination of Poland, a country created only in 1919, to protect its new-found independence against a vastly superior enemy. 1939 documents a defining moment in the violent history of the twentieth century.

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