Poland's Daughter

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I was so depressed by our bungled exit from Aghanistan that I took refuge in the 1930s, which seem well-ordered in comparison. My guide was Hitler: A Global Biography by the Cambridge historian Brendan Simms. Read it! The man who led Germany for twelve awful years emerges from this book as far more interesting than the madman of conventional biographies. Yes, Hitler was obsessed with Jews; he was bitter about the First World War and the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty that the victors imposed upon Germany; and he believed that "Aryans" had a mission to dominate Europe and, better yet, the world. But much else that we believe about Hitler is wrong, Simms argues. Except for the leftists at home, he was never much worried about the Soviet Union or indeed communism. Rather, his big fear was Anglo-American capitalism. He very much admired -- and feared -- the Anglo-Saxons, as he called them, and he worried that, far from being the "master race," as wartime propganda had us believe, Germany was barely populated by true "Aryans" at all, because its best people had long since emigrated to North America, and a generation of brave young men had been sacrificed in the First World War. It would take generations, if not centuries, to rebuild the national character, a task that would not only require "positive eugenics" but also, and especially, "living space" in the east. For that reason, Russia was always his primary target. Poland was important only because it stood between Germany and the grainfields of the Soviet Union. Likewise for Britain, the British Empire, and the Anglo-Saxons (including millions of Germans) in the United States: they had merely to be fended off while Germany gained the eastern colonies that rightfully belonged to it. (Hitler's worry about German-Americans was certainly justified: Carl Spaatz, who headed the USAAF's strategic bombing campaign against Germany, and Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Anglo-British land forces, were both descended from German immigrants. And Hitler's godson. Egon Hanfstaengl, joined the US Army in 1941!)

Hitler: A Global Biography is a brilliant book, well written and well argued. Since it's a political history, not a military one, you won't find much in the way of battle scenes, and of photos and maps there are none at all. Just 555 pages of fascinating text. It was published two years ago, so the hardcover is available at fairly low prices from third-party vendors. (I got mine for $8.50.) Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford's books:

Cowboy: Interpreter, Soldier, Warlord, and One More Casualty of Our War in Vietnam
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw) o
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot
A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror
The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal
The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
~ ~ ~ ~
Michael's War: A Story of the Irish Republican Army
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
The High Country Illuminator: A Tale of Light and Darkness and the Ski Bums of Avalon

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