RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)In his latest book, Overy reprises, updates and expands his coverage of the war. His masterly synthesis of the war’s vast literature and sources has never been bettered. The text may be long but it is unflagging and consistently illuminating. Overy’s narrative is enlivened by personal accounts of the wartime experience and the book’s many statistics tell their own story ... Since no war’s consequences were more devastating or far-reaching than the second World War the idea the conflict must have had equally profound causes is intuitively appealing. But Overy provides abundant evidence that both world wars were the result of chance, contingency, accident and personality.
MixedThe Irish Times (IRE)So sparse is the evidence for the war-revolution hypothesis that McMeekin resorts to citing a blatant forgery: a document purporting to report on a speech Stalin supposedly made in August 1939 in which he spoke about the Sovietisation of Europe as a result of the war he intended to provoke. The document in question initially appeared in the French press shortly after the outbreak of war and was plainly propaganda designed to discredit Stalin at a time when he was collaborating with Hitler ... To his credit, McMeekin steers clear of the wilder claims of right-wing historical revisionism. He doesn’t excuse Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union as a preventative war or claim that Stalin was preparing to attack Germany. Nor does he blame the Holocaust on Stalin ... Shorn of its polemics there is some good history in this book. McMeekin writes well and has the language skills to comb through a huge amount of archival material, though in the Russian case not always accurately. There is much interesting detail about allied supplies to Russia, the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, the Soviet plunder of Germany in 1945, and the war with Japan ... McMeekin’s relentless anti-communism keeps him focused on the dark side of the Soviets’ war – the Katyn massacre of Polish POWs, the deportation of ethnic groups accused of collective disloyalty, and Stalin’s maltreatment of the families of Soviet POWs, including that of his son, Yakov, who died in German captivity in 1943. This is fair enough ... This book will certainly enhance Prof McMeekin’s reputation as an ideologically-driven conservative historian. His fantastical speculation that standing up to Stalin would have produced a better outcome than standing up to Hitler may appeal to those who share his fervent anti-communism. More impartial readers will recoil from the book’s distortion of the complex and multi-faceted history of the second World War.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)Among the many revelations in Keith Lowe’s new book is that the great second World War memorials across the globe are rarely, if ever, a simple tribute to those who served, suffered and died. The monuments are as much representations of our identities and ourselves and of the ways we choose to use and abuse history ... Lowe’s book went to press before the current wave of anti-statue protests, but he notes of previous similar events that \'tearing down monuments does not solve our history; it simply drives that history underground. While a monument still stands, it will always need to be confronted, discussed\'. The way to deal with out-moded monuments is, rather, to move them, contextualise them and/or ridicule them, as the Lithuanians did when they despatched Soviet-era statuary to a \'Stalin’s World\' theme park ... it is a compelling and fascinating read.