Book Review: Memoirs of the Second World War (Part 1)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Memoirs of the Second World War is an abridgment of Winston Churchill's six volumes of The Second World War, a work largely responsible for Churchill being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.  The 1065 pages of this book include an epilogue created especially by Churchill for the abridged version.  This book is a must read for anyone who wants to acquire a thorough understanding of the Second World War in a limited amount of time.  Filled with exciting stories and keen insights, the Memoirs give the reader a view of the war through the eyes of one of its greatest protagonists.  Besides the inherent historical significance of this book, its educational value is enhanced by the author's great vocabulary and writing skills.

The first time I tried to read this book (a few years ago), I quit part of the way through.  Why?  Because it was so fascinating I could think of nothing but what I had read.  This year, I decided to try again, and my efforts were rewarded.  Memoirs of the Second World War proved to be a worthwhile and memorable read.

Churchill begins his account with the origins of the war, which he once called the "unnecessary war."  He recounts the mistakes made by the victors of World War I, and the many more errors which led to the rise of Hitler and the alienation of Mussolini from the Allied cause.  During the years before World War II, Churchill warned constantly of the approaching dangers.  His warnings were unheeded.  Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain followed a policy of diplomacy and appeasement with Hitler.  Hitler played along, promising that each European acquisition would be his last.  He did not want war with Great Britain, but he did want more "Lebensraum" (living space) in Europe.

 Hitler disregarded the treaties made after World War I and rearmed Germany.  The Nazis infiltrated and then took over Austria.  They invaded the Rhineland, and demanded the fortified Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia.  Chamberlain met with Hitler and agreed to give it to him.   Still Britain slept; the Prime Minister rested on the Munich Agreement, stating "I believe it is peace for our time."  Then German troops marched into Prague, and March 14th witnessed the dissolution of the Czechoslovak Republic.  Prime Minister Chamberlain had a change of heart.  He didn't like being lied to and cheated. Chamberlain and the House of Commons backed Poland and France with one accord.  All illusions about Hitler were dispelled.

The Soviets made offers to meet with the Allies,  but unfortunately their offers were received coldly.  Britain and France would not agree to a triple alliance with Russia.  So, the Soviets turned and signed an agreement with the Nazis on August 23rd--at the expense of Poland--agreeing to a 10 year peace.  Stalin toasted to the Fuhrer. 

The Polish attitude was, "With the Germans we risk losing our liberty; with the Russians, our soul."  August 25th, Britain proclaimed a formal treaty with Poland.  Hitler postponed his attack to September 1st to give Britain every chance to back down and avoid war.  But the British stood firm.  The German Panzers rolled in   to Poland early in the morning.  Britain was at war.

The time had come for Churchill, whose warnings had been disregarded, to return to the government.  Chamberlain offered him a position in the War Cabinet and the place of First Lord of the Admiralty (which he had held once before from 1911 to 1915). 

Part 2 of this review will be published tomorrow.  

Edit: Due to unforeseen commitments, the author will not be able to post Part 2 as soon as planned.