Norman Stone

World on Fire

The Second World War


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In the early 1990s, the Frankfurter Allgemeine ran a questionnaire, apparently thought up by Proust, to divine the respondents’ character. One question was: ‘Which military achievement do you most admire?’ The limply correct answer, given by most Germans, was ‘none’. Isaiah Berlin wrote ‘the Battle of Britain’, an ingenious answer. During 1940, the general assumption was that the Nazis were militarily superior; some people thought that it would have made sense to find out what Hitler’s terms were. He had overthrown France in a few weeks – in a decisive afternoon, even, when his tanks crossed the River Meuse at Sedan. The British miraculously managed to lift 330,000 men from the trap at Dunkirk, but they left all their equipment behind. Why not at least enquire what Hitler had in mind? 

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