After tackling the First World War with A World Undone a couple years ago, I decided to search for a well written account of the next global conflict. After reading some reviews I purchased The Second World War by Martin Gilbert. Gilbert is widely known as an expert on the Holocaust and is the official biographer of Winston Churchill. The former of which facts sets Gilbert’s 747 page retelling of the war apart from other authors.
Over the years there have been numerous books, plays, and movies which paint individual portraits on the grand canvas of this conflict, but few have offered perspective on both. Gilbert weaves individual atrocities throughout the vast military timeline. In doing that, the reality of tens of millions innocent deaths hits home in a way overwhelming statistics are unable to express. It’s in reading these bite-size stories that help to see the full scope of evil at work from 1939-1945.
In reading a full account of the events of war, I discovered many perviously unknown or misunderstood facts that my history books in school never told me. I was moved by the number of German dissenters willing to stand up against the Nazis in the face of death. I was surprised by the number of missed Allied opportunities (sometimes intentional) to stop the endless slaughter of Polish citizens and Jews. A number of movies or television shows like Valkyrie or Band of Brothers seemed to make more sense and books like The Diary of Anne Frank more tragic (Anne died just a few weeks before the British liberated her camp).
Above all I found the accounts of The Second World War inspiring. The unbreakable will of the Allies fighting for the unconditional surrender of the Axis, the courage of Soviet partisans battling Nazi invaders, the heroism of British pilots sacrificing their lives by flying their damaged aircraft long enough for their crew to escape, and the survival of American men like John Kennedy and George Bush in the Pacific are just a few of the amazing stories from this global war. As I recommended after completing A World Undone, I encourage you to read at least one book in your lifetime on this great war as well. You won’t be disappointed by Gilbert’s narrative.