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Review: Volume 33 - Second World War

Review: Volume 33 - Second World War

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The French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II was a struggle in which ordinary people fought for their liberty, despite terrible odds and horrifying repression. Hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen and women carried out an armed struggle against the Nazis, producing underground anti-fascist publications and supplying the Allies with vital intelligence. Based on hundreds of French eye-witness accounts and including recently-released archival material, The Resistance uses dramatic personal stories to take the reader on one of the great adventures of the 20th century. The tale begins with the catastrophic Fall of France in 1940, and shatters the myth of a unified Resistance created by General de Gaulle. In fact, De Gaulle never understood the Resistance, and sought to use, dominate and channel it to his own ends. Brave men and women set up organisations, only to be betrayed or hunted down by the Nazis, and to die in front of the firing squad or in the concentration camps. Over time, the true story of the Resistance got blurred and distorted, its heroes and conflicts were forgotten as the movement became a myth. By turns exciting, tragic and insightful, The Resistance reveals how one of the most powerful modern myths came to be forged and provides a gripping account of one of the most striking events in the 20th century.

By the laws of statistics John Lowry should not be here today to tell his story. He firmly believes that someone somewhere was looking after him during those four years. Examine the odds stacked against him and his readers will understand why he hold this view. During the conflict in Malaya and Singapore his regiment lost two thirds of its men. More than three hundred patients and staff in the Alexandria Military hospital were slaughtered by the Japanese - he was the only known survivor. Twenty six percent of British soldiers slaving on the Burma Railway died. More than fifty men out of around six hundred died aboard the Alaska Maru and the Hakasan Maru. Many more did not manage to survive the harshest Japanese winter of 1944/45, the coldest in Japan since record began. John's experiences make for the most compelling and graphic reading. The courage, endurance and resilience of men like him never ceases to amaze.

With the outbreak of World War II, Britain's Royal Navy and her fleet of battleships would be at the forefront of her defence. Yet ten of the 12 battleships were already over 20 years old, having served in World War I, and required extensive modifications to allow them to perform a vital service throughout the six long years of conflict. This title offers a comprehensive review of the development of these British battleships from their initial commissioning to their peacetime modifications and wartime service, with detailed descriptions of the effectiveness of the main armament of individual ships. With specially commissioned artwork and a dramatic re-telling of key battleship conflicts, this book will highlight what it was like on board for the sailors who risked their lives on the high seas.

What is 'Holocaust Denial'?

In recent years considerable attention has been devoted to the supposed danger of "Holocaust denial." Politicians, newspapers and television warn about the growing influence of those who reject the Holocaust story that some six million European Jews were systematically exterminated during the Second World War, most of them in gas chambers.

In several countries, including Israel, France, Germany and Austria, "Holocaust denial" is against the law, and "deniers" have been punished with stiff fines and prison sentences. Some Jewish community leaders have called for similar measures in North America. In Canada, David Matas, Senior Counsel for the "League for Human Rights" of the Zionist B'nai B'rith organization, says: [1]

"The Holocaust was the murder of six million Jews, including two million children. Holocaust denial is a second murder of those same six million. First their lives were extinguished then their deaths. A person who denies the Holocaust becomes part of the crime of the Holocaust itself."

Often overlooked in this controversy is the crucial question: Just what constitutes "Holocaust denial"?

Should someone be considered a "Holocaust denier" because he does not believe - as Matas and many others insist - that six million Jews were killed during World War II? This figure was cited by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-1946. It found that "the policy pursued [by the German government] resulted in the killing of six million Jews, of which four million were killed in the extermination institutions." [2]

Yet if that is so, then several of the most prominent Holocaust historians could be regarded as "deniers." Professor Raul Hilberg, author of the standard reference work, The Destruction of the European Jews, does not accept that six million Jews died. He puts the total of deaths (from all causes) at 5.1 million. Gerald Reitlinger, author of The Final Solution, likewise did not accept the six million figure. He estimated the figure of Jewish wartime dead might be as high as 4.6 million, but admitted that this was conjectural due to a lack of reliable information.

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he says that the Nazis did not make soap from the corpses of murdered Jews? After considering the evidence - including an actual bar of soap supplied by the Soviets - the Nuremberg Tribunal declared in its Judgment that "in some instances attempts were made to utilize the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap." [3]

In 1990, though, Israel's official Yad Vashem Holocaust center "rewrote history" by admitting that the soap story was not true. "Historians have concluded that soap was not made from human fat. When so many people deny the Holocaust ever happened, why give them something to use against the truth?," said Yad Vashem official Shmuel Krakowski. [4]

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he does not accept that the January 1942 "Wannsee conference" of German bureaucrats was held to set or coordinate a program of systematic mass murder of Europe's Jews? If so, Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer must be wrong - and a "Holocaust denier" - because he declared: "The public still repeats, time after time, the silly story that at Wannsee the extermination of the Jews was arrived at." In Bauer's opinion, Wannsee was a meeting but "hardly a conference" and "little of what was said there was executed in detail." [5]

Is someone a "Holocaust denier" if he says that there was no order by Hitler to exterminate Europe's Jews? There was a time when the answer would have been yes. Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, for example, wrote in the 1961 edition of his study, The Destruction of the European Jews, that there were two Hitler orders for the destruction of Europe's Jews: the first given in the spring of 1941, and the second shortly thereafter. But Hilberg removed mention of any such order from the revised, three-volume edition of his book published in 1985. [6] As Holocaust historian Christopher Browning has noted: [7]

"In the new edition, all references in the text to a Hitler decision or Hitler order for the 'Final Solution' have been systematically excised. Buried at the bottom of a single footnote stands the solitary reference: 'Chronology and circumstances point to a Hitler decision before the summer ended.' In the new edition, decisions were not made and orders were not given."

A lack of hard evidence for an extermination order by Hitler has contributed to a controversy that divides Holocaust historians into "intentionalists" and "functionalists." The former contend that there was a premeditated extermination policy ordered by Hitler, while the latter hold that Germany's wartime "final solution" Jewish policy evolved at lower levels in response to circumstances. But the crucial point here is this: notwithstanding the capture of literally tons of German documents after the war, no one can point to documentary evidence of a wartime extermination order, plan or program. This was admitted by Professor Hilberg during his testimony in the 1985 trial in Toronto of German-Canadian publisher Ernst Zündel. [8]

So just what constitutes "Holocaust denial"? Surely a claim that most Auschwitz inmates died from disease and not systematic extermination in gas chambers would be "denial." But perhaps not. Jewish historian Arno J. Mayer, a Princeton University professor, wrote in his 1988 study Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The 'Final Solution' in History: ". From 1942 to 1945, certainly at Auschwitz , but probably overall, more Jews were killed by so-called 'natural' causes than by 'unnatural' ones." [9]

Even estimates of the number of people who died at Auschwitz - allegedly the main extermination center - are no longer clear cut. At the postwar Nuremberg Tribunal, the Allies charged that the Germans exterminated four million people at Auschwitz. [10] Until 1990, a memorial plaque at Auschwitz read: "Four Million People Suffered and Died Here at the Hands of the Nazi Murderers Between the Years 1940 and 1945." [11]

Is it "Holocaust denial" to dispute these four million deaths? Not today. In July 1990, the Polish government's Auschwitz State Museum, along with Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center, conceded that the four million figure was a gross exaggeration, and references to it were accordingly removed from the Auschwitz monument. Israeli and Polish officials announced a tentative revised toll of 1.1 million Auschwitz dead. [12] In 1993, French Holocaust researcher Jean-Claude Pressac, in a much-discussed book about Auschwitz, estimated that altogether about 775,000 died there during the war years. [13]

Professor Mayer acknowledges that the question of how many really died in Auschwitz remains open. In Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? he wrote: [14>

". Many questions remain open . All in all, how many bodies were cremated in Auschwitz? How many died there all told? What was the national, religious, and ethnic breakdown in this commonwealth of victims? How many of them were condemned to die a 'natural' death and how many were deliberately slaughtered? And what was the proportion of Jews among those murdered in cold blood among these gassed? We have simply no answers to these questions at this time."

What about denying the existence of extermination "gas chambers"? Here too, Mayer makes a startling statement: "Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable." While Mayer believes that such chambers did exist at Auschwitz, he points out that "most of what is known is based on the depositions of Nazi officials and executioners at postwar trials and on the memory of survivors and bystanders. This testimony must be screened carefully, since it can be influenced by subjective factors of great complexity." [15>

One example of this might be the testimony of Rudolf Höss, an SS officer who served as commandant of Auschwitz. In its Judgment, the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal quoted at length from his testimony to support its findings of extermination. [16]

It is now well established that Höss' crucial testimony, as well as his so-called "confession" - which was also cited by the Nuremberg Tribunal - are not only false, but were obtained by beating the former commandant nearly to death. [17] Höss' wife and children were also threatened with death and deportation to Siberia. In his statement - which would not be admissible today in any United States court of law - Höss claimed the existence of an extermination camp called "Wolzek." In fact, no such camp ever existed. He further claimed that during the time that he was commandant of Auschwitz, two and a half million people were exterminated there, and that a further half million died of disease. [18] Today no reputable historian upholds these figures. Höss was obviously willing to say anything, sign anything and do anything to stop the torture, and to try to save himself and his family.

Forensic Investigations

In his 1988 book, Professor Mayer calls for "excavations at the killing sites and in their immediate environs" to determine more about the gas chambers. In fact, such forensic studies have been made. The first was conducted in 1988 by American execution equipment consultant, Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. He carried out an on-site forensic examination of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek to determine if they could have been used to kill people as claimed. After a careful study of the alleged killing facilities, Leuchter concluded that the sites were not used, and could not have been used, as homicidal gas chambers. Furthermore, an analysis of samples taken by Leuchter from the walls and floors of the alleged gas chambers showed either no or minuscule traces of cyanide compound, from the active ingredient of Zyklon B, the pesticide allegedly used to murder Jews at Auschwitz. [19]

A confidential forensic examination (and subsequent report) commissioned by the Auschwitz State Museum and conducted by Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow has confirmed Leuchter's finding that minimal or no traces of cyanide compound can be found in the sites alleged to have been gas chambers. [20]

The significance of this is evident when the results of the forensic examination of the alleged homicidal gas chambers are compared with the results of the examination of the Auschwitz disinfestation facilities, where Zyklon B was used to delouse mattresses and clothing. Whereas no or only trace amounts of cyanide were found in the alleged homicidal gas chambers, massive traces of cyanide were found in the walls and floor in the camp's disinfestation delousing chambers.

Another forensic study was carried out by German chemist Germar Rudolf. On the basis of his on-site examination and analysis of samples, the certified chemist and doctoral candidate concluded: "For chemical-technical reasons, the claimed mass gassings with hydrocyanic acid in the alleged 'gas chambers' in Auschwitz did not take place . The supposed facilities for mass killing in Auschwitz and Birkenau were not suitable for this purpose. " [21]

There is also the study of Austrian engineer Walter Lüftl, a respected expert witness in numerous court cases, and former president of Austria's professional association of engineers. In a 1992 report he called the alleged mass extermination of Jews in gas chambers "technically impossible." [22]

Discredited Perspective

So just what constitutes "Holocaust denial"? Those who support criminal persecution of "Holocaust deniers" seem to be still living in the world of 1946 where the Allied officials of the Nuremberg Tribunal have just pronounced their verdict. But the Tribunal's findings can no longer be assumed to be valid. Because it relied so heavily on such untrustworthy evidence as the Höss testimony, some of its most critical findings are now discredited.

For purposes of their own, powerful special interest groups desperately seek to keep substantive discussion of the Holocaust story taboo. One of the ways they do this is by purposely mischaracterizing revisionist scholars as "deniers." But the truth can't be suppressed forever: There is a very real controversy about what actually happened to Europe's Jews during World War II.

Let this issue be settled as all great historical controversies are resolved: through free inquiry and open debate in our journals, newspapers and classrooms.

1. The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Jan. 22, 1992.

2. Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (IMT "blue series"), Vol. 22, p. 496. ( https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_Vol-XXII.pdf )

3. IMT "blue series," Vol. 22, p. 496.

4. “Human Fat Wasn’t Used by Nazis, Israel’s Holocaust Museum Says,” Reuters, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 25, 1990, p. A2 See also: M. Weber, “Jewish Soap," The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1991.
( http://www.ihr.org/leaflets/soap.shtml )

6. See: Barbara Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die: Report of the Evidence in the Canadian 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zündel (Toronto: Samisdat, 1992), pp. 192, 300, 349. ( http://vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres3/KULA.pdf )

7. C. Browning, “The Revised Hilberg,” Simon Wiesenthal Annual, Vol. 3, 1986, p. 294
( http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=gvKVLcMVIuG&b=395051 )
B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die (1992), p. 117.

8. B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die (1992), pp. 24-25.

9. A. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?: The 'Final Solution' in History (Pantheon, 1988), p. 365.

11. B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die (1992), p. 441.

12. Y. Bauer, "Fighting the Distortions," The Jerusalem Post (Israel), Sept. 22, 1989 "Auschwitz Deaths Reduced to a Million," The Daily Telegraph (London), July 17, 1990 " Poland Reduces Auschwitz Death Toll Estimate to 1 Million," The Washington Times, July 17, 1990.

13. J.-C. Pressac, Les Crémetoires d'Auschwitz: La machinerie du meurtre de masse (Paris: CNRS, 1993), p. 148. See also: R. Faurisson, "Jean-Claude Pressac's New Auschwitz Book," The Journal of Historical Review, Jan.-Feb. 1994, p. 24. ( https://codoh.com/library/document/2489/?lang=en )

14. A. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? (1988), p. 366.

15. A. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? (1988), pp. 362-363.

16. IMT "blue series," Vol. 1, pp. 251-252 Nuremberg document 3868-PS, in IMT "blue series," Vol. 33, pp. 275-279.

17. Rupert Butler, Legions of Death (England: 1983), pp. 235-237.

18. See: R. Faurisson, "How the British Obtained the Confession of Rudolf Höss," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1986-87, pp. 389-403. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v07/v07p389_faurisson.html )

19. See, for example: B. Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die (1992), pp. 469-502. See also: M. Weber, "Fred Leuchter: Courageous Defender of Historical Truth," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1992-93, pp. 421-428
( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p421_Weber.html )

20. "An Official Polish Report on the Auschwitz 'Gas Chambers'," The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1991, pp. 207-216. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v11/v11p207_staff.html )

21. G. Rudolf, Gutachten über die Bildung und Nachweisbarkeit von Cyanidverbindungen in den 'Gaskammern’ von Auschwitz (London: 1993) ( http://www.vho.org/D/rga/ ) The Rudolf Report (in English)
( http://www.vho.org/GB/Books/trr/ )

22. "The 'Lüftl Report'," The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1992-93. ( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v12/v12p391_luftl.html )

This essay is adapted from a text first published in 1992 by the Canadian Free Speech League.

Barbara Kulaszka was a Canadian lawyer who practiced law in Brighton, Ontario. She is best known for her work in free speech cases. During the 1988 “Holocaust trial” in Toronto, she served a co-counsel (with Doug Christie) for defendant Ernst Zundel. In 1999 she was awarded the “George Orwell Award “ by the Canadian Free Speech League. She died in June 2017.

Review: Volume 33 - Second World War - History

Maps drawn by
Major C.C.J. Bond

Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence

Roger Duhamel, F.R.S.C., Ottawa, 1966
Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery
©Crown Copyrights reserved


In the writing of this volume the author has been given full access to relevant official documents in possession of the Department of National Defence but the inferences drawn and the opinions expressed are those of the author himself, and the Department is in no way responsible for his reading or presentation of the facts as stated.

In the Falaise Gap, August 1944
From a watercolour by Major W.A. Ogilvie, M.B.E.
Men of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade moving forward through the debris of the German armies.
In the centre is a 7.62-cm. self-propelled gun. Painted on the spot near Ecorches.

A Companion to World War II , I & II

A Companion to World War II brings together a series of fresh academic perspectives on World War II, exploring the many cultural, social, and political contexts of the war. Essay topics range from American anti-Semitism to the experiences of French-African soldiers, providing nearly 60 new contributions to the genre arranged across two comprehensive volumes.

  • A collection of original historiographic essays that include cutting-edge research
  • Analyzes the roles of neutral nations during the war
  • Examines the war from the bottom up through the experiences of different social classes
  • Covers the causes, key battles, and consequences of the war


“Even so, this is a minor quibble. Zeiler, an expert on Japanese American relations and World War II, and DuBois, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado–Boulder, have per­formed a real service for the field and are to be commended for their work.” (The Journal of American History, 1 March 2014)

“This would be an essential purchase for academic and special libraries with large humanities collections.” (Reference Reviews, 1 November 2013)

“There is no doubt that, taken as a whole, the Companion is full of first-class, historiographical and bibliographical information and insights. . . Accordingly one can unreservedly recommend it to all University and Departmental libraries as a reliable work of reference on the state of research into the Second World War.” (Cercles, 1 December 2013)

“This companion is destined to become a valuable contribution to the historiography of the war, and should find a welcome home in either the reference or general collection of any academic library. Summing Up. Essential. All academic levels/libraries.” (Choice, 1 September 2013)

Author Bios

Thomas W. Zeiler is Professor of History and International Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The editor of the journal Diplomatic History and former president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, he is the author of Unconditional Defeat: Japan, America, and the End of World War II (2004), Ambassadors in Pinstripes: The Spalding World Baseball Tour and the Birth of the American Empire (2006), American Foreign Relations since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Third Edition (2007), and Annihilation: A Global Military History of World War II (2010).

Daniel M. DuBois is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is the assistant editor of the journal Diplomatic History.

Memoirs of the Second World War (1948)

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While in domestic exile from political London, in the library of the family manor at Chartwell, overlooking the Weald of Kent, Churchill wrote his six-volume account of World War II. The set helped him win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, although he did not pretend it was scrupulously objective" or complete as a history. To his credit,
he himself often highlights his omissions and the gaps in the story. Churchill thought too much of himself to hide his flaws.

Late historical revisionists -- Robert James', A Study in Failure (1970), John Charmley's, The End of the Glory (1993), and AJP Taylor's Origins of the Second World War (1961)-- may attempt to tamp Churchill into oblivion as a historian. Yet they still have to face the pop-up he
performs as the player: He is the elephant in the war room. ( )

Presents the essence of Sir Winston Churchill's personal story of the years between 1939 and 1945. His memoirs, which first appeared in six volumes, were abridged in 1958 by Denis Kelly, with Churchill's approval. For the abridgement, Churchill wrote an epilogue reviewing the years since his relinquishment of the office of Prime Minister in 1945 up to 1957, and including his thoughts on the prospects for the future. The main events of the war are described in Churchill's own words, as he charts the milestones from early disaster to victory and beyond: from the Treaty of Versailles to Hitler's conquest of Poland the fall of France the Battle of Britain the Blitz the struggle in the desert the amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily and Italy D-Day the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the establishment of the Iron Curtain in Europe.

Winston Churchill led Britain through the Second World War as Prime Minister. He was the author of 42 books, including the four-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples.

These books attempt to rewrite history, to a greater or lesser degree, to place the author as a central figure of the events he describes.

World War II Worksheets, Crosswords, and Coloring Pages

On Sept. 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, prompting the beginning of World War II. Great Britain and France responded by declaring war on Germany.

Germany was ruled by a dictator named Adolf Hitler who was a leader of the Nazi political party. The German allies, countries who fought with Germany, were called the Axis Powers. Italy and Japan were two of those countries.

The Soviet Union and the United States would both enter the war two years later, allying with British and French resistance against the Nazis. These, along with China, were known as the Allied Powers.

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union battled the Axis Powers in Europe and North Africa. In the Pacific, the U.S., along with China and the U.K. fought the Japanese across Asia.

With Allied troops closing in on Berlin, Germany surrendered May 7, 1945. This date is known as VE (Victory in Europe) Day.

The Japanese government didn't surrender until August 15, 1945, after the Allied Powers dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This date is called VJ (Victory in Japan) Day.

All told, some 20 million soldiers and 50 million civilians died in the global conflict, including an estimated 6 million people, mostly Jews, killed in the Holocaust.

How Hitler Could Have Won

How did the Wehrmacht, the best fighting force, lose World War II? The reader seeking the answer to this question, posed by Andrew Roberts in his splendid history, will be treated to a brilliantly clear and accessible account of the war in all of its theaters: Asian, African and European. Roberts’s descriptions of soldiers and officers are masterly and humane, and his battlefield set pieces are as gripping as any I have ever read. He has visited many of the battlefields, and has an unusually good eye for detail as well as a painterly skill at physical description. (His nearly perfect sense of terrain and geography is marred only by his regrettable conflation of Russia with the Soviet Union, which leads to confusion about battlefield locations, German war aims and Soviet casualties.) He is just as much at home at sea as on land from Midway to El Alamein his prose is unerringly precise and stirringly vivid. It is hard to imagine a better-told military history of World War II.

The title of the book, “The Storm of War,” conceals an answer to Roberts’s central question about the reasons for the German defeat. The notion of war as a storm summons up the Nazi idea of a blitzkrieg, a lightning victory that would somehow resolve all of the political and economic problems of the German state. Yet the reference in the title is not German but British, not to Hitler but rather to Churchill, who told the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, that he had every confidence Britain could “ride out the storm of war.” Lightning signals not the end but the beginning of a storm he who escapes the flash can survive, endure, get the wind at his back and in his sails, and triumph. The Wehrmacht lost the war because the conflict was long, and it was long in part because Churchill refused to abandon the fight, but chiefly because Germany’s main war aims were impossible to attain.

Roberts, the author of several books of English history, maintains the tension in his narrative by suggesting that if the war had been a purely military rather than a political contest, fought without errors on the German side, then the Germans might have won. If one considers the categories of martial endeavor from bottom to top, from the bunker to Berlin, one can see what he means. The Germans enjoyed advantages in weaponry, engagement, tactics and sometimes strategy. But at the moments when strategy was linked to politics, the German advantage was lost. Hitler’s war aims were vast, unrealistic and inextricably enmeshed in an ideology that celebrated destruction, above all of Jews and other racial enemies, but also of Germans when they failed to win. The quick successes in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940 convinced many of the generals that Hitler was indeed a genius. But what Hitler dreamed of was a rapid victory in the Soviet Union, which would have made Germany a great racial empire.

Throughout the book, Roberts notes errors that, if avoided, might have helped the Germans to win battles and perhaps even the war itself. Hitler, he says, should have begun the war three years later than he did, in 1942 rather than 1939. He should not have allowed the British to escape at Dunkirk as France fell. He should have arranged for the Japanese to help in the invasion of the Soviet Union. Once on Soviet territory German forces should have recruited the non-Russian populations rather than repressing them, and returned farmland to peasants rather than exploiting their labor and taking their food. In September 1941, Army Group Center of the Wehrmacht should have pushed forward to Moscow rather than detouring to Kiev. Army Group South should have fought a war of maneuver rather than concentrating on Stalingrad.

Inevitably, the reader of these observations will find himself posing counterfactual questions. If we agree with Roberts, as we should, that Churchill personally helped lengthen the war by keeping Britain from seeking peace terms after the fall of France, then we are also implicitly saying that, absent Churchill, peace might have been made. The war-winning alliance of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union was sealed only in December 1941, and could not have been achieved had Britain left the war.

But even if the case for Churchill shows us the importance of this implicit counterfactual, it is still unclear just how to deal with Roberts’s explicit ones. Each depends upon careful judgment of what was thinkable in a given moment, and the fact that Roberts appears to use only English-­language sources cuts against his ability to weigh convincingly what Hitler and other Germans considered possible. If Hitler had begun the war three years later, surely very many other things would have been different, and not all of them to his favor.

In other cases, the what-if’s require too much to be altered to be really useful. The reason German forces did not befriend the non-Russian minorities and assist the hungry peasantry in the Soviet Union was that they were embarked on a war of racial colonization that was meant to kill tens of millions of Jews and Slavs. In the end, as Roberts himself concludes, that is the war Hitler wanted. And as he knows, the reason Japan did not help the Germans in the Soviet Union was that Hitler did not want Japanese help. What’s more, the Japanese themselves had already decided to move south into the Pacific rather than north into Siberia. Tokyo had been quite powerfully alienated from Berlin by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, in which Berlin seemed to exchange its alignment with Japan for an alliance with the Soviet Union. In other words, sometimes what appears at first to be just a matter of Hitler’s own decisions in fact involves the thinking of leaders of other countries as well, which means that the exercise becomes much more complicated.

Then, too, what if Poland had agreed in 1939 to join Germany in an invasion of the Soviet Union, as Hitler wanted? If Poland had allied with Germany rather than resisting, Britain and France would not have issued territorial guarantees to Poland, and would not have had their casus belli in September 1939. It is hard to imagine that Britain and France would have declared war on Germany and Poland in order to save the Soviet Union. If Poland’s armies had joined with Germany’s, the starting line for the invasion would have been farther east than it was in June 1941, and Japan might have joined in, which would have forced some of the Red Army divisions that defended Moscow to remain in the Far East. Moscow might have been attained. In this scenario, there is no Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and thus no alienation of Japan from Germany. In that case, no Pearl Harbor, and no American involvement. What World War II becomes is a German-Polish-Japanese victory over the Soviet Union. That, by the way, was precisely the scenario that Stalin feared.

Whether they admit it or not, every historian reasons with what-if’s. Their value is that they remind us of what we might otherwise take for granted: in this case, that Poland resisted Germany, thus beginning World War II as we know it, and as Roberts beautifully describes it. Though the counterfactuals in Roberts’s conclusion provoke thought, the real interest of his book resides in its robustly conventional virtues — scholarly dedication to the sources, humane identification with the soldiers and remarkably effective prose.

8 American Tanks of WW2 – Were They the Best?

During the Second World War, America had to move quickly to arm itself. Tanks had become a vital part of combat, as shown by Germany’s decisive armored offensives in Poland and France. As a result, American arms makers rushed to produce the tanks with which their country could win the war.

Marmon-Herrington Light Tank

Since the mid-1930s, the Indianapolis-based Marmon-Herrington company had been producing a range of light tanks for export. The early CTL designs did not have turrets. The US Marine Corps occasionally bought one to try it out but was never impressed enough to buy them in bulk.

In 1940, the company created the turreted CTM model, designed to meet the requirements of the Marine Corps. An improved version was made in 1941 for the Netherlands East Indies, but that region was overrun by the Japanese before most of the tanks could be delivered, so they went to the US Army instead.

Marmon-Herrington CTLS tanks (a CTLS-4TAC in the foreground and a CTLS-4TAY in the background) in Alaska, summer of 1942.

A three-man tank armed only with machine-guns, the CTM was too light to fight in the main battles of the war. It was used for training and in Alaskan defense forces.

CTMS-1TB1 tanks in Paramaribo, Surinam, 1947

M3 Lee / Grant

Developed by the Rock Island Arsenal, the Medium M3 Tank was the first effective American tank of the war.

Developed in 1940, the previous M2A1 was a medium tank with a 37mm gun, but the fighting in Poland and France showed that this weapon would be too weak for modern purposes. The turret was too small to carry a 75mm gun, so a sponson was instead added at the side of the hull to carry the 75mm weapon. The resulting vehicle was the Medium M3.

Medium Tank, M3, Fort Knox, June 1942

The British ordered large numbers of a slightly modified M3, which they called the General Grant. These arrived in Egypt in 1942 and became important to fighting in the Middle East.

The American version, the General Lee, joined its British cousin in North Africa in late 1942 during Operation Torch. Aside from this venture in the war, it was mostly used for training.

Front view of an M3.

M3/M5 Stuart

Also a modification of a previous tank, the Light M3, or General Stuart, was first produced in 1940. The experience of combat in Europe led to its having thicker armor than its predecessor, which in turn necessitated changes to the suspension.

A M3A1 going through water obstacle, Ft. Knox, Ky.

The Stuart was lightly armed but reasonably robust. Later models were given better armor. When a shortage of engines threatened production, it was adapted to create the M5 – a Stuart powered by a pair of Cadillac V-8 engines.

Crews of U.S. M5 Stuart light tanks from Company D, 761st Tank Battalion, stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany.

M4 Sherman

The Lee/Grant tank was only ever meant as an interim measure. Even while it headed into battle with its side-mounted sponson, engineers were frantically working to create a medium tank that could carry a 75mm gun in its turret. The result was the M4 Sherman.

A Sherman tank of 13th 18th Royal Hussars in action against German troops using crashed Horsa gliders as cover near Ranville, 10 June 1944.

First produced in 1941, the Sherman used many components from the Lee/Grant, but it had a larger turret and turtle-backed hull. It became the standard battle tank of both the American and the British armies, and was produced in vast numbers throughout the war.

A Sherman with track widening “duckbill” extended end connectors

M6 Heavy Tank

Produced in 1942, the M6 was America’s first serious attempt at a heavy tank. Despite initial defects in the braking and cooling systems, it was an effective machine which made pioneering use of heavy cast construction.

Heavy Tank M6

By the time the M6 was ready for production, the Army’s Armored Force had decided that mobility was more important than armor and firepower. They used the tank’s supposed unreliability as an excuse to reject it.

Production ended and the M6 never saw battle, despite the growing prominence of heavy tanks in the fighting in Europe.

A U.S. Army M6 heavy tank in December 1941.

M22 Locust

Another Marmon-Herrington product, the M22 Locust was a light tank, specially designed for portability by air.

An M22 Locust, American light tank at Bovington Tank Museum in the UK

The Locust was an innovative but ultimately ineffective design. It could theoretically be carried in a specially designed transport aircraft, to accompany paratrooper landings.

But it was lightly armed, thinly armored, and mechanically unreliable. To cap it off, the tank could only be transported slung under a plane with its turret detached – hardly a practical option.

Though 830 were produced, they saw little action and no airborne landings. A few were used by the British in their attack across the Rhine, but the Americans never made use of them. Most ended up being scrapped at war’s end.

Locust in action during Operation Varsity, March 1945

M24 Chaffee

It soon became apparent that the Stuart, with its 37mm gun, was behind the curve of modern warfare, lacking the firepower to take out German tanks. In 1942, American engineers began working on the replacement that would become the M24.

A preserved M24 of the Royal Netherlands Army

First tested in 1943 and produced from April 1944 onward, the M24 was named the Chaffee after General Adna R. Chaffee, a pioneer of US armored warfare who had died in 1941. It used the twin Cadillac engines of the M5A1, as these had proved a very reliable option.

M24 Chaffee moves on the outskirts of Salzburg, May 1945

The Chaffee reached Europe in 1944, in time to take part in the advance into Germany. It didn’t make a big impact in World War II, but later played a significant role in the Korean War, where it proved to be an effective fighting machine.

M24 Chaffee light tanks of the 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, wait for an assault of North Korean T-34-85 tanks at Masan.

M26 Pershing

When the M6 project failed, American armorers didn’t give up their mission to develop a heavy tank. Fighting in Europe was proving the vital role of such tanks, thanks to the superiority of German versions.

A Pershing tank of the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War in 1950.

After several missteps, they created the M26 Pershing, a heavy tank with thick armor and a 90mm gun. At last, America had something that could match Germany’s famous 88mm guns.

The so-called “Super Pershing” before extra armor welded on. Note the 73 caliber gun to compete with the 88 mm KwK 43 L 71 gun on the King Tiger.

T23 with production cast turret mounting 76 mm M1A1 gun. The T23 turret would be used for the 76-mm M4 Sherman. Note the vertical volute spring suspension.

Army Ground Forces proved strangely resistant to the new weapon, and it became a source of political conflict within the military. At last, Army Staff overruled ground commanders. The M26 was shipped to Europe, where a few hundred took part in the final months of the war.

Learn more about:

The exact roles, arrangements, and agreements that produced the United News newsreel seem lost in the fog of history, but snippets of anecdotal evidence and some applied logic would suggest the following scenario. In mid-1942, and at OWI's request, Paramount Pictures (Paramount News), RKO Radio Pictures (Pathé News), 20th Century-Fox (Movietone News), Universal Studios (Universal Newsreel), and the Hearst Corporation (News of the Day) voluntarily formed a private, nonprofit, fully government-funded organization, named the United Newsreel Corporation.

Each newsreel company, with War Department approval, was permitted to send two civilian camera crews to the major fighting fronts. Once the 35mm film was exposed, the original footage was gathered and combined with motion pictures filmed by military combat cameramen. All of these reels were sent to the War Department for evaluation and to be censored, as necessary.

Military Review Produced Time Lag

When it was finished with its review, the military would make copies available of the approved footage to all U.S. newsreel companies, including United News headquartered in New York City. As you might imagine, with shipping times and wartime priorities, this process could sometimes take weeks or even months to complete. As a result, war-related stories released to the public were seldom considered timely.

In the meantime, United Newsreel partners would document motivational and informational stateside stories and send them to New York City where OWI personnel would review the film for content, censor it as needed, and release the approved footage back to the partners for their use. At that point, war front and home front scenes would be selected as needed to visualize the United News stories set for the next issue.

Integrating "canned" music and sound effects, occasional wild sounds, a rare sound-on-film speech segment, and an OWI-written narration in the appropriate language, the corporation manufactured 16mm prints and distributed them through the established overseas outlets of the partner companies. Further distribution was made through military and diplomatic channels in areas and to audiences not served by established nongovernment networks.

As the war continued, congressional opposition to OWI's domestic operations curtailed almost all stateside funding, and by 1944 it operated mostly abroad, where it helped to maintain Allied confidence and to undermine enemy morale. At the war’s end, President Harry S. Truman cited OWI for its "outstanding contribution to victory" and promptly abolished it, effective September 15, 1945.

The relatively short history of the OWI is marked by political intrigue, overstepped authority, and an extraordinary drive to do its part to help shorten the war. This history makes for some fascinating reading.

But the United News story doesn't end with the cessation of hostilities. In recognition of a job well done, it continued production of a weekly newsreel for oversees audiences. As soon as OWI ceased to exist, the United Newsreel Corporation reorganized into a new company, United Newsreel International, Inc., with the same partners, under the direction of the U.S. State Department. This arrangement allowed United News to provide a key component in the successful informational programs used in the occupied territories through June 1946.

Locating United News in the National Archives

According to the online National Archives Catalog (NAC), 258 1,000-foot reels of 35mm film along with boxes of production files and notes were transferred to the National Archives from OWI and State Department files sometime before 1955. The collection was officially cataloged as:

(The dates don't agree with what is written in the above historical narrative, but I can’t comment on why or how things were cataloged 60 years ago.)

Altogether, 267 United News items are listed in the catalog. But when a duplicate story and a misidentified reel are subtracted from the list, the collection contains 265 historically significant World War II newsreels.

Each release is listed by the title of the first story in the reel. Assuming that my arithmetic is accurate, there are 1,220 individual newsreel stories in this collection. Of these, approximately 1,002 document wartime-related topics, while 218 cover postwar events. If you break it down by year of release, there were 171 stories produced in 1942, 273 in 1943, 333 in 1944, 292 in 1945, and 151 in 1946. There should be a few more, but three releases appear to be missing from, or were never transferred with, the collection.

While the individual story titles within a given issue are not listed in the National Archives Catalog, the "Scope & Content" section for each release gives a brief summary of the content. About a third of the newsreels also have online transcripts.

The subject matter of the United News stories runs the gamut of the life and times of the people, places, and events of a war-torn world. All major (and some minor) fighting fronts are covered, in the air, on the ground, and on the sea.

Allied Unity Stressed in United's Reports

The unity of the Allied nations, under the banner of "United Nations," is highlighted regularly, as are stories regarding the perils of Fascism and Nazism, especially during the first two years. Home front stories focus on multiple points, including military training, civilian war production, women in the workforce, war bond drives, and many other subjects. Postwar stories include coverage of the establishment of the United Nations Organization, the war trials, reconstruction efforts, famine relief, and anything atomic, just to name a few. Basically, if it happened and wasn't classified, it's probably shown in the United News newsreel.

For some reason, there are two separate sequential numbered groups applied to this collection: #1-212 and #1001-1051. Each appears to be in chronological release order. The first group documents June 1942–June 1946 and features stories from all the war fronts. The second group covers June 1944–May 1945 and focuses predominately on the European Theater from D-day to the German surrender.

Based on image content and script vocabulary, I believe the first group contains those issues that were released to American and other English-speaking audiences. The source of the newsreels in the second group proved elusive until I discovered a short reference to a "London Edition." These issues were produced in collaboration with the British Ministry of Information, the Free World Newsreel, and London-based representatives of exiled governments. Since all the stories in this second group feature a preponderance of Commonwealth moving images, storylines, and language (except, of course, for the one narrated in French), I believe that these reels are the surviving releases of the United News London Edition, intended for viewers in the United Kingdom. Based on a review of all the stories in the entire collection, there appears to be little overlap of story titles or shared footage between the two groups.

A Sample Transcript Illustrates Breadth of Film Coverage

To give you a better idea as to the scope of the subject matter covered in this newsreel, below is a representative "as recorded" transcript (with story titles added) of United News #95, released on March 24, 1944. The title of this reel is listed in the National Archives Catalog as "U.S. BOMBERS IN FIRST DAYLIGHT RAID ON BERLIN [ETC.]" It contains seven stories and is approximately 10 and a half minutes long (RG 208-UN-95, NAI 39002). Much of what you will read below is "propaganda style" English, and the spaces between blocks of narration are filled with music and/or sound effects.


NARRATOR: Leaving trails of steaming vapor in their wake, United States bombers bound for Berlin to destroy armament industries in and around the Nazi war capital. In their first daylight mission over the heart of Hitler's fortress, American bombers, combined with British Air Forces, are pounding Germany with raids around the clock.

One propeller out a bomber limps home. In all, 68 American planes failed to return. But the next day and the next, American bombers returned in follow-up raids.

Today, squadrons like these in ever-increasing numbers are taking the war home to Germany itself.


NARRATOR: Back from her fourth wartime journey of mercy, the Swedish exchange ship "Gripsholm" arrives in New York harbor. Aboard are 663 Americans, home from Nazi internment and prison camps.

Wounded soldiers, war correspondents, and diplomats are among her passenger list. They bring firsthand news of conditions in Nazi-occupied countries. Douglas MacArthur, nephew of General MacArthur, was attached to the American Embassy at Vichy.

Ralph Heinzen was Paris correspondent for an American news service.

RALPH HEINZEN: We're very glad to get home. We've been thirteen months interned in Germany and thirteen bad months for the Germans as well as for ourselves. Because in those thirteen months Germany has lost the war. They know they're whipped, but they're wondering how they're going to get out of it. Last year, Hitler has lost tremendously his prestige, particularly as a military leader. All through Europe, there's a very fierce underground warfare going on against Germany. In every occupied country of Europe, but particularly in France, there is this mighty organization of courageous patriots who are waging a war day and night against the forces of occupation.


NARRATOR: A transport plane lands at a Caribbean port. Aboard is Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, wife of the President, making the first stop in her latest tour of American Army outposts.

With General Shedd, commanding garrisons in the Puerto Rican theater of operations, she reviews troops on guard in the Caribbean.

In Australia, Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, wife of the Allied Commander in the Southwest Pacific, sponsors a new destroyer built by Australian workmen.

MRS. MACARTHUR: I christen thee "Bataan," and may God bless you.

NARRATOR: And His Majesty's Australian Ship "Bataan" goes down the ways, dedicated to avenge the gallant fighters in the Philippines whose heroism will never be forgotten.


NARRATOR: Nazi prisoners of war at a camp in northern United States. In full accord with the Geneva Convention, prisoners are well-housed, well-clothed, and well-fed. Although prisoners are not required to work, many volunteer as lumberjacks, for which they are paid 80 cents a day. A snow-shoveling detail. Prisoners keep their own camp in order.

By doing work like this in the shoe shop, captives are able to buy cigarettes and other luxuries.

War prisoners receive the same rations as American soldiers or an equivalent in their own type of food, if they prefer.

These Signal Corps pictures show a fully-equipped recreation room provided for the captives, who even have their own band. America scrupulously observes the principles of humanity in her treatment of war prisoners.


NARRATOR: Officers of the Allied military government draw up plans for the evacuation of thousands of homeless civilians from Italian battle areas. At one large estate, more than 10,000 Italians found refuge from fighting zones.

Along every road in endless procession, refugees stream toward collecting stations set up by the Allied military government. Many helpless families made homeless by the German seizure of their country were forced north during the Nazi retreat. Stripped of most of their possessions, only a few were adequately clothed or fed until the Allied 5th Army landed.

Moving these helpless people from the ruins of their shattered homes is one of the great rescue achievements of the war. The real tragedy is the plight of the very young. The world into which they were born has been a world of suffering and sorrow.

Now the Allied authorities opened the way to a new haven, a haven where they may wait in safety for the day of peace. As quickly as possible, Army trucks take them to ports of embarkation.

Here, giant LSTs, landing ships built to carry huge 30 ton tanks, take on their trucks and their human cargoes for transportation to Naples, a hundred miles down the coast.

Sanctuary in Southern Italy. Here, many Italians find new hope and new lives in liberated territory.

* * *

For the sake of brevity, I only included five of the seven stories in the above sample. To watch and listen to the entire release, go to the listing in the National Archives Catalog or go to the National Archives YouTube page.

A Research Tip for Using the National Archives Catalog

If you would like to investigate the United News collection, go to the National Archives Catalog home page at www.archives.gov/research/catalog/. Type "38905" (minus the quotes) into the search box, and click "search." On the results page, look for "Motion Picture Films from 'United News' Newsreels, 1942–1945." It should be in the first position on the list. Clicking on the title will take you to the collection's series catalog page. Scroll down a bit until you see "Includes: 267 item(s) described in the catalog" and click on "Search within this series." You'll see a multipage list of the United News issues, in ascending catalog number order. If you click on the blue film frame to the left of a newsreel title, you will be able to watch that reel. As of this writing, 93 issues have been digitized for your viewing pleasure.

It should be noted that the quality of the newsreel you'll see and hear is known as a "reference video." It's a digitized copy made from an analog U-matic videotape format copy recorded in 1984 of the 35mm original film. The resulting images are usually a bit fuzzy, grainy, contrasty, and the sound is, at times, over modulated. Compounding this is the fact that these reference videotapes are now 31 years old and have been very well used. Just be aware that these reference videos are . . . what they are, and do not necessarily reflect the quality of the 35mm original footage held within the National Archives' film vault. I have seen a few stories remastered from the original prints, and the quality is superbly sharp with a well-mixed monaural audio track.

After you have completed your search, you may have found some releases or stories that the National Archives has yet to digitize and link to online catalog or its YouTube channel. Here are some options for viewing reference-quality copies.

Videos and/or DVDs of all the United News releases are available for viewing at the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video research room in College Park, Maryland. You can make your own copies, too, if you wish. If you choose to do this, it's best to send an email to the staff ([email protected]) in advance of your visit so they can make sure that playback equipment is available.

Another option is to hire a private film researcher to make reference copies of your selected titles and have them sent to you. For those of you outside a reasonable driving distance of College Park, this may be a viable cost option when compared to the price of an airline ticket. A list of researchers is available at www.archives.gov/research/hire-help/media.html?format=motion-pictures.

Over the last few years, the National Archives has partnered with video production and distribution companies that have produced a number of DVDs. Amazon.com is one of those partners and has the newsreels for sale and also available for video streaming.

If you happen to be a member of the educational company Alexander Street Press or the genealogy portal Ancestry.com, you have streaming access to the entire collection.

With the explosive growth of material on the Internet, and the fact that United News is not under copyright, some titles are now accessible as downloads or streaming video via various websites. Google Videos, Internet Archive, and YouTube come to mind.

Last, you may want to search the web by the story title. You never really know what's out there.

Wrapping Up: An Unseen Treasure

This country is truly fortunate to have such a rich collection of motion picture recorded history preserved in the film vault of the National Archives. However, with the possible exception of the Universal Newsreel, much of the moving image film collection is seldom seen by the general public and is, I believe, an underused historical resource. Only through articles like this one, readers like you, the enhanced use of the footage by media producers, and its increased application as a historical research tool can we ensure that the films are available for future generations. It is a collection well worth cherishing.

Oh by the way, that young producer I mentioned in the beginning—she found what she was looking for in United News. Her last email to me said, "doin' the happy dance, thanks!"

The Cambridge History of Communism

This book has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Online publication date: September 2017
  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online ISBN: 9781316137024
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316137024
  • Collections: Cambridge Histories - Global History, Cambridge Histories - British & European History, Cambridge Histories - Asian History
  • Subjects: Area Studies, British History: General Interest, History, European Studies, Russian and East European History, Twentieth Century Regional History
  • Series: The Cambridge History of Communism

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Book description

The first volume of The Cambridge History of Communism deals with the tumultuous events from 1917 to the Second World War, such as the Russian Revolution and Civil War, the revolutionary turmoil in post-World War I Europe, and the Spanish Civil War. Leading experts analyse the ideological roots of communism, historical personalities such as Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky and the development of the Communist movement on a world scale against this backdrop of conflict that defined the period. It addresses the making of Soviet institutions, economy, and society while also looking at mass violence and relations between the state, workers, and peasants. It introduces crucial communist experiences in Germany, China, and Central Asia. At the same time, it also explores international and transnational communist practices concerning key issues such as gender, subjectivity, generations, intellectuals, nationalism, and the cult of personality.


'For those who have come to expect much of the Cambridge Histories, if the other two volumes in this three part series are anything like the volume under review, they will not be disappointed … it is comprehensive, detailed and easy to read and understand, both for the non-academic, non-professional readership, as well as for those who earn a living from examining and analyzing past, present and future.'

Watch the video: Ξεκίνησε ο πόλεμος - Ιωάννης Μεταξάς και Β Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος - HEARTS OF IRON IV #4 (June 2022).


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