Long before an Allied victory was assured during World War II, the Big Three--Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin--began discussing how to prevent Germany from ever again threatening the world. The fact that Germany today is a peaceful, democratic ally of the U.S. is "one of America's great twentieth-century international achievements," writes esteemed historian Michael Beschloss. How such a transformation was accomplished is the subject of The Conquerors.
Drawing on thousands of previously unreleased documents, secret audio recordings, private diaries, and other information recently made available, Beschloss details the complex diplomacy between the Allied leaders, including their differences over whether to demand Germany's unconditional surrender; how, if at all, to divide Germany after the war; and how to effectively punish Germany without creating the kind of resentment that led to the rise of Hitler. The relationship between the three leaders, and later, Truman, is fascinating, as Beschloss reveals private conversations, ulterior motives, and numerous back-channel deals that took place. Of particular interest is the maneuvering of Roosevelt and Churchill, who were both concerned that the Soviets would attempt a postwar power grab in Western Europe if given the chance. The book also deals with Roosevelt's reluctance to deal with Germany's systematic extermination of the Jews, and the role that his old friend and Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., played in pushing the President into action. After learning of the Holocaust, Morgenthau became obsessed with punishing Germany severely, drafting a plan that called for the complete destruction of their mines and factories as a way of forcing Germany into subsistence farming--ideas that put him at odds with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and many others in the administration.
The Conquerors is a superbly written, if brief, treatment of the political events leading up to the defeat of Germany, with the main players brought vividly to life by Beschloss's keen eye for detail and his ability to expose the human strengths and weaknesses of the participants. --Shawn Carkonen