A World at Arms Essay - Critical Essays

A World at Arms

In A WORLD AT ARMS: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II, Gerhard L. Weinberg has produced the best one-volume history of the war to date. Weinberg writes with authority. The author of a prize-winning two-volume history of Adolf Hitler’s diplomacy and the discoverer and editor of Hitler’s second book, Weinberg is one of the world’s leading experts on this period. Weinberg has not only mastered the voluminous literature on World War II, but also has worked extensively in American, British, and German archives, giving his narrative a power and freshness lacking in other general histories of the war.

Weinberg writes with a moral passion. His work is not a desiccated academic tome. He takes pains to assign moral culpability for the war and the crimes committed during its course.

Weinberg makes it clear that responsibility for the war lies with Adolf Hitler and the political and military circle around him, abetted by Joseph Stalin and his henchmen in the Kremlin. In this same vein, Weinberg deflates many reputations cultivated in postwar memoirs, particularly those of the German generals who willingly carried out Hitler’s orders and accepted his lavish presents, and then in defeat attempted to distance themselves from their National Socialist connections.

Another virtue of Weinberg’s book is that it transcends traditional military accounts of the war, treating fully the diplomatic, economic and social dimensions of the conflict. Theaters and nations rarely discussed in detail in American and British histories—the Russian and Chinese fronts, Italy and the Balkan states—receive their due in A WORLD AT ARMS. Most important, Weinberg interweaves his narratives of the struggles in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, instead of treating them separately, demonstrating brilliantly something lost in most histories of the war, the interconnection of the fighting on both sides of the globe. A WORLD AT ARMS will long stand as a standard reference on World War II.

Sources for Further Study

American Heritage. XLV, February, 1994, p. 108.

The Christian Science Monitor. May 26, 1994, p. 13.

Foreign Affairs. LXXIII, May, 1994, p. 155.

History Today. XLIV, April, 1994, p. 54.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 5, 1994, p. 2.

The New York Review of Books. XLI, June 9, 1994, p. 20.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, February 20, 1994, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, January 3, 1994, p. 64.

The Times Literary Supplement. May 13, 1994, p. 5.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, February 20, 1994, p. 1.