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tv   Andrew Nagorski 1941 - The Year Germany Lost the War  CSPAN  August 9, 2019 1:55am-2:51am EDT

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or visit our website. now i gives me great pleasure to introduce t >> now it gives me great pleasure to introduce today's author and award-winning journalist and author who is spent more than three decades as a correspondent and editor for newsweek serving as a a bureau chief in hong kong, moscow warsaw and berlin. the subject of today's talk the year germany lost the war is scheduled for public release next week we do have
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them for sale following so please stay for the reception in the book book 1941 is a vivid account not only the conflict of the hour but the course of our lives even now. there were times best-selling author evan thomas observes the year 1941 must've been the greatest and stupidest year of modern times. with eye-popping revelation to show us why character is destiny. please join me to welcome our author. [applause] join me to welcome our author. [applause] thank you very much and to all of you for being here.
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break from the intensive political news. [laughter] i really appreciate the hospitality for inviting me for this event i'm sure most of you have done it but it was my first tour and was particularly struck me is writers tend to be a possessive about things. and the of sessions about the house and how to design it and the gardens it is all there at the library and it is magnificent to see the autographs of henry james and others to underline in various places makes it feel very familiar. the other thing is with the
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product of her upbringing she was back and forth between europe and the united states she did grow up after a few early years in new york i society her obsession with the socialal mores of that high society and social relations were conducted and the hypocrisies, deceptions, it is fascinating to see and all her life that influenced her work. now my obsession is a result of my upbringing even though i
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didn't necessarily think i would write books about what happened in europe or in particular in germany in the twenties or thirties. my parents grew up in poland. my father was calledol up to the polish army 1939 at the beginning of world war ii. and when the battle was over in poland had resisted very bravely at times, but were totally overwhelmed and decided not to turn themselves into a pow camp as they were supposed to but i grew up on the stories of how he got out of poland on foot as they were alluding german patrols
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getting too hungry at one - - hungry that yugoslavia and then france and the polish government and then my grandfather was involved in exile. in scotland in a polish paratrooper unit. i was born in edinboro after the war. however, at the age of ten months they say i got on the queen mary and arrived in the united states that's my my scottish accent is a little faint. but i grew up hearing stories of the war meeting people who have been in various in the
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underground. and other places. and hearing the stories about how much there was just a matter of chance whether you survived or did not survive. i was always intrigued by them. but growing up you're not sure. i wasn't sure how carefully i was following all of the conversations but i know that certain things stuck in my mind. the fact that at the time of the trial in jerusalem in 1961 when i would've been quite a young boy i remember at one point being in diner with my dad everybody was talking the
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nazis who had escaped and i said look at that old guy down there. that may be hitler. >> he mackey said no i don't think so. the legacy that's their and it's not something faraway and distant and then when i became a reporter and was based in germany twice in russia and poland and had chances to interview people whether they were holocaust survivors or veterans sometimes part of the german army this did not feel like that. there is still the chance to
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get so much of this history. so what i've tried to do whenever possible not only to look at diaries in documents and so forth but to interview people in for this book about 1941 i was able to draw on some of the interviews i did before both russian and german in minneapolis minnesota. i found a woman who works in the polish government. and i hear stories about the bombing and so forth. when i started this project three years ago she was 103. and just this week i made some inquiries can i send a book to her. she is 106 and i can send a
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book to her. i feel blessed to be able to still capture some of these voices and i have done a study when i was at news a week and a 1995 we did a big cover story about that deliberation. i had interviewed survivors from many countries. and the stories they accumulate and became part of this book and in some cases other books. i think our fascination with this era the fact that so many of you are here today. there is something about that era is peculiar to the time.
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the main country of germany. it's also about human nature. how could certain things have happened with the way they happened. and what were the driving forces in who are the individuals who were the driving forces. one of the things that they usually correspondent. in the 80s and especially in the 80s and 89. it came and was really evident to me how certain individuals drove movements like solidarity of poland. or the role of leaders like pope john paul the second. things happen not because they are predestined but because of individual choices and sometimes accidental choices in history is something that has never a set predestined
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pattern. i'm always looking for those pivotal moments. in the early days when i first started thinking about writing books about this time. they were in such amazing books who am i to try to write more about it. then you begin to realize there are always parts of the story that are uncovered. the very first book i wrote about was a historical bobble. and partly a fantasy. based on this whole question of how things could have turned out differently about hitler's life in munich in the early 20s. when i was doing that. i give you one example. the historical versus the journalistic approach. if i'm going to write something about this.
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i need to see. where did hitler live when he first came here. and i tracked down the one room which he rented an apartment when he first was discharged from the austrian army and then i tracked down what was the bigger apartment. once the movement took off and had many supporters. how am i going to get to see these apartments for the first apartment where i went to. i come up and knock on the door. this young german man opens the door. it's his daughter. and i say in german but clearly with an american accent i'm an american correspondent this is easier
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than i thought. the other place was a big fancy building where you have a ten room apartment i see that the whole thing is undergoing major renovation from the inside. everybody had been moved out. most of the apartments had been turned into offices. in this being germany i didn't ask anyone i just walked with a notebook and a camera. they assumed i must had have permission to be there. i got to see everything. i would like to try to see and
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feel and as much in the whole feeling about germany what was it like. and in one of my earlier books hitler talked about the perspective of americans who have lived and worked in germany. and the diplomats and others. it was only from their perspective berlin was a fabulous place. all this happening.
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at one point in 1927 edgar mallard. i cannot conceive it is a rather stunning sentence. a lot of what i'm trying to write about before is how is that. hitler has been underestimated. and people always thinking they could of have that. and it was not something we should be terribly worried
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about. at one point married. you would think they have moved in and some of the same circles. dorothy thompson met hitler in 1931. it was before he took power. his party was rising to power on the strength of the backlash against the great depression. his eyes have the most peculiar shine. at the same time the soft almost feminine charm of the austrian.
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this was a reaction that he was somewhat feminine. he was not nearly enough. you will be out of luck. those kind of reactions. they have underestimated. his own juniors. the people working for him. his finance minister. by the name of general thomas. and then to attack poland.
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you will get the world against you. the manpower to win against all of these enemies. look what happened by the end of 1940. after dismembering czechoslovakia. the defeat of poland. and then they turned to the west. west. they beat norway and denmark. everything is collapsing.
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britain is can have to make a separate piece. too distant and two-week as he sees it. they are beginning to feel their own doubts. one of the the greatest military commander of all time. even some of the generals that was the most skeptical. he have an infallible instinct.
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they could no longer even questioned him. everybody else ruling -- reeling. at this point the united states is still neutral out of the war. very strong isolation movement. the soviet union is not only out of the war formally but the de facto ally. the split up poland and the baltic state. in providing them with all sorts of resources. hitler is writing quite high. and yet at the end of 1941 it's totally changed. and that is a story the 15 of
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her -- the 50th anniversary of d-day. it was a huge turning point. it would culminate in d-day. what was the main factors here that made that possible. the role of the individual in particular of churchill into a lesser degree roosevelt.
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the one leader that refused to surrender. we all know his famous rhetoric about that. he projected the image that there is no way we are ever going to surrender and there is no way that we can be defeated. one of the interesting things that i found in researching this book is that all of these people that really staunchly advocated the strongest course right at the have of them. they are working as go-betweens. they have moments of private doubt. and even churchill when he was appointed prime minister in may of 41 after his fans were falling. he went to his private
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bodyguard. his bodyguard said you have an enormous task ahead of you and churchill apparently had tears in his eyes he said i hope it's just not too late. that is not the public churchill. there was a fascinating character in london in the u.s. embassy he have bought in france. from a family. he was constantly at odds with the u.s. ambassador in london he was through 1940 and officially until the beginning of 41 joseph kennedy. and joseph kennedy his message was britain is can a lose it should cut a deal whatever deal he can and it makes no sense to support britain
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because it's good to lose anyway so anything you do to support it is just a wasted effort. there are people like general lee who were totally opposed to that and realize also that it is a matter of fighting the public relations war back were back in the states. and particularly with the help of american journalists. they really participated in including by the way dorothy thompson the same dorothy thompson who had reported from germany before. and he at one point when not blitz was going on there was constant bombing of london and he brought in the american journalists into his office embassy and he have in a stack of dictionaries on his desk. he said i'm reading a lot in the report where you are saying london is devastated.
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this is not a devastated city. if you want one person's opinion it won't be. the message was there is really a lot of damage. 43,000 people his message was this is not devastation in the sense that it's not going to defeat the bread -- the british. they set up a personal relationship that i go into at some length in the book. when candy was still there. and they nurtured this relationship on both sides and there had been a bit of distrust between them.
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churchill in private again don't push the americans he has the opposition in the west. and only congress can declare war. he would say there were a lot of complaints among some of the british and pro- british that he was dragging his feet. but then there is the big battle. about providing aid to britain. in later that same legislation would help provide aid to the soviet union he snapped at one of his aides and said something about those bloodied yankees. on the whole they would nurture this relationship.
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they became very close personal relationships and churchill was an excellent and impressing them with the determination also bringing some of the american journalists and by the end of the year of course after pearl harbor in the u.s. is finally into the war to me the incident that epitomizes their relationship is churchill at that point finally comes to the white house. he is invited by roosevelt. and given the disability and the probe quantities. they have a lot of time in the
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bedrooms upstairs. and they would often just do their business wandering in and out of the businesses. it was in the bathtub. dictating something to his aid. he goes out into his bedroom and a certain point. the towel falls to the floor at that moment roosevelt rosen on his wheelchair and without a moments hesitation he is seat mister president i have nothing to conceal from you. you have that kind of relationship for me. you have a governor in a new ambassador who have come he
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had been governor of new hampshire. he was very pro- british and church hill. that relationship is cemented. that was a prerequisite. the big factors hitler's own gambles. the more things begin to go their way. and then when they began to go against them. what happens is his air force does not bomb britain into submission. he is frustrated and so he goes back to the original ideas which he spelled out again and again that the future lies in the conquest of
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the east. to enslave colonize and exploit the territory of the ukraine, russia and get rid of the intervention sleds. and he decides what i'm going to do is i can't quite defeat britain right now which originally heat that would convince the soviet union to make it easy to dominate the soviet union and that he turns to the soviet union and he says i will just downplay it britain for a moment. attack the soviet union. .. ..
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but the visit napoleons a tomb in paris after conquered paris and the knew -- and then his armies got stuck in the russian winter and famously were destroyed by that. he felt his army was much more modern, would do better, but just in case, we'll attack in may. then he is distracted in may by a coup in belgrade of a puppet government and he attacked russian the exact day napoleon did. he comes roaring in, i his armies come in because this is the period where i think you get the remark that event thomas
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made but the back about someone is interesting the stupidest years. almost you had a competition between hitler and stalin, who could be the most student dictator, hitler would have to lose, stalin was not refusing to believe what all sorts we were intelligence leaders vague, hitler is about to attack you. you better get ready and the it not even allows his troops to good on alert, not arming them probable are properly. says he doesn't want to do anything to make hitler think they were going war because hi wasn't ready for war. and his own spies are telling him the same thing, again and again help refuses to believe them. must be a western plot. these must be double-agents in stalin's paranoid mind and anything that appears obvious must be the opposite. so, he is not ready and in the
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beginning, the german army is just sweep into the soviet union, do incredibly well but what happens? first or all, they -- some of the people who welcomed his army, because -- not because they knew much about hitler or the nazis 0 are the ideology but all they'd been terrorized by stalin for so long. starved, mass executions. and -- but in standof hitler saying, at least pretend for a while to be libators. no. immediately the reign of terror of hitler's army, not against the jews, the -- the gas chambers. they would just said in killing squads and kill all the jews and some in villages and towns. and hundreds of thousands were
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kill that way. but also, they -- the germans captured huge numbers of p.o.w.s and some of them surrendered willingly, think it would be better than in stalin's army. well, they were starched, beaten and -- starved, and bitten and execute it. by 1932, two million has died in hitler's hands. so when stalin begins telling people you better fight, people begin to take him seriously, side from the fact he was threatening them. so, you have this war of -- which is horribly fought on both sides and then hitler decided he is going to send his army -- almost around the approaches of
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moscow, and his generals want to keep going and he says no, they got to good south to the ukraine first 0, to kiev, which they do. that delay this assault on moscow until first of fall, the rains come in and turn the russian roads to mud, then a very early winter by even russian standards sets in, and german army freezes. hitler's armies came into the solve union that year without winter uniforms, he was so confident. so you can imagine what happened. you have all this happening and everybody is just -- it's a question almost who can make the worst mistakes. but as a result, eventually the stalin is able to hold out, there's near panic in moscow but he manages to stem the tide and slowly things begin to -- the
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german offensive is stopped and begins to be pushed back. and at the same time, there is this question of the holocaust. the same -- no accident that the invasion of the soviet union coincide with the beginning of the holocaust. made the fulfillment of hitler's pledges to exterminate the jews possible, and he decided he's going to do it at all costs to the extend that for instance i was reading the die riff of a german general who was leading the driver on moscow. he says, i just read -- when things started going badly in december, that there are these train loads of jews being deported from western europe to the rear of our front line, i'm outraged. he was not judge raged morally. he was outraged because he said we need winter uniforms and ammunition. hough can you would trains for
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jew? so the are the types of things going on. so during this time, this is happening, and then of course, the other big event of '41 is pearl harbor. and the japanese attack on pearl harbor. but remember one thing about pearl harbor. japan attacks on december 7th. roosevelt asks for declaration of war on december 8thful of course gets it but the declaration of war against japan, not germany. at that point, i think fdr knew that war with germany was inevitable but hitler declares war on the united states first. he becomes -- his progressive illusion is, now that japan is in the war, we can't lose. japan, germany, italy, together, we'll win. japan's never been defeated in 3,000 years, he claimed, and it will tie down america in the pacific and won't be able to continue helping britain and the soviet union.
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the numbers alone make that a huge miscalculation. by that time the united states, britain and soviet union had a three-to-one advantage in terms of population, more than three-to-one. more than two-to-one in terms of gdp. seven times the territory. eventually if -- as one german write are say, if you declare war on the whole world, usually the whole world wins. and that's what happened. it was -- it and was churchill who recognized that no matter how battered they were, there were still the u-boats and the fighting in north africa, everything still looked bleak bit the end of '41. there was -- everything was ending. it was far from a won war, but history lir -- but churchill at that point in a pitch to the
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canadian parliament could say, so we have won after all. england would live in hitler's fate was sealed and he was right. but it would take another the and a half years for that to happen. thank you. [applause] >> i'd be happy to take questions. wife you can just wait for the mic a second. >> i still don't understand why hitler would declare war on the united states, even if he felt that the united states would be tied up with japan, why do it? >> well, for one thing, the united states -- hitler had signed the tri-par tied pact with germany -- with japan and italy so they had pledged to
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each other they would declare war, but it's as if the pledge for hitler meant anything but he really did -- i mean, hitler -- twat struck me again and again in researching this and reading about conversations, accounts of conversations hitler had with his inner circle during this year, many of which i quote the book, how hitler -- to the outsider, it seems what he was doing was crazy, basically. how can you expect to win? but it had an inner logic and that was -- again, in his inner logic, japan getting the ties down the united states. he first estimated the united states wouldn't be able to get industrial and arms production up until 1945. then by end of mid-1940 he began to realize it's coming down. now japan attacks. great. they'll be so tied up with
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japan. it was of course a huge -- the person who had been considered a political genius, at the beginning of the year -- by that point, realized that his calculation -- his inner logic wasn't functioning. why, that's another question, and also interesting that he begins to get administered some of the vitamin cocktails by his quack doctor. the injections may have clouded his judgment a bit more. >> stalin wasn't prepared for war but he already marched through czechoslovakia and had -- gee had taken eastern poland and then taken control of the baltic states. czechoslovakia was dismembered by nazi germany.
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>> i'm sorry. >> your point is he was -- stalin wanted to expand his empire and he wanted -- he kind of liked the idea -- they both tyrants flit evidence with almost liking each other at certain points. hitler said, stalin's purges of the military were pretty good. maybe i should have done more of that with my own army. and stalin at one point after the war, his daughter wrote that at one point he said, of course nazi soviet pac fell apart but if we stuck together we have been pretty damn strong, something to that effect. but stalin really knew the weaknesses of his own system, and realized that he -- the country wasn't ready for war, and but he made the situation worse by not preparing, by
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trying -- overflights from german planes constantly as they were preparing to attack and the germans would say those are training exercises and stalin would say, okay, don't shoot anybody down. don't antagonize anyone. but hitler's attacked the soviet union with 3 million troops. that was not exactly -- can't camouflage three million troops. >> hitler was made a german citizen a town in germany and that was important for him for his marching forward. >> made a german citizen? of course -- >> hitler -- >> of course, he was austrian. when i lived in bohn, the capital of west germi before the reunification when there was this whole business -- i called the whole bit of the curt wall i'm affair, the secretary general of the u.n., austrian and forgot a few things in this
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biobut during the war, and one of the things was that austrians have convinced the world that hitler was german and beethoven was austrian. hitler wanted to be -- felt himself a greater german but was austrian and wanted it declared, and when he first -- first rising to power he was still technically an austrian citizen. that's true. >> this question would probably take you all evening to answer but one of the thing is found really fascinating frommure other writing was the waying me low mania manifest evidence differently inch difference between stalin hitler i hope they're more about that in your current book.
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>> yes. there is. and the short answer because i know we don't have that much time, i think what was different is that to me -- this is very evident in that period of 1941 -- hitler does not learn from his mistakes. he multiplies his mistakes. stalin, who with the way, when german forces invaded, for a while he ran off to his dacha. he was humiliated and all his predictions saying this won't happen now, and at certain point the politburo members came to talk to him and wanted to get him back. we need you. we need a leader here. and when he marched interest the room they realized that stalin looked up very mistrustfully because he thought they might be arresting him. and -- but stalin made one big decision at that moment in that
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year, in october, when it looked like the germans might take moscow, and there was panic in moscow, there is was looting, all this stuff that is unimaginable in the soviet union. talked to many wheel who survived that and gave me their stories, and at one point stalin actually went down in the railroad station to a special train that was going -- was ready to evacuate him to a city in the the -- 600 mind east which was going -- the temporary capital if moscow fell and the government offices had been mod and foreign diplomats hand beside move and the paced at the track, went along the train and then went back up the stairs and he clearly made the decision at that point, i have to hold moscow. i word goes out that stalin abandoned moscow it's all over here. so the other thing was, while
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hitler, for instance, as things began to go wrong in the battle for moscow in 1941, eventually fired his top generals, some of his most gifted generals and made himself commander in chief of the army. only multiplying his mistakes. stalin, what he was very disfrustrateful of generals and could do horrible things to him, began to trust in particular one man, the commander-in-chief, who led the defense of moscow, who also been involved in the defense of leningrad, and slowly began to accept some -- that there could be some -- that the generals could be teaching him a few things how to get out of this situation. he was still a despot and could still turn against anybody, but he was some reader -- shrewder than hitler was. >> i know this is a the
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theoretical question that knowing that america was isolationist, wow would franklin have gotten america into the war if hitler had not declared war. >> that's a very good what-if question. right before pearl harbor, shortly before, i remember i have an account in the book of where ambassador wine unanimous, the former new hampshire governor and his attache are having dinner and what will it take to get roost to urge congress to go all the way ask they're worried because the feel that britain has held out but we're not sure they can do it minute longer without america, aside from providing supplies but actually come interesting the war. and there was no firm answer to that. if hitler had not attacked -- i think one of these things where
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the triggers were going off, and it is hard to imagine that there could have been a completely separate war in the pacific and given the alliances that had been formed, and churchill himself at one point said after pearl harbor when he got roosevelt on the phone and in his memoired wrote something, i hope americans won't take it amiss but basically said this is good news for us, because we need you. and the americans who understood that were certainly sympathetic. but roosevelt's role was -- he went interest -- campaigned in 1940. going to keep the u.s. out of the war. but he -- at the same time he was telling people, well, first was the supplies it's like a neighbor. if their house is on fire, take garden hose. if you have a garden hose, better give it to your neighbor,
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not charge him for it. don't worry about charging them for it. but that logic, even there was isolationist extent sentiment, that logic get to people he and the isolationists didn't do them any favors, behindberg was behind boring was asked down you think it would bet beer britain won the war. he said, no, it would be better if neither side won the war. he also had his german families but that's another question. >> should be our last question. >> okay. >> no pressure. >> all right. >> good afternoon, sir. >> good afternoon. >> there was a book or an article many years ago, it was tight.ed "how hitler lost the
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war," delving into this decisions, phelps the blitzkrieg on london as posed to bombing the air field and destroying the field, the decision to not use jet propulsion, refusing to use automatic weapons for the troops and that sort of stuff, as part of his mega low mainat oh, due you view those decisions in general. >> one thing, for instance, again, general lee, who is his fascinating character who is walking -- he did these walk-abouts in london during the blitz to show support. and that was dangerous. there were bombs falling. this is not kidding around. but he at first -- while he was worried, he would also say, there's no -- as a military man, these bombings don't make sense. if they're just psychological and they instill random terror, true enough, but you're not hitting methodically certain
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targets, particularly military targeteds that are important, but all over the place. and so part of it was gehring, the head of the air force, was not a great strategist either to say the least, and was -- and thought he always claimed, we'll bomb everybody into submission, and another decision when the allied troops were retreat toward dunkirk, the german tank were within range and they were held back because they said, oh, luftwaffe didn't take care ohm them and 300,000 british and french troops and others gets out. so, as a military leader, that was run of the biggest thingses that became apparent, and especially in '41, how hitler
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overestimated himself and what a poor military leader he was. but despite that, think of it, still fight -- fought for three and a half years and even after d-day, the bat ol' the bull college so forth, shows if they've had good military leadership it's chilling to contemplate how much worse it could have been. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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