Fateful Choices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am

Fateful Choices

by Ian Kershaw

Penguin, HK$170

Second world war history buffs won't find much new in Fateful Choices. Nevertheless they will probably enjoy Ian Kershaw's absorbing examination of the 10 decisions that he believes 'changed the world'. All took place from May 1940, when France was on the cusp of collapse and Britain decided to continue fighting, to December 1941, when Hitler vowed to annihilate Europe's Jews. In the first chapter Kershaw tells how Winston Churchill contemplated peace negotiations - despite his public assurances that Britain would never surrender. The critical junctures that follow include Hitler's decision to attack the Soviet Union; Japan seeing the 'golden opportunity' to move into Southeast Asia; and Mussolini siding with Germany to grab the spoils. Then comes Roosevelt's decision to help Britain, Stalin's insistence that Hitler would not invade his country; the US resolution to 'wage undeclared war'; Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour; and Hitler choosing to declare war on the US. Often more interesting than the events themselves are the personalities of the leaders. Kershaw says the course of events was anything but inevitable during those months.