Dinner in Moscow

June 1941 is an important and valuable book.  Rather than provide the lives of Hitler and Stalin in parallel, historian John Lukacs seeks carefully to probe the dynamic of the relationship between the two men in order to illuminate a pivotal moment in world history.  At this, he is brilliantly successful.  Lukacs’s spare account, devoid of superfluous material, is a most useful contribution to the literature of World War II, owing, in part, to its historiographical and intellectual perspective.  For Lukacs keeps the focus resolutely on individuals, on their motives and purposes, between which he carefully distinguishes, and on the intended and unintended consequences of their actions.  This theme, implicit throughout the book, is occasionally made explicit:

In 1941 and exactly on 22 June 1941, everything depended on two men, Hitler and Stalin.  This in itself refutes the social-scientific and current opinion according to which history, especially as we advance into the mass age, is ruled by vast economic and material forces and not by individual persons.  The Second World War was not only marked but decided by personalities, by the inclinations and decisions of men such as Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt.

Returning historical attention to individuals entails the difficult work of focusing on their purposes and carefully weighing evidence.  Thus,...

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