The Conquerors is deservedly a New York Times bestseller. It details the differing approaches of the major players in WWII and the post-war reconstruction. Readers learn that during the war, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill disagreed on the unconditional surrender of the Germans. In fact, FDR was going to follow Henry Morgenthau’s plan to crush the German people, while Churchill feared that would unleash the Russians on Europe. Upon assuming command after Roosevelt’s death, Truman not only scrapped Morganthau’s plan but he also actually fired him.
Frighteningly enough, Roosevelt agreed more with Stalin’s hardline policy than the Churchillian conciliatory stand. Frightening and even more disappointing is the fact that Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy did secretly propose the bombing of Auschwitz to Roosevelt, who promptly said no. Previously everyone thought that McCloy never mentioned this to the President.
This book is an excellent example of what effect individual personalities can have in the most momentous events in history. One cannot help but contemplate how different things would have been had some of the above-mentioned roles been reversed.
Beschloss manages to give detailed explanations of who did what when without bogging down in tedious minutiae. A historical book is stereotypically at best a “slow read” and at worst a boring one. The Conquerors defies the stereotype and rewards readers with fascinating insights into World War II presented in a “user friendly,” easy-to-read manner. This is an invaluable book for history, political and war buffs.