Book Review: The Origins of the Second World War
Reviewed by VNN Staff
3 January 2005
[The Origins of the Second World War, A.J.P. Taylor, Touchstone Books, New York, 1996. First published in 1961.]
When The Origins of the Second World War was first published in the early 1960s, it created a good deal of controversy. For it was one of the few historical books that didn't portray Adolf Hitler as a bloodthirsty maniac bent on world conquest. Instead it treated Hitler as simply the leader of a powerful fascist country. And it treated WWII as the fault of Poland and the Western allies as much as it was the fault of Germany, if not more so.
Taylor guides the reader through the historical events that led to WWII, focusing mostly on 1930s Europe. Taylor ends his narrative with England and France declaring war on Germany, which launched WWII in Europe.
Despite a few, mild anti-fascist comments - and a tiny bit of obligatory Holocaust lip-service - The Origins of the Second World War treats Hitler in a pretty fair manner. Importantly, it shows that Hitler a) did not intend to take over the world or even take over Europe; b) did not plan for world war, and indeed wanted to avoid war - even war with Poland (although Hitler was prepared for that if certain negotiations with Poland failed). Taylor shows that if Hitler had any serious fault, it was that he may have bluffed in his foreign policy a little too often. Just as bears often false-charge a potential enemy to size him up before possible combat, so Hitler often did as well, in a manner of speaking. The Western allies failed to understand Hitler's obvious tactic. They assumed too much beforehand.
Taylor shows that WWII essentially occurred over an insignificant piece of real estate: Danzig. A city that was annexed (read: stolen) from Germany in 1919 by a bogus treaty, Danzig was full of Germans, not Poles. As such it would seem that Poland would have had no problem giving Danzig back to Germany as Hitler demanded. Yet Poland, in an extremely pigheaded move, refused to give up even an inch of that city. The result: Germany invaded Poland, which opened the door to the second world war.
The key part of Taylor's book comes on page 267, with a top British diplomat mentioning to Hitler that the negative pre-war attitudes about Germany in Britain were due to "Jews and enemies of the Nazis." Surprise!
The Origins of the Second World War is a good book for the average citizen who wants to learn about WWII without having to wade through anti-Hitler propaganda. The book isn't pro-Hitler, but neither is it the usual Hitler-as-monster. Taylor examines the events leading up to WWII in a nonpolitical manner, as good historians should. Yet this book has been called 'revisionist' for its evenhandedness - which is a good barometer of where the modern West is located, racially speaking.
The Origins of the Second World War would make a great gift for a friend or relative who has been brainwashed by the standard, Jew-pushed propaganda surrounding WWII.
 Alan John Percivale Taylor (1906-1990) was a respected British historian.