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From the author of the best-selling One Minute to Midnight, a riveting account of the pivotal six-month period spanning the end of World War II, the dawn of the nuclear age, and the beginning of the Cold War.
When Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met in Yalta in February 1945, Hitler's armies were on the run and victory was imminent. The Big Three wanted to draft a blueprint for a lasting peace - but instead set the stage for a 44-year division of Europe into Soviet and western spheres of influence.
After fighting side by side for nearly four years, their political alliance was rapidly fracturing. By the time the leaders met again in Potsdam in July 1945, Russians and Americans were squabbling over the future of Germany and Churchill was warning about an "iron curtain" being drawn down over the Continent.
These six months witnessed some of the most dramatic moments of the 20th century: the cataclysmic battle for Berlin, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps, Churchill's electoral defeat, and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. While their armies linked up in the heart of Europe, the political leaders maneuvered for leverage: Stalin using his nation's wartime sacrifices to claim spoils, Churchill doing his best to halt Britain's waning influence, FDR trying to charm Stalin, Truman determined to stand up to an increasingly assertive Soviet superpower.
Six Months in 1945 brilliantly captures this momentous historical turning point, chronicling the geopolitical twists behind the descent of the iron curtain, while illuminating the aims and personalities of larger-than-life political giants. It is a vividly rendered story of individual and national interests in fierce competition at a seminal moment in history.
This is only the 2nd book Ive given 5 stars to. The author and narrator grab your attention from the opening paragraph and hold it to the very end. Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Truman literally come to life with each paragraph. You can almost see them as Bob Walter reads this brilliant work. You are transported back to 1945 and you are witnessing these giants of history formulate the next 50 years of anglo-russian relations. The cold war is born and you are there to witness it.
I have only 2 minor complaints. The first one is the humanization of Joseph Stalin. For a man that killed more people then Hitler, Stalin is not portrayed in this negative light. The book describes how Stalin sought German reparations to aid in the rebuilding of his country but fails to acknowledge how Stalin caused a lot of this suffering himself. I.E. the great hunger in Ukraine
Second is the SLIGHT drop in audio quality during the last hour.
These 2 reasons do nothing to detract from the overall appeal of this book.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
Having read One Minute to Midnight, I was looking forward to Michael Dobb's approach to this momentous half year of history. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the end of WWII through the eyes of those with whom I was not very familiar, specifically Churchill and Stalin.
History always seems so much more orderly after it has been massaged by time and culture. This book demonstrates how every meeting, issue and decision was messy, complicated and difficult.
There were times when Dobb's attention to detail seemed a bit too deep, but all-in-all I found myself glued to my headphones and, in the end, wishing for the story to continue.
Bob Walter is easy to listen to and handles various names, locations and non-English words flawlessly.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This book was fantastic. It is a look into not simply the events at the end of the Second World War, but a real insight into the major players - Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, Truman. I felt almost like it was fiction at times because the author made their personalities so real. Their interactions, their feelings, their flaws, and their motivations are so clear that you feel like you are actually there, listening to them talk at Yalta or at Potsdam. As someone who was not even old enough to be in kindergarten when the Berlin Wall fell, this book was a major insight into what caused that turmoil and misery that was to last almost 45 years. The big decisions, the most influential people, and the events that exacerbated it all - the atomic bomb, the division of Berlin, the Iron Curtain, the looting of Germany, and the argumentative beginnings of the United Nations - this book discusses all of it. I have read a lot about the Second World War, but I didn't know very much about the Cold War when I started this book. Now I feel like I really understand what happened to create such a tense environment for so long.
I've read a lot of history, and the insight and depth of this book makes it one of the best ones I've ever found. It was fascinating to get such a variety of points of view that made my understanding of the people in this time complex and human. (However, this doesn't mean that the person you see is likeable - Stalin's own daughter describes him several times as cold and unfeeling.) I also appreciated that it didn't deify the American presidents in the way American history books sometimes do, especially when a president dies in office. Roosevelt comes across as a little naive and too unwell to make a stand (a little like Woodrow Wilson does in Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, though this book was much more forgiving of Roosevelt's flaws than Paris 1919 was of Wilson's), and Truman as inexperienced and not particularly interested in reducing tensions with the Soviet Union. Churchill is left out a little, which as someone who finds him fascinating I was a little annoyed about, but it is symbolic of the decline of Britain as a world power at the end of the war. When he is discussed, however, he is also very human - frustrated by being ignored by Stalin and the Americans, well-spoken, depressed, and to some extent out of touch due to his imperialist leanings. The book also doesn't shy away from describing the atrocities of the Red Army in Germany and the ethnic cleansing that followed the movement of Poland's border to the west. The suffering of the Germans, especially in Berlin, is clearly devastating.
I thought the narration was good. I am very picky about mispronounced words, though, and there were a couple of those, so I can't give it five stars.
Overall, I felt totally immersed in this book. I highly recommend it - it is engaging and accessible to many readers, though prior understanding of the Second World War is necessary, as the reader is expected to already know what happened militarily in 1945 for context. I feel like I now have a really clear insight into the people and the decisions that created the Cold War and all of its continuing effects on the world.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Those of us who experienced 9/11 may have some idea of how a world can change virtually overnight. Those involved in World War 2 may not have realized how much impact these six months would have on the world, nor may those of us living today have known how our world was shaped - or even CREATED within that same time frame.
We learn history from books written with perspecitve. This perspective changes with every person removed from the events, every decade that passes where we see consequences of the events, and with the softening of opinions about events experienced by earlier generations.
This type of history telling - with first person perspective written at the time of the events is so much more...EVERYTHING. I love the humourous events around Churchill (including FDR finding him naked in the tub); the details on the death of FDR, and the real fear of Truman as he stepped into the presidency; the nature of Stalin in his creation of his power-bloc behind the "iron curtain", all of it. Many of the details come from those we have never heard of - but who kept good diaries, who have insights we would never had discovered any other way.
This type of history can give us more depth on issues that we have a surface knowledge of. We know the Cold War developed out of the WWII end, just as WWII grew out of the end of WWI, but this book delves into the details in a way that is in-depth without being dry and boring. We know the atomic bomb race was a part of this Cold War, but this dig into the WHY and HOW in ways I have never read before. I even found out that the 38th parallel was chosen as the dividing line for Korea (an important part of the second half of the 20th Century) by two guys and a National Geographic map!
This is a credit well-used, and I share this in hopes it helps you decide if it is for you.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
an interesting topic. Full of interest. The one problem I had was it lacked cohesion.
Too much detail of food during these historical dinner! the first portion of the book was maddening because of this. however, once it gets rolling it improves greatly. the author has done a TREMENDOUS job compiling all of this additional information from the generic story we all know. well done MR. Dobbs
If you have any interest in WWII at all, this book will captivate you and provide some interesting details and insights you likely had not heard before. Very thorough and yet I did not feel the detail bogged the story down. What did however slow things down for me was the William Shatner-esque unnecessary drawing out of certain words and random pauses in every sentence.
Enjoyed the historical view of the final six months of WW2. It appears that the future Cold War and icy relations to Russia (USSR) came down to both sides views towards Poland. The west (Great Britain) had gone to war over Germany's attack on Poland, whereas Stalin viewed Poland as lands to be returned as well as a buffer against any potential resurgent Germany (the west).
I know this is simplification but this was where it a all began.
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
It is a very good summary of the last 6 months of the second world war and the seeds for the Cold war.
What about Bob Walter’s performance did you like?
He is very clear and precise in reading numbers and figures. He should be more ironical when irony requires
Do you think Six Months in 1945 needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
No. I believe the natural continuations are one about blockade of Berlin, then Cuba Missiles crises, Regan Star wars program and German Unification
But the book is not so fascinating. I've found that basing a book of history on a date (no matter how compelling the date. c.f. 1776), rather than a person or event doesn't make for a very good book.
While there were some interesting stories in this book, the overall effect was not that impressive.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful
What this book perhaps lacked in a cohesive story it more than makes up for in how it winds such disparate events into a compelling narrative of how the great powers largely inadvertently marched to the Cold War.
Full of amazing anecdotes, quotes, and historical details this book was fantastically written.
The narrator does the tale fantastic justice in his approach.