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Publisher's Summary

Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill, offers a complete history of World War II.

It began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. By the time it came to an end on V-Day - August 14, 1945 - it had involved every major power, and had become global in its reach. In the final accounting, it would turn out to be - in both human terms and material resources - the costliest war in history, taking the lives of forty-six million people.

With unparalleled scholarship and breadth of vision, Gilbert weaves together all of the war’s aspects - the political, the military, the diplomatic, and, not least, the civilian - charting an almost day-by-day account of the terrible progress of the war’s juggernaut of death and destruction. Through it all, his aim is to show what happened, not from the point of view of any one of the warring nations but from a global perspective. The result is the first total history of this global war, a work that is both a treasure trove of information and a gripping dramatic narrative.

©1989 Martin Gilbert (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Brings the losses and the horrors of the war home to us more urgently than a more accented account might do.” ( New York Times Book Review)
“Mr. Gilbert brings the strongest possible credentials to his history of World War II, and the result is a magisterial work that shows how the greatest war ever fought reached into every corner of the globe.” ( New York Times)
“In his transmission of the horror of the war, Martin Gilbert has achieved something no historian but he could. There is indeed a relentless force about chronology when it is used as a tool by a historian of the status of Martin Gilbert.” ( Sunday Telegraph)

What listeners say about The Second World War: A Complete History

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Catalog of Atrocities, Ignores the Japanese

After a while the book became a catalog of Nazi atrocities in Poland and the eastern front. While it is critical that they be documented, it became very difficult to listen to lists of towns followed by numbers of men, women and children murdered. These details could have been cut back and far more focus placed on the Pacific theater. For example, there was no mention of Japan's pre-1941 invasion of China and the Japanese atrocities there (e.g., I don't recall hearing about the rape of Nanking). This was a very Euro-centric account of the war. Lastly, the sound quality was terrible. It sound like it was recorded on cassette tapes which were digitized.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Should be required reading for all students.

The most complete review of the history of WWII I have read. Students of world history need to familiarize themselves with this book. Even though I have traveled to Germany several times and in fact served in the Army for 3 years in peacetime Germany, I was unaware of the extent of suffering and cruelty perpetrated by the Nazi regime. I sincerely hope the German people are not allowed to forget the devastation caused by the Nazi's. Nor allowed to excuse themselves as unaware participants of those barbarians.

Bill Hemby




5 people found this helpful

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Disappointing. Save your time.

Mostly a recitation of names and dates with only limited analyses and insights into the underlying causes and overall strategies. Unfortunate from an author whose other works have include classics with brilliant analyses and insights.

3 people found this helpful

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audio bad

couldn't finish the book. After a few chapters, the treble on the tone of the voice was so difficult to listen to I had to return the book. The Story seems interesting, but I didn't get a chance to listen through.

3 people found this helpful

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Not really history & it doesn't really cover WWII

This is basically a series of human interest stories about the victims of the war in Europe. There is nothing about the causes of the war and almost nothing about the leaders or the generals or the strategy and tactics of the battles. There is very little about the war in the Pacific. In a sense, this is an extremely modern book because it focuses almost exclusively on the victims. (Also, the focus is on the victims of the Nazis; very little about the victims of the Russians.) There are a lot of human interest stories about the horrors of war and the senseless deaths of non-combatants in Europe. If that is what you are looking for then this is the book for you.

I object to the way this book is titled and marketed as a WWII history. I wanted a conventional one volume history of WWII. I already knew that the Nazis were bad and that innocent people died during this war. I am going to return this book.

1 person found this helpful

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was expecting something different

Would you try another book from Martin Gilbert and/or Bernard Mayes?

probably not

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Second World War?

too many to recall

What does Bernard Mayes bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

nothing

What character would you cut from The Second World War?

all were necessary

Any additional comments?

very disappointed....90% of the book was concentrated on europe and the nazi...if memory serves me correctly...there was a lot of "war" in the pacific....but the author writes about the pacific in almost an afterthought.....i'm sorry about the horrible happenings in europe...especially toward the jews and the final solution......but just as much horror was in the pacific......too bad the writer chose to ignore that

10 people found this helpful

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Excellent coverage of the human costs of the war

Although initially I was put off by the dateline nature of the book, I have a very different reaction now that I have finished. The author weaves the large and small atrocities of the war into the brief narratives of the battles and campaigns. No book other than Bloodlands has been so good at giving me a chance to reflect on the lie of Joseph Stalin “If only one man dies ..., that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics”. Each death is a tragedy and the millions dead in WWII is a tragedy without the ultimate possibility of comprehension.

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Jewish issue

While I’m abhorrent about the treatment of the Jews by the Germans. I don’t need a Jewish body count from every town captured. If you want to read about WW II battles strategy and behind the scenes action. This book fails miserably

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if you love torture and cruilty, holocaust heavy

I think I would have liked this book a lot more if they didn't mention every 5 minutes how many Jews just got killed and where they got dragged out from seem to be a lot of unnecessary unimportant deaths mentioned to the bigger plot of the story.... yes I get it the author is Jewish so there's definitely going to have to be that factor but I'm not necessarily wanting to read the Nazi and the psychiatrist... however combined with William Shirer books, it realty fills in a lot of the blanks but you don't necessarily get from the history channel... can't beat it for the value

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Good Introduction and Overview, Dry as Toast

This book would have killed me as a college student, I wouldn't have got past chapter 3. If you have limited time to listen, I may skip this for something else. I have the luxury of working in a plant that is so loud that I wear earbuds and tractor headphones and can listen for 40 to 60 hours a week. It means I miss out on many shorter books as I won't spend credit on something less than 20 hours or so, but I also have time to get through books like this and not feel I'm wasting time.

This is almost literally a day by day account of certain aspects of the war. It's told from an English perspective which I didn't expect and certain nation's appear as no more than statistics. The narrator sounds like he is sitting in a tin can but it didn't distract me. He also misses a lot of F sounds so I always thought it was cutting out.

The author more or less presents the reader with statistical figures and brief stories, but there is almost no analysis which I found both good and bad. I wasn't told what to think, but often a little more information would have gone a long way. I realized how little I knew of the war especially in terms of what happened when and in this it was extremely valuable.

In many ways I felt that this could have been written by a some what out dated A.I. The many atrocities are horrible for what they are, not by any addition of the writer. Good and bad both get glossed over and when the book is over, I felt numb and a bit sick of humanity. But now I have good ideas of where to dig deeper.