Richard Overy

Richard Overy is the author of The Origins of the Second World War, among other books.

Stand and Die: Rückzug

Richard Overy, 10 October 2013

On the German side, the history of the last two years of the Second World War is a history of retreating. Occasionally, the retreats were punctuated by large-scale counter-attacks – Rommel at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia; Operation Autumn Mist in December 1944 – but whether they liked it or not, the German forces generally had to move backwards. This history is nevertheless seldom...

Didn’t he do well?

Richard Overy, 21 September 1995

Albert Speer, Hitler’s pet architect and wartime armaments supremo, has always been regarded differently from the rest of Hitler’s henchmen. The ragbag of embittered veterans and political terrorists, shadows of Hitler himself, had little in common with the respectable and prosperous Speer, too young to have fought in the First World War, too fastidious and bourgeois for street-brawl politics. After 1945 Speer played the part of the corrupted technocrat, the unpolitical expert blinded by Hitler’s light until it faded in the last year of war. At the Nuremberg Trials he was the clever corporate manager made to take the rap for the directors’ indiscretions. He fell into the role superbly: yes, he did accept his responsibility for aiding what he now saw as an evil cause; no, he was not a warmonger, a murderer or a racist. The Allied judges believed him, just. He was not hanged. He got twenty years in Spandau.

Poor Man’s War

Richard Overy, 12 October 1989

It has suddenly become fashionable to sneer at the memory of the Second World War. The national press has been home to editorials and opinion columns archly condemning the anniversary as so much media junketing, as one long yawn. It is true that a great many people have jumped late and unceremoniously on the bandwagon, trivialising the past, capitalising cheaply on recollection. Yet the war is, for all that, a conflict we should never forget. It stands as an almost unbearable monument to human folly and wickedness. Fifty years on pundits can sound pious; remembrance becomes tacky and opaque; but we do have to take stock. Otherwise the war we pass on to the next generation (if it is recalled at all) will be war sanitised and domesticated, nostalgic, cute; war seen from René’s deplorable café, not from Auschwitz.

Opportunity Costs: ‘The Bombing War’

Edward Luttwak, 21 November 2013

The scenes of terror which took place in the firestorm area are indescribable. Children were torn away from their parents’ hands by the force of the hurricane and whirled into the fire....

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C (for Crisis): The 1930s

Eric Hobsbawm, 6 August 2009

There is a major difference between the traditional scholar’s questions about the past – ‘What happened in history, when and why?’ – and the question that has, in...

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Dun-Coloured Dust: Russia’s war

Thomas de Waal, 15 July 1999

At the heart of Vasily Grossman’s great novel of the Second World War, Life and Fate, is an unforgettable depiction of a house cut off from the frontline in Stalingrad. A group of soldiers...

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