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Why was WW2 so long?

LAURENCE REES: So the war was unwinnable for Germany?

ADAM TOOZE: I think the fundamental question we need to ask is not why they lost, but why it took so long to defeat them and how they were able to get as far as they did? Yes.

LAURENCE REES: And why do you think that was?

ADAM TOOZE: Well, I think it’s an unraveling story, and it starts essentially with those battlefield events in the spring of 1940. That’s the event that really shouldn’t have happened in the form that it did. The defeat the Germans suffer in the East seems to me to take largely the shape that one would expect. The Russians perform remarkably well, I think, to be able to restore their offensive firepower by December 1941 given the losses they’d suffered in the preceding months. The truly inexplicable, hard to understand events of World War Two happen in the early months of 1940.

LAURENCE REES: And the other extraordinary thing is that the personality and the ideological beliefs of one individual - Adolf Hitler - and his ability to influence an entire country, are core reasons behind all this?

ADAM TOOZE: Yes. And up to 1938-39 you’d have to say that Hitler is a man frustrated, operating within quite tight constraints both internationally and domestically. He’s a man still struggling to assert his power. But the degree to which he’s able to unhinge both domestic and international fetters and constraints acting on him between the spring of 1938 and December 1941 is a truly radical moment in modern history. As Kershaw has taught us to say, the German people were 'working towards' the Fuehrer’s vision of a German future, and were animated by that determination. I do think it is what makes the history of the Third Reich such an abiding fascination and such a deep puzzle, because it doesn’t seem to conform to certain logics or rules that we otherwise are able to discern in history. It’s not as though most things that occur are in the end difficult to understand. It’s easy enough to provide reasons, but the train of events between 1938 and 1941 I do find deeply fascinating for that reason.