Creepy title aside, this is a crisp, effective WWII narrative, highlighting the many moments, invisible in the mechanized chaos of battle, where the worm might have turned against the free world.
Decorated veteran Alexander (The Future of Warfare, not reviewed, etc.) emphasizes that he does not intend to ameliorate the magnitude of Hitler’s crimes or provide a “speculative history.” Instead, he offers levelheaded dissent to the prevailing “Greatest Generation” view of Allied excellence, claiming that crucial points from 1940 onward could have been seized by the Nazi war machine had not the solipsistic perversities of Hitler’s madness stymied each opportunity. He begins by depicting the multiple Nazi victories between Hitler’s ascension in 1933 and the rapid conquest of France in 1940: Alexander posits (as did certain of Hitler’s generals) that a series of surgical strikes in North Africa and the Middle East would have rendered the British military irrelevant and allowed the Nazis enough control over shipping and natural resources to establish rule over southwestern Europe and ultimately threaten the Soviet Union. Instead, Hitler focused all resources on an unsustainable frontal attack on Russia and on implementing genocide. Alexander examines shifting military fortunes in every stage of the war to explore how Hitler’s obsessions undermined actual and potential achievements of the Wehrmacht. In Stalingrad, for example, the Führer’s strategically crude determination that “all positions must be held” led to the gruesome destruction of the German Sixth Army. One of his officers in the disastrous Russian campaign concluded that Hitler “actually recoiled from risks in the military field,” refusing to allow surrender of territory. Especially after the 1944 attempt on his life, this compulsion merged with his toxic grandiloquence to convince him that German forces were perpetually on the verge of decisive counterattacks. More generally, the leitmotif here seems to be Hitler’s urge to destroy the German people alongside those for whom he professed hatred: as in his deliberate provocation of three great industrial powers to form an alliance against him.
An engrossing military history, with chilling undertones of what might have been.