Written for a broad audience, this reappraisal of Hitler as military commander and war leader can only be called a startling apology. Irving, the British author of The Destruction of Dresden (1963) and other WW II studies, not only credits Hitler with greater strategic insight than his generals--a view already advanced by John Strawson, Joachim Fest, and others--but claims that Hitler never ordered the extermination of the Jews. Moreover, writes Irving, a British ""deal"" with the Nazis in 1940 would have spared Jews, Empire, and the cities of Western Europe. After ten years of studying the minutes of the German naval staff, discovering the diaries of key diplomatic and military figures, and interviewing numerous Nazi veterans, Irving concludes that Hitler's real problem was timidity. The Fuehrer ""suffered incompetent ministers and generals far longer than the Allied leaders did""; he also remained too soft-hearted to mobilize women, use poison gas against the West, or condone assassinations of enemy leaders. Yet Hitler showed steely composure, as when he told the Eastern Front generals who wanted to retreat that the climate was no warmer 30 miles to the rear, and they would sacrifice all their heavy weaponry. Basically a pragmatist, Hitler thus would not have diverted transport and manpower to slaughter Jews, according to Irving, who contends that even Churchill joined the cabinet partisans of an entente with Germany in 1939-1940. Suggesting that, since the Nazis offered to guarantee the safety of Britain and its empire, the war was waged merely to save face for certain politicians, Irving writes, ""surely British readers at least must ask themselves: what, then, were we fighting for?"" The book's verdict on the Fuehrer: "" 'Hitler the Great?' No, the stomach of History is still too raw to swallow such an epithet. . . . But it is questionable whether, in the 20th century, less radical methods would have achieved as much for post-Versailles Germany."" Abrasive new material in a shockingly slanted framework.