In This Review

The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany 1941-1945

The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany 1941-1945
By Michael Beschloss
400 pp, Simon and Schuster, 2002
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World War II is the most intensively studied conflict in history, and nearly 60 years after its end, fresh information is still emerging. Beschloss' account of U.S. policy toward Germany during the war integrates new archival research to place some of the war's crucial actors and events in illuminating new perspective. In particular, Beschloss's account of the relationship between Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and the president he served for 12 years leads to surprising and disquieting insights into Franklin Roosevelt's failure to publicize -- much less to obstruct -- the Holocaust. John McCloy emerges from these pages with a reputation considerably enhanced. Often singled out as the official responsible for blocking proposals to bomb Auschwitz or its feeder railroads, McCloy is shown here to have acted under direct and specific orders from Roosevelt -- a source he loyally concealed for decades after the war. Beschloss' sensitive portrayal of the difficulties of assimilated, educated Jews such as Morgenthau with a political culture still strongly influenced by antisemitism is both disturbing and moving. Some of the material he handles is radioactive, such as antisemitic comments from Roosevelt and Harry Truman against the background of the Holocaust, yet Beschloss neither palliates evil nor imposes the standards of the present on the past.