On Borrowed Time: How World War II Began

ISBN: 0394439104
ISBN 13: 9780394439105
By: Leonard Mosley

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2 22 A Research Check Library Germany My Unread Books Russia Soviet Union To Read World War Ii Ww Ii Wwii Europe

About this book

Acknowledgments1 Aide-mémoire. Incident at Eger; Prophets of Armageddon; The antipathetic alliance2 The road to Prague. "How long will this burlesque last?"; "Don't you see?...It's the German insurance companies that will have to pay!"; Hitler over Bohemia3 Warsaw or Moscow? The Führer is sick; The panic pact; Hitler briefs his generals; The conspirators are worried; "You must think we are nitwits & nincompoops!"; Slow boat to Leningrad4 Moment of truth. The walrus; Stalin makes up his mind; Hitler takes a hand; Ribbentrop's hour of triumph5 The sands run out. Mussolini reneges; The indefatigable Swede; Operation "Canned Goods"6 World War II. Common action or another conference?; At lastEpilogueSourcesNotesIndexMaps

Reader's Thoughts


This is a well written, well researched text which includes a great deal of material drawn from the author's own notes, taken as a reporter inside Germany and a number of Eastern countries just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Like his contemporary, William Shirer, Leonard Mosley brings a professional eye to the major events of the period leading up to the start of the war, and the fact that he was often sur place, gives the book a most authentic ring. The book raises a number of seemingly minor but possibly vital questions such as: would Hitler's attitude to Chamberlain have been different had the British P.M. not turned up in Berchtesgarden with a staff of only four people? Certainly he began to develop a degree of contempt for Chamberlain from that meeting onward, and when it came time for the fateful meeting on the Rhine some months later, Hitler was openly contemptuous of the British P.M.Would things have also been different had the Czechoslovakian President, Eduard Benes, had more sleep just prior to the events of September 1938? Would he have seen things more clearly and called in the Russians, as he probably should have done (and, it is believed, nearly did do)? And would it not have been much more favourable for the British and French to fight Germany with Czechoslovakia in 1938, than without her in 1939? Mosley is very good at asking these sorts of questions, which, so many years later, may prove to have been very decisive indeed.How many odd events seemed to influence the mood of the leaders of that time. How many messages failed to get through to the right place. Sometimes they were inexplicably held up en route (Mosley suggests it may have been due, on occasions, to Communist spies in the British Secret Service - like Donald McLean). At other times, well placed people (like Paul Stehlin, the French Air Attaché in Berlin), tried to warn their governments repeatedly that things were hotting up, but were not taken seriously. As for the extraordinary series of errors committed by the Anglo-French military and political delegations to Moscow just prior to the invasion of Poland, Mosley covers them in detail and highlights many points hitherto overlooked.These and many other forgotten issues probably exerted a far greater influence at the time than has been thought since. Yet in the end, it was the personality of Adolf Hitler himself, although set off and to some extent complemented in exactly the wrong way by the French and British leaders of the period (and one might add, the Italian), which proved decisive. From the very start, it was undoubtedly Hitler's war, and Mosley brings this historical imperative more firmly into the light of day than ever. It nevertheless leaves one quite breathless, to see in detail how it all came about.

Glenn Robinson

Reading this with view of executive leadership and decision making, my blood boiled with the lack of backbone, lack of froward thinkers, lack of ability and lack of morals. What also got me was the large amount of brown nosers and placaters. We all know about how Chamberlain famously proclaimed that he had "secured peace in our lifetimes." What most do not know is that he was attempting to create an alliance with Germany and even after the invasion of Poland was still trying to organize a conference. This book is filled with many examples that if any of the nations stood up to Hitler, he would have backed down. He bet that they would not. Well researched with direct interviews of many of the people involved. Much more than I knew. Worth the read.


I am sure I read this, but it was long ago. Was it good?

Charles Inglin

One of my better finds at a library book sale. Published in 1969, Mosely was a journalist who watched the run up to war from Berlin, London and Paris. He had the advantage of having access to many of the second tier and third tier government and military officials who worked under the leaders of the time, to critique and balance the often self-serving memoirs they left. Predictably he's extremely critical of Chamberlain, Daladier and their fellow appeasers. What is truly tragic is how unprepared Germanhy was for war. Hitler was essentially a gambler and a con man who fooled the West. If France and Britain had stood up to Hitler in 1938 in the Seudeten crisis Hitler would likely have backed down. If he had ordered the German army into Czechoslovakia, the German generals were prepared to remove. But the failure of the West undercut the anti-Hitler movement and encouraged Hitler to go for even more. Ultimately, Hitler was convinced that France and Britain would never go to war over Poland. Also surprising were the extent to which Mussolini and Goering were opposed to war. Mussolini, who hadn't expected Germany to go to war until 1942, told Hitler, to Hitler's disgust, Italy wouldn't support him unless given immense amounts of resources. Goering, working through Swedish businessman Birger Dahlerus, tried to negotiate a settlement with the British even into teh first days of the war. An interesting read for students of WWII.


A masterpiece in research, suspense, intrigue, and storytelling. When I finished the book, I wanted to read more....much more! Frankly, I was sorry to read the last page because Mosley had me hooked! The author captures the year before the war in an enduring tale of conspiracy, manipulation, trickery, and miscalculations. The blunders, and delusions on both sides are ingeniously described with superlative competence from someone who witnessed the events unravel. This book is a TEN on a FIVE scale!

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