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Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  223 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"Magnificent. . . . Seldom has a study of the past combined such erudition with such exuberance." —The Guardian 

"No-one with an interest in the Second World War should be without this book; and indeed nor should anyone who cares about how our world has come about." —The Daily Telegraph 

Pre-eminent WWII historian Michael Burleigh delivers a brilliant new examination of the
ebook, 672 pages
Published March 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2010)
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Oct 17, 2011 Grant rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Moral Combat begins with great promise, describing the conditions and events that combined to effect the massive moral sinking within, primarily, the axis nations of WWII. It is detailed, well-researched and complete, becoming, by the end, an uncompromising and utterly depressing accounting of the inhumanity that occurred in that specific conflict. It is a fairly easy read for the most part, although Burleigh’s attention to detail can bog things down… I think that I counted about 14 different co ...more
Jan 28, 2014 Scottnshana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Burleigh when I was stationed in Turkey in 2000 and had the time to tackle his massive book on the Third Reich. I liked his approach to the subject--Nazi lawyers depriving select groups of people of their rights so that the thugs could roll in and rob the deprived of their property and lives (a.k.a., why the Bill of Rights is important). The legal and moral examination was engaging and it clarified the bureaucratic apparatus that put a professional gloss over the nastiest right-wing ...more
Dec 18, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
Concisely written overview of the moral questions that haunt wars in general & World War 2 in particular. Michael Burleigh has a tremendous command of the historical scope of the war... and it's refreshing to read history of that time written from a British perspective.

The book stutters to a close - I kept waiting for him to sum up what he'd found but he (on purpose, I think) chose not to write that kind of book... preferring instead to chronicle the choices & consequences rather than s
Apr 18, 2011 Larry rated it really liked it
Burleigh's book is detailed and interesting, but Michael Bessing's "Choices Under Fire" and A. C. Grayling's "Among the Dead Cities" bring a more thoughtful mpral analysis to the war. Read all three.
May 08, 2017 Baco rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I don't normally review books i couldn't finish, but this was such a disappointment I had to say something to try and warn off others. This is a broad, confusing book that alternates between sweeping, poorly-sourced statements and overwhelming detail. Burleigh tries to explain why the principal players made their decisions without doing a very good job of hiding his contempt for them.

A quote:
But the ineffable uniqueness of suffering can also mutate into its sacralisation, a finite quantum that
Michael Confoy
Mar 20, 2014 Michael Confoy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book was quite a surprise as the focus was mainly on NAZI Germany's crimes. Discussion is had on the USSR, Japan and on Allied Bombing of Germany, but the mass slaughter by the Germans is the main course. The book rightly points out that while Stalin was responsible for as many deaths as Hitler, the USSR never launched a war of annihilation and extermination as Germany did against Poland and the Soviet Union. If you were not immediately killed, the German plan was starvation as a helot for t ...more
Rob Prince
Sep 07, 2016 Rob Prince rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished "Moral Combat" last night, read cover to cover. Have mixed feelings about it...

On the one hand, about as vivid description of the horrors of WW2 as one can find...excellent discussions on all kinds of things - Allied bombings, the Nazi invasion of Poland, what was going in Italy, the einsatzgruppens in Poland and Lithuania (who killed my relatives), the resistance movements. His portrait of Churchill is interesting, but self-serving, that of Mussolini very well done. While I am quite fa
Jun 13, 2016 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review originally posted at Book of Bogan.

I don't think it takes much imagination for anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of world history to believe that World War 2 was one of humanity's low points, and could probably list off a litany of evil acts which took place during that conflict. So I had to wonder just what Michael Burleigh might bring to the topic which hasn't been done before.

One thing that stood out to me in reading this book was the author's criticism of Hannah Arendt's boo
Margot Sheehan
Apr 22, 2014 Margot Sheehan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Antony Beevor's big book on the Second World War, Michael Burleigh's Moral Combat belongs to the new genre of 'Hammer Horror' History. Grotesque carnage and mutilations abound, described in obsessive detail, like the torments and tortures from a late-medieval martyrology.

Such obsessive description—amputations, disembowelments, flayings, beheadings, cannibalism—is a recent development. This stuff was generally left out of popular-scholarly historical commentary until the last decade or so,
Jul 05, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Burleigh has written a fascinating history of World War II in Europe concentrating on moral dilemmas that faced both sides. Of course, quite quickly the Germans jettisoned these concerns, shortly after the Polish campaign Hitler issued a blanket amnesty for Germans charged with war crimes. There would never be another instance of mass prosecution of Germans for such offences by their own Army. The Allies too wrestled with concerns created by aerial bombardment, but as Burleigh showed mil ...more
A balanced, albeit Anglo-American-centric, account of the moral issues raised by the Second World War. The book is very well written, highly opinionated, occasionally biting and scathing, with particular contempt for modern revisionist tendencies of the sort that equates Allied bombing of Dresden and Hamburg with the Holocaust: 'No serious person can compare the hard-fought bombing campaign with slaughtering innocent civilians in circumstances where the only risk the perpetrators ran was to be s ...more
Emmanuel Gustin
Writing an overall history of morality in WWII, encompassing the entire conflict, is a major challenge, especially if the author wishes to do more than summarize what others have written in works with a more limited scope. Burleigh partially succeeds. Through a careful selection of topics, he has written a book that is not a complete history of the war, but contains enough of the historical framework to support his discussion of politics, combat, resistance, and the Holocaust.

It is not really t
Vadassery Rakesh
A horrendous journey through the ravines of cold blooded murder on one side and the inhuman ideological conflicts on the other side. The author gets into the nitty gritty of the politics of war, but alas , mainly seeing it through the eyes of the eventual victors. Rightly demonizing the troika of villains on the axis side. But elevating the allies to God's stature was uncalled for, forgetting the atrocities committed by the various empires on the Asian and African continents. If Britain could fo ...more
Mar 30, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Burleigh has written a history of World War II from a moral (rather than the more common operational) perspective. Burleigh describes in detail episodes that required moral judgments on the part of the participants, who had to make such judgments in the face of extraordinarily difficult and complex circumstances.

This book is a very rich and probing investigation of many difficult and often subtle moral decisions that were made and forced upon various people, famous and unknown, powerful
Sep 20, 2013 Olethros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-De la evolución del sentimiento de superioridad moral antes, durante y después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y de su influencia en la misma.-

Género. Ensayo.

Lo que nos cuenta. Relato, desde una perspectiva histórica y cronológica, del sustrato de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, de su desarrollo y conclusión pero orientado desde el posicionamiento de los líderes, gobiernos, políticas e individuos a la hora de tomar decisiones, y de cómo dicho posicionamiento cambió, mutó, se desarrolló o se afianzó seg
Feb 10, 2017 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at good and evil throughout the duration of the second world war, sometimes feels like a list of atrocities - but I guess that should not be a surprise given the subject.
Jan 21, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historian Michael Burleigh presents his history of the Second World War through the moral dilemmas that confronted the combatants (and their respective civilian populations) and discusses how they approached these issues. The book is well-researched and reabable. The author makes strong arguments, but backs them up with considerable evidence. However, the book often strays from its ostensible objective, and becomes a generalized history of the war, rather than focusing exclusively on the moral q ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because my father gave it to me and said he thought it would be "important for me to read." It gives a sobering but pretty comprehensive view of WWII; focusing less on battles and campaigns and more on the inner workings of generals' minds and the psychology of societies involved in the war. I was surprised that a non-fiction history text could have such an engaging and compelling voice, and that definitely made the book readable. I learned quite a lot from reading this book and high ...more
As you can tell from the title, Burleigh seeks to examine World War Two through the eyes of the people committing the various atrocities that happened in World War Two. Burleigh attempts to explain why things like the holocaust, the bombing of Dresden, the rape of Naking, happen, and how the people committing them thought and felt. Burleigh's book isn't a traditional narrative, but none the less is still worth a read for casual and seasoned historians alike.
Chilling history of the good and evil (mostly the latter) that soldiers, bureaucrats and politicians did in the largest conflict in world history, and so many were convinced that they were doing the right thing. Grisly and tough to read at times. Large focus on European theater. Some judgments about other historians are disagreeable, and some factual errors about the Pacific front, but still morbidly fascinating.
John Bladek
Interesting, if not as groundbreaking a study as it claims. Definitely written from a British perspective. Churchill gets tens times the attention as Roosevelt, who is never dealt with in any detail. In fact entire US contribution given short shrift, at one point being characterized as "belated and shameful." Still a good portrayal of the moral choices made in the context of world war, not from the comfort of the future.
Apr 06, 2016 Grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burleigh argues that while the Western Allies occasionally committed acts of brutality beyond the scopes of what was necessary to win the war, the Axis powers engaged in an immoral war that placed barbarous behavior at the core of their methods and goals, and the Soviets not far behind in bad conduct.
Mar 01, 2013 Tomi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book! Burleigh presents both sides of the various moral issues arising from WWII. I see that there is no such thing as a "good" side; both the Allied and the Axis populations suffered in making choices. Choosing the "lesser of two evils" was often the only realistic option available for many.
Rich Hornbuckle
Jan 19, 2014 Rich Hornbuckle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of what constitutes the nature of Good and Evil in the context of WWII. Espionage, collaborators, politics and Nationalism are explored. The oxymoron of a title mirror's Studs Turkel's ironically labeled THE GOOD WAR. When humans seek to kill each other in mass, it is sometimes difficult to diffferentiate between many many shades of gray.
Feb 15, 2014 Marsh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is strong stuff, well researched and not for the faint hearted. Important details that tend to get lost in the noise. 3.5 million Russians died in Prison camps. If anyone believed in that humans a re "basically good people" after reading this they need to ask what to do with this evidence.
Patricrk patrick
Somewhat dry but considering the topic that is understandable. Makes the case that the German army and people were well aware of what was going on. Has only a small amount on the Japanese. Phrase that stuck with me about the German behaviour in occupied Europe was "shopping with a gun".
David Alonso vargas
Concienzudamente escrito. El rigor del autor de trasluce en todos los capítulos. Muy ameno de leer y con una cantidad enorme de fuentes es, sin duda, uno de los grandes libros sobre la II Guerra Mundial.
Russ Schafer
Aug 10, 2015 Russ Schafer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
well structured. dark subject matter.
Feb 14, 2011 Hugo is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
There's still a lot of evil out there, and if you don't stand up to it, it will take over. Be prepared to "sup with the devil" as long as you remember that he isn't your friend, he's still the devil
John Parks
Oct 26, 2016 John Parks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
really good. Non-Combat history of world war II
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Michael Burleigh is a British author and historian.
In 1977 Michael Burleigh took a first class honours degree in Medieval and Modern History at University College London, winning the Pollard, Dolley and Sir William Mayer prizes. After a PhD in medieval history in 1982, he went on to hold posts at New College, Oxford, the London School of Economics, and Cardiff where he was Distinguished Research P
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