Welcome to the Web site for Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). In this site, under “Discuss the book,” you can read comments that other readers have posted about the arguments presented in the book, and (if you wish) post additional comments of your own. You can also visit the photo gallery page for photographs related to the themes covered in the book. Also, under the “Resources” page, you will find additional references and links to web sites related to the book’s topics.
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How a nation conducts its wars, and how an individual citizen or soldier chooses to behave during wartime, say a great deal about who they are. Moral considerations are not just a froth playing on the surface of war’s campaigns: they permeate the policymaking and the conduct of military action in countless ways. In this book I seek to show how the moral choices made by individual persons — military and civilian, at all levels of society — played a pivotal role both in shaping World War II and in determining its long-term impact on the postwar world. This moral dimension of the war revealed itself in three distinct ways:
- In the political and military policies adopted (or rejected) by the belligerent governments;
- In the sometimes momentous decisions made by individual civilians and soldiers;
- In the broader patterns of small, everyday choices — relatively isolated choices that were seemingly less consequential in themselves, but that became highly significant when cumulatively played out and repeated across large numbers of people.
This book tells the story of World War II through the lens of these myriad moral choices, tracing the common threads that run through them, and assessing their enduring impact on the world we have all inherited.
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