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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What If?

What might have been invented earlier if the Black Plague had not wiped out over a third of Europe's population in the 14th century? What would the US be like today if the Confederacy had prevailed in the Civil War?  What kind of government would have evolved in Germany if the Allies had not been so punitive following their victory in WW I?

Historians are fond of speculating about these "what ifs?", which they often call "counter-factuals". "The Winter Fortress" (2015) by Neal Bascomb is a gripping true tale that compelled me to wonder - What would the world look like today if Nazi Germany had developed the atom bomb first?

I knew nothing of the Norwegian mission to sabotage Germany's efforts before starting this book. The sacrifices these men made, the hardships they endured, and above all, the immense bravery they demonstrated are humbling beyond measure. Each time I read a book of this type, I'm reminded how mild my moral tests have been. What would I do if I were asked to participate in a mission like the one so expertly recounted in "The Winter Fortress"? If you read this worthwhile book, try asking yourself the same "what if?"  

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