Just before dawn on June 22 1941, the German military radio intercepted an exchange between a Soviet forward unit and its army HQ. “We are being fired on. What shall we do?”

The Red Army was under German attack – Adolf Hitler had launched his invasion, which Paul Johnson, in his book A History of the Modern World From 1917 to the 1980s, maintains was the most fateful act of Hitler’s career. It destroyed the Nazi regime and its leader, and brought Soviet totalitarianism into the heart of Europe, Johnson says...

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