As a copout post today, I’m reposting this review that I previously posted on my old Ando Online webite. Since no one actually visited my old Ando Online website, I’m sure none of you have read it. Also, there is a new post on The Halls of History and there will soon be a new Answer to Josh’s Cold War Questions. Enjoy!
The Fall of Berlin 1945 is a tremendous book detailing the final days of the Third Reich. It chronicles the push from the Oder River by the Soviet Red Army all the way to the Reichstag in Berlin. The author, Antony Beevor, covers every aspect of the campaign: both the strategic and tactical aspects of the military actions, the effect of war on civilian populations, and the interpersonal dynamics of the belligerents’ dictator’s with their military and political ministers. Despite the scope of the book, Beevor is able to give sufficient time to each topic, supported by a myriad of sources and brought to life with fascinating anecdotal evidence. The chapters describing the goings on in the Reich Chancellory bunker are a study in meglomaniacal delusions, as Hitler ordered cities already reduced to rubble to be held to the last man and suicidal attacks countering all military logic are led by generals either paralyzed by paranoia or blinded by hysteric devotion to a madman. The “armies” to which Hitler issued orders were in many cases no more than flags on a map.
The Soviet chapters tell of a fiercely determined army fueled by revenge for five years of Nazi atrocities in their land. It was not just the German Wermacht or SS that suffered the Red Army’s reciprocity. German citizens, especially in East Prussia, also paid in much blood and plunder for the crimes of their countrymen. Beevor also chronicles the extreme paranoia of Stalin with his generals and vice versa.
There are several maps, which are invaluable for keeping track of who is attacking where and with who. Beevor’s writing style is easy to read for such complex material and he compels the reader to keep the pages turning.