The Fall of Berlin 1945 Paperback – Deckle Edge, Apr 29 2003
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Military history, even at its best, can be a cold art. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that wars involve individuals, each with their own hopes, fears and desires. Berlin: the Downfall, 1945, is Antony Beevor's account of the bloody Götterdämmerung that brought the Second World War in Europe to an end, and in which he has fused the large and the small scale effects of war. Beevor paints the broad picture of Marshals Zhukov and Konev, competing for glory and Stalin's attention, as they race their armies towards Berlin. He gives the reader a gripping account of the brutal street-by-street fighting in the German capital and provides an unforgettable portrait of the last, insane days of Hitler and his entourage in the bunker.
His attention to emotional detail is what made his previous book Stalingrad such a magnificent work, combining a sweeping hisorical narrative with a remarkable sensitivity to human drama. Yet he also highlights the small details of ordinary people caught in the nightmare of history--the sick children evacuated at the last minute from a Potsdam hospital; the Soviet soldiers shaving themselves for the first time in weeks so that they would make appropriately presentable conquerors; and the Nazi Youth teenagers peddling their bikes in despairing, last-ditch attacks against the Red Army's tanks.
The story Beevor tells is an almost unremittingly terrible one--one of death, rape, hunger and human misery--but he tells it with both an epic sweep and an alertness to individuality. The result is a masterpiece of narrative history that is as powerful as Stalingrad. --Nick Rennison --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Covering the months from January to May in 1945, as Soviet and other Allied troops advanced to Berlin, freelance British historian Beevor (Stalingrad) opts for direct narrative with overheard quotes from the main players, making the reader an eavesdropper to Hitler and Stalin's obiter dicta. Brisk and judgmental, the narrative is studded with short sentences and summary judgments: about Nazi minister Hermann Goring, we are told that his "vanity was as ludicrous as his irresponsibility" and he looked more like " `a cheerful market woman' than a Marshal of the Reich." During the rubble-strewn city's Christmas of 1944, "the quip of that festive season was: `be practical: give a coffin.' " The book is based on material from former Soviet files as well as from German, American, British, French and Swedish archives, but the somewhat limited bibliography is disappointing, and many of the usual sources are quoted, such as Hitler's personal secretary, who took dictation in the bunker to the end. Her expectation that Hitler would suddenly produce "a profound explanation" of the war's "great purpose" says as much about German self-delusion of the time as about Hitler, but here and elsewhere, Beevor simply quotes her flatly and fails to connect the dots. However, given the scope of this book the 1945 advance on Berlin is thought to be the largest battle in history, with two and a half million Soviet troops attacking one million Germans the summary approach is inevitable.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The books opens in late 1944 just as Hitler's Ardennes offensive was winding down and assumes the reader has a reasonable understanding of the military and political situation at the time: the crumbling Nazi empire and internecine politics of the regime, the uneasy tension between the Allies and the enormous scale forces marshalled by the combatants. Without this prior knowledge it may take the reader a few chapters to familiarise themselves with the litany of names, dates and locations. However it is here the author excels in describing the complexity of the situation and making it accessible to the general reader. The authors prose is clear and understandable: I've read this text twice and have been gripped on both occasions.
Perhaps Anthony Beevor's greatest achievement is his rendering of the human costs of the conflict. One not only feels pity for German civilians who bore the burnt of the Soviet rage in East Prussia, but also for the ordinary Russian soldiers whose expectations that "things would be different after the war" where manipulated by Stalin.
Without the Soviet victories in such decisive battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk the Anglo-American forces would have had a much harder time of it. Hitler may not have been beaten. However the author doesn't sugar coat what the Soviets did.Read more ›
Beevor captures much of the depravity of war. How ordinary soldiers became beasts and how civilian populations were trampled by all those under arms. Beevor describes all with great clarity.
However, from a literary point of view, it is inevitable that Beevor's "Stalingrad" will be compared with his "Berlin". In this regard, "Stalingrad" triumphs as it deals with the great battle in detail without losing the reader in its arcane intricacies. "Berlin", by contrast, seems overloaded with the miseries inflicted upon the civilian population without satisfactorily explaining the military movements that created the civilian miseries in the first place.
Although I am firmly of the view that "Stalingrad" is the better read, this should not put off readers from delving into "Berlin". To understand the eastern front in World War II helps in understanding subsequent political changes in Europe. So, just as the battle for Stalingrad begat the fall of Berlin, so the fall of Berlin begat the emergence of Churchill's iron curtain and the creation of the Soviet bloc.
I disagree with the detractors of Antony Beevor that in addressing these atrocities his book negates the heroism of the Soviet soldier. On every page, the author emphasizes the appalling conditions in which the Red Army had to wrest its victory, and the terrible cost in Soviet lives. Under-nourished, under-supplied, poorly-trained soldiers were motivated not only by the brutality of SMERSH and NKVD forces. Their "Noble Fury" was incited not only by relentless propaganda from Political Instructors or incendiary front-line correspondents such as the popular Ilya Ehrenburg. Every Soviet family had suffered personal loss during the German invasion and occupation, and every soldier was driven by hatred of the Fascist Beast.
It is the mass rape perpetrated by the Red Army which comprises the controversy of Beevor's book.Read more ›
The forest battles outside Berlin and the clash at the Seelow escarpment are the most vivid parts of this narrative. Beevor has done his homework, and has sprinkled into his military text of this general went here and this division came there the human accounts, but still, having finished Guy Sajer's "The Forgotten Soldier" (a French-German soldier on the Eastern Front, the end of which overlaps in the East Prussia campaign with Beevor's text), I missed more of the personal vividness of a memoir. I realize Beevor sets out to give an all-encompasssing account in a few hundred pages, and he does his job well, but I wish those he quotes so often, like Vasily Grossman for the Soviets, could be heard even more so. 11-13 million fled East Prussia, but even his research doesn't make their stories come alive enough, nor those of the Soviets who pursued the Germans into defeat.
One element emerges clearly, however: Stalin's ability to hoodwink the Allies, especially FDR, and devour Poland and what would become the GDR. It's amazing to think how gullible the U.S. was, played for fools by the "liberating" Soviet armies. For this, Beevor deserves full credit for his analyses.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a very interesting read, but it is primarily focused on the military history of the fall of Berlin. Read morePublished 3 months ago by R Helen
First rate historical research by a major historian especially for recent material in Soviet archives. Totally worth reading! Highly recommendedPublished 20 months ago by Michael Dorland
This apocalyptic event has been covered many times and we will see many more efforts. I am confident that Beevor's will be cited among the very best. Read morePublished on April 8 2010 by Jeffrey Swystun
Beevor is one of the best historians of his time. He strikes a nice balance between the staff officer's view of things on a map and vivid first person accounts. Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2010 by Kirk R. Jones
This book adds nothing to what Cornelius Ryan wrote in 1966. In fact, Ryan's book is vastly superior since Beevor had no first-hand access to participants. Read morePublished on July 1 2004 by Mike
It's one ugly story indeed but it is one which must be told. January of 1945 brought a firestorm of mythic proportions onto the German Reich and effectively turned the dreams of... Read morePublished on June 12 2004 by Bernard Chapin
Both Germans and Russians are colored darkly in "The Fall of Berlin. It would be hard to pick which is worse: the insane, die-hard Hitler fanatics or the brutal, deceitful... Read morePublished on May 31 2004 by Smallchief
Before you mindlessly believe a journalist who is primarily out to make money, it is only fair that you let the Soviet veterans also have their say. Read morePublished on May 11 2004