Author: Antony Beevor
Publisher: Penguin Books
Number of Pages: 490
My Rating: 4 (if you like this subject matter)
Summary from GoodReads.com:
The Red Army had much to avenge when it finally reached the frontiers of the Reich in January 1945. Political instructors rammed home the message of Wehrmacht and SS brutality. The result was the most terrifying example of fire and sword ever known, with tanks crushing refugee columns under their tracks, mass rape, pillage and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of women and children froze to death or were massacred because Nazi Party chiefs, refusing to face defeat, had forbidden the evacuation of civilians. Over seven million fled westwards from the terror of the Red Army.
Antony Beevor reconstructs the experiences of those millions caught up in the nightmare of the Third Reich's final collapse, telling a terrible story of pride, stupidity, fanatacism, revenge and savagery, but also one of astonishing endurance, self-sacrifice and survival against all odds.
As you know from my previous posts, I am a huge World War II fan. Anything having to do with this topic I will pick up and start reading whether it’s about the Holocaust, the military aspect, viewpoints from the citizens, etc. While I do realize not everyone enjoys this, I would recommend this book for anyone who does or who likes reading historical materials. For the general public, however, this might not pique your interest.
Having said that, I was intrigued by this book as it covered things I had never really read about before. The Fall of Berlin 1945 is about just that- the last few months of the Third Reich and the experiences of the general German population as the empire is crumbling and the Red Army is taking over. I found this particular part of the book dark and horrifying as Antony Beevor does not sugarcoat the types of atrocities the citizens had to live through; tanks crushing them, mass rape, pillage, and complete destruction, not to mention daily bombings and attacks as well as leaders who wouldn’t let them evacuate as the Russians came closer. Seeing this side of things was very eye opening as well as disturbing.
Another huge part of this book is the military tactics and battles. While I am a fan of military books and like learning about the specifics, at times I felt that this book went a little overboard even for a pretty educated reader as myself. The book is obviously well-researched and he wanted to follow every detail that led up to the takeover of Berlin, but at the same time it is so overloaded with literally every intricate battle that I found myself getting lost or confusing some of the many mentioned generals, soldiers, leaders, etc. He mentions many Russian military leaders but doesn't really go into much detail about them so I wasn't able to truly get a sense about their personalities or who they were.
It was interesting seeing the path that Hitler and his highly appointed leaders followed towards the end of the war and how they were brainwashed by him until the very end. Hitler would not give up fighting and he never admitted that things were not going well. Instead, he insisted that no German surrender and that if they did they should be killed. His health was deteriorating and he was in no shape to be the leader of the Nazis any longer, but he decided to hold on to his false hope until the bitter end.
Overall, this was a very long book (490 pages, whew!) that had a massive amount of information. It is not a quick read and is something that will definitely take you some time to process. But, if you are interested at all in learning more about World War II from a different perspective than the American solder, you will find this book to be extremely informative and eye opening. A knowledgeable and haunting read.