It is much more than just a humane account; it is compellingly readable, deeply researched and beautifully written. 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 mass rape, tanks crushing refugee columns under their tracks, pillage and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of women and children froze to death or were massacred because Nazi Party chiefs, refusing to face the reality of defeat, had forbidden the evacuation of civilians until it was too late. Over seven million fled westwards from the terror of the Red Army.
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Berlin was going to pay. It did. It conveys a similar sense of a lumbering mechanical predator moving through the shifting seasons and leaving carnage in its wake. As a former army officer turned historian, Beevor gives an exceptionally clear account of complicated military movements and the reasoning of the commanders responsible for them. But he is also sensitive to the real casualties of any modern war. The result is a masterpiece of modern historical writing, which does not shy away from the bad taste left in the mouth as one form of totalitarianism trampled over another while calling it "liberation".
Millions of ethnic Germans fled or were forced from the former eastern and occupied territories. Those who elected to remain were confronted by armed alien beings in dirty brown uniforms, whose boots were falling apart, shouting "Uri, Uri", and then cramming anything larger than a watch on to trucks and wagons or simply down their tunic fronts.
Even light bulbs were looted for the eventuality that electricity might come one day to Russian peasant homes. These men stank of alcohol, sweat and pungent tobacco, but olfactory offence was the lesser ordeal. German boys who were too young to fight but tall enough to look the part had to talk their way past the deadly accusation " Du, SS ".
Women, whether 14 or 80, German, Polish, Russian, or Ukrainian "liberated" forced labour, were subjected to sustained sexual violence from rotating teams of Red Army rapists. Pitiful attempts to deflect their attentions by Jewish survivors of Nazism were met with the response, " Frau ist Frau ". As Beevor remarks: "The widespread raping of women taken forcibly from the Soviet Union completely undermines any attempts at justifying Red Army behaviour on the grounds of revenge for German brutality in the Soviet Union.
Russians who had been presented with the alternative of starving to death in a camp or working as auxiliary troops for the Germans wrote pathetic notes to the "comrade soldiers": "Why are you killing those Russian people from German prisons? We happened to be captured and then they took us to work for their regiments and we worked purely in order not to starve to death. Now these people happen to get to the Russian side, back to their own army, and you shoot them. What for, we ask. Is it because the Soviet command betrayed these people in and ?
German "comrades" who emerged confidently into the red dawn found themselves handed over to Smersh counterintelligence interrogators, whose killer question was "why are you not with the partisans? As Stalin commissioned the plans for the final assault on Berlin, he deliberately sought to minimise the strategic significance of the Nazi capital so as to deflect the western Allies further south.
Not for the last time, fascist remnants, allegedly regrouping to resist in Bavarian redoubts, were played up as bait. Apart from the glory of red banners fluttering over the Reichstag, as they eventually did, Stalin wanted to push Soviet power as deep into Germany as possible; and, as Beevor cogently argues, to lay hands on the knowhow and the materials for the German atomic bomb, notably a consignment of uranium in a Berlin suburb.
Cleverly playing his commanders against one another, Stalin put in place an enormous force for the final assault on Berlin. The array included 2. Although the Germans fought back with their deadly shoulder-held anti-tank grenade launchers, these were pathetically inadequate against the weight of aerial and mechanised force bearing down on them.
The calls were increasingly answered in Russian. Unlike Germans, who had homes within reach, these men had nowhere to go. As Hitler slipped into fatalistic resignation down in his bunker, young men called Eugene, Henri or Roger from the SS Charlemagne Division were dying in his defence up above. The denouement gains nothing from endless repetition.
During the afternoon of April 30, Adolf and Eva Hitler, as they had become, killed themselves and were burned outside. Do you want to come and look? There were 78, Russian troops killed and more than a quarter of a million wounded.
Limbless "samovars" with wooden legs, like the men who had repulsed Napoleon, were rounded up and deported, since they cluttered up Soviet streets. More than 1. A "Black Book" on the holocaust of Soviet Jewry was removed from circulation by the authorities in an early instance of communist "denialism". Each year, including this year, about 1, corpses from the battle for Berlin disconcert farmers or city construction workers.
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I believe that "Stalingrad" was brilliant, but this work on "The Fall of Berlin " was even more brilliant than the work I thought could not be topped. However, what we often miss in the modern era are the real life difficulties that everyday people had to confront as their Fascist Government that could have ended the war earlier chose not to do so. In so keeping the battle lines had to be continuously re-drawn - the worst of course were for the many civilians of women, children, and the Volkstuurm comprised of older men who most had fought during the First World War. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart or for good people that could become emotional when reading of the many attrocities to innocent people. I find the Germans of that particular time, those who managed to survive who questioned why their cities were bombed as they were, why the loss of life had to continue, and those that believed Germany should never have faced such an ending to the war are the same people of that time frame who failed to realize that it was them that coined the term "Blitzkrieg" and it was them who managed to do the same and worse forms of perpetration upon the Polish and the Russians. Today as we know the Germany nation and that of Japan are among the most hard working and peace loving the world over - they are a far cry from their previous existence. If you read "Stalingrad" and liked it - then you will find this book as I did even better.
The Fall of Berlin 1945