Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Wow! I can't say enough about Antony Beevor's book, Berlin, which I finished recently. Before I'd read this book I had only a vague knowledge of what happened on the Eastern Front as the war wound down. I'd never heard of Seelow Heights, for example. 45,000 men were killed in less four days of fighting.

My only regret with this book is that I hadn't first read Beevor's Stalingrad, just so I'd have had a better background before reading Berlin. My only complaint about the book is that I find it hard reading a large number of names I can't pronounce.

There were a lot of things that surprised me reading this book. One is that the front line infantry, those who actually did the heaviest fighting, generally treated the German women (& others) far better than the tank units and those troops who came up in support. Another thing that surprised me (and it shouldn't have) is just how German the Baltic region was before 1945. It was only after I looked at a map of post WWI Germany that I realized how much of what was Germany became Poland or other states after WWII.

This book provides a great sense of how inhuman both of these regimes were. They cared little for their own people, never mind 'the enemy'.

Thousands of Soviet troops were sacrificed in a contest between the two lead generals to be first to Berlin. Stalin fostered this contest in order to keep them keen to serve him. Or what about the fact that those Soviet soldiers and civilians who had been imprisoned or enslaved by the Germans earlier in the war were treated with suspicion by the Soviet regime after the war. And then there's the fact that advancing Russian troops also raped Russian, Polish and other (any other) women prisoners/slaves they came across.

Overall, great great book.