Berlin: The Downfall 19145 is Antony Beevor's brilliant account of the fall of the Third Reich. 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.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 528 pages, Illustrations
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 04/10/2007
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9780141032399
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by anderew
You really feel the despair of the Berliners in this book. After a lifetime avidly consuming films and books celebrating the battle with the Nazis where 1945 was the sensational finale it was a slap in the face to see the view from the other side. I really empathized with the Berliners and could sense the 'end of the world' that they were facing. The book also conveyed a sense of the pathetic as the mighty war machine that threatened us all could hardly manage to find the fuel for a single tank leading escaping civilians to safety. This book affected the way I think and feel about our security.
Review by mareki
Another brilliantly managed & expertly detailed study by Beevor. I read this after being so impressed by his books on the Spanish Civil War & Stalingrad & wasn't disappointed. 26/3/08
Review by theboylatham
Six out of ten.
A complete history of the last months of World War Two. As the Russians and the Allies closed in on Berlin, this book examines how it affected the lives of ordinary Berliners as well as those still clinging to the power of the Third Reich.
Review by nigeyb
Having read - and been gripped by - Stalingrad, I had to read this. Two sides of the same coin. Painstakingly researched and clearly written. This is a superb book that I heartily recommend
Review by Polaris-
In two words: utterly compelling. Antony Beevor's widely praised account of the ultimate battle for the heart of the Nazi Reich, and the pure horror of it all, is a book worthy of high praise indeed. The scene is ably set in the opening chapters with the setting of the various battle orders, the intricacies of the political machinations in fearsome effect, and the descriptions of lives interrupted on the home fronts; Beevor expertly brings the reader with him into the new year of 1945 as the final battle for Europe's fate is about to play out. As the front moves ever nearer to the Reich's own frontiers the Soviet political officers and the commissars tell their charges that the Germans had -"...sown the wind, and now they are harvesting the whirlwind."The overwhelming sense is one of 'total war'. Nevertheless, his approach is one that manages to keep the facts clear and uncluttered, and the potentially complicated maneuverings of multiple military units are brought across to the reader without confusion. The book also succeeds in that it gives the reader a good impression of the human aspects of the conflict. The research for this book must have been a labour of love of sorts, as the amount of detail imparted from such a wide variety of first-class primary sources is very impressive. From the archives of the former Soviet Union and the two Germanies, as well as those of British, US, French, Swedish and countless other origins, the author manages to convey with complete authenticity the experiences of those involved at every conceivable level of the 20th century's defining event. The use of source material - a combination of diaries, letters to or from the front, memoirs written at a distance of years, interviews during PoW interrogations - is highly effective at getting across the sheer size and impact of the whole conflict in Europe. We hear the voices of individual 'normal' people (peasants, conscripts, the urban poor and the middle classes alike) as frequently as those of the generals, politicians, or the privileged few. Writers and journalists such as Vassily Grossman are often reporting from the front (or sometimes more interestingly from just behind the front). At once you are in the icy trenches or the firing positions with the Soviets' 1st Guards Tank Army, the next you are in the operations room of an opposing German Panzer division, or a retreating SS regiment. The reader has the dubious privilege of being privy to the Machiavellian orchestrations of Stalin and Beria, as they play off the competing rivalries of Generals Zhukov and Koniyev against each other for both egotistical and self-serving strategic reasons; as well of course as the persistent mutual mistrusts of the Red Army's front line units with those of the party's NKVD political detachments. I had not previously been quite so aware either of quite how much contempt Stalin had for his leading generals, and how despicably he wouldn't hesitate to treat them when he considered it politically expedient to. Obviously he shares this odious trait (along with countless others) with his opposite number in Berlin.Similarly, the chaos and mayhem afoot in the various German organisations: of the Reich, the Nazi Party, the SS, and the different branches of the armed forces becomes clear. The disorder and sense of an empire collapsing all around, while Hitler fiddles in his 'Fuhrerbunker' is at once both a fascinating and grimly captivating thing to behold. I found myself wondering quite what Uncle Dolfi (as the Goebbels children called their leader) thought to himself as he sat in his quarters, resting between blood vessel bursting fits of temper at the daily strategic conferences, staring at his favourite portrait of Frederick the Great...Less frequently we are kept reminded that this is indeed a world at war, and the picture will momentarily broaden to include aspects of the various alliances and the varying degrees of cooperation or sometimes non-cooperation. The ever-present paranoia on the part of Stalin towards Roosevelt and particularly Churchill becomes an increasingly noticeable element in the story of the race to Berlin's conquest. Nevertheless, the story of the western allies' advance across the Rhine and into the heart of Germany is referenced when relevant to the narrative. The roots of the looming Cold War face-off between the western allies and the Soviets are clearly visible here. The grisly downfall unfolds in more or less chronological order as the chapters rotate from one aspect of the conflict to the next. The now well documented horrors of the Nazi Holocaust are not a central theme in this book, as it is more a case of the different camps' liberations being acknowledged in the narrative as they occur during the course of the Germans' hasty and destructive withdrawal from the advancing armies. The book is certainly not for the fainthearted though as there are necessarily countless and almost relentless accounts of the many horrors conducted by all sides in this war - in particular the many atrocities towards the civilian populations by the Red Army. (The German forces had of course "sown their wind" as they Blitzkrieged their way across the continent between 1939 and 1942, to say nothing of their monstrous racial atrocities.) Beevor tackles the subject of rape by Soviet soldiers head on. He notes that the victims were not restricted to German women, but that many Soviet or Polish citizens, including former concentration and prison camp inmates (some Jewish survivors among them too), were also brutally attacked. He actually defines four distinct stages of this most awful of crimes: The first when the initial wave of advancing soldiers occupies a civilian area; the second when the vanguard moves on and the following wave of combat units arrives (often the most indiscriminate and horrific of the phases); the third and fourth stages as with the war's end, the horrors of survival for some women in post-Nazi Germany include committing themselves to the 'protection' of one particular Red Army soldier or other. Certainly not easy subject matter at all, and not without academic controversy either, but I think that Beevor covers the subject as sensitively as could be reasonably expected. I listened to the audiobook edition, read superbly by British actor Sean Barrett. His voice is somewhere between Olivier (think BBC's 1970s "The World at War") and Burton's noble authority. Never a distraction, and often enhancing somehow the authenticity of the whole production. I loved the way he says the Russian and German generals' names, especially "Rokossovsky"! Also the subtle accenting he put on occasionally when quoting the slogans of advancing/retreating troops for example. I realised early on that I would need to get out a decent map of Germany to help me picture the movement of the various events as the Germans capitulated, though a quick check online tells me that the print edition has reasonably good maps of the key stages covered.Maybe my 'review' should have ended after the first sentence, I'm not sure. But for anyone with an interest in the history of modern Europe, or in the dehumanisation that accompanies warfare - and the everyman's and everywoman's experience of that process, this book is a must.