Hitler made two fundamental and crippling mistakes during the Second
World War: The first was his whimsical belief that the United Kingdom
would eventually become his ally, which delayed his decision to
launch a major invasion of Britain, whose army was unprepared for
the force of blitzkrieg warfare. The second was the ill-conceived
Operation Barbarossa--an invasion of Russia that was supposed to
take the German army to the gates of Moscow. Antony Beevor's thoughtfully
researched compendium recalls this epic struggle for Stalingrad.
No one, least of all the Germans, could foretell the deep well of
Soviet resolve that would become the foundation of the Red Army;
Russia, the Germans believed, would fall as swiftly as France and
Poland. The ill-prepared Nazi forces were trapped in a bloody war
of attrition against the Russian behemoth, which held them in the
pit of Stalingrad for nearly two years. Beevor points out that the
Russians were by no means ready for the war either, making their
stand even more remarkable; Soviet intelligence spent as much time
spying on its own forces--in fear of desertion, treachery, and incompetence--as
they did on the Nazi's. Due attention is also given to the points
of view of the soldiers and generals of both forces, from the sickening
battles to life in the gulags.
Many believe Stalingrad to be the turning point of the war. The
Nazi war machine proved to be fallible as it spread itself too thin
for a cause that was born more from arrogance than practicality.
The Germans never recovered, and its weakened defenses were no match
for the Allied invasion of 1944. We know little of what took place
in Stalingrad or its overall significance, leading Beevor to humbly
admit that "[t]he Battle of Stalingrad remains such an ideologically
charged and symbolically important subject that the last word will
not be heard for many years." This is true. But this gripping
account should become the standard work against which all others
should measure themselves. --Jeremy Storey --This text refers to
an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Devasting portrait of the freezing hell called
Stalingrad, October 5, 2000
Reviewer: Paul (see more about me) from New Orleans
One of the best books written concerning the mind-numbing combat
of the Russian front during WWII, Beevor's book offers a complete
portrait of the battle that turned the tide against Hitler. This
book is a must for any person interested in WWII.
Beevor gives the reader detailed information from the viewpoints
of everyone involved in this battle: Hitler and Stalin, the generals
on both the Soviet and German sides, right down to the officers
and soldiers who fought in conditions which went beyond human comprehension.
"Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943", is unstinting
in exposing the atrocities committed by both sides. It also exposes
the follies and blunders committed by the Germans and Soviets. Readers
will learn the plight of Soviet citizens who chose to fight for
the Germans, understand the fate of Soviets captured by the beseiged
German garrison, endure with doctors who have no medicine to treat
their patients, witness the harsh fate which awaited Soviet citizens
and soldiers who showed any signs of "defeatism", and
see the strategies which resulted in German defeat right at the
moment Hitler believed that he had won.
This book is a masterwork of the horror man can inflict upon man.
I read this book during the heat of a summer which broke records,
yet I got chills from reading of the freezing hell of Stalingrad.
Buy it now!
Blood, ice, lice, brutality, corpses ¿ and heroism,
January 16, 2001
Reviewer: Joe Haschka (see more about me) from Glendale, CA USA
Several months ago, I reviewed (5 stars) a novel entitled WAR OF
THE RATS, ostensibly based on the factual battlefield achievements
of the real-life, Soviet Army master sniper, Vasily Zaitsev, during
the German siege of Stalingrad during World War II. Wishing to learn
more about this horrific struggle, I sought out this book, STALINGRAD,
a narrative history of the fight authored by Antony Beevor.
STALINGRAD begins, as it must, on June 21, 1941 with the launching
of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union by
three Army Groups - North, Center and South. Beevor first summarizes
from a wide perspective Army Group Center's attack on, and repulse
from, Moscow, and Army Group South's surge towards the Volga River
and the Caucasus Mountains. Then, the focus is narrowed onto the
Sixth Army's and Fourth Panzer Army's drive to Stalingrad and the
Volga in the summer of '42. The last three-quarters of the volume
then limits itself to the Stalingrad siege, the Soviet counterattack
on, and encirclement of, the Sixth and Fourth Panzer armies, their
subsequent subjugation, and, finally, the fate of the 91,000 Germans
taken prisoner. The main characters of the drama are all brought
onto the stage: Hitler, Paulus, Schmidt, von Richthofen, Stalin,
Zhukov, Yeremenko, Chuikov, and Rokossovsky.
This is a very reader-friendly account for the simple reason that
the author supplies enough information, including maps, to keep
the narrative moving along without getting bogged down in the minutiae
of minor troop movements and a superabundance of unit designations.
He's also included (in the paperback edition) two adequate sections
of photographs - always a much appreciated touch. The volume met,
if not exceeded, my expectations, and I learned a lot.
During the Siege, there was desperate heroism on both sides. But,
it was also war at its most brutal in ways too many to recount.
I shall finish with two excerpts, both regarding war prisoners,
first from the Russian viewpoint, then the German.
" 'When the (German) retreat started on 20 November, we (Soviet
POWs) were put instead of horses to drag the carts loaded with ammunition
and food. Those prisoners who could not drag the carts as quickly
as the Feldwebel wanted were shot on the spot. In this way we were
forced to pull the carts for four days, almost without any rest.'
"Anger at the (prison camp) conditions led to (German) prisoners
scraping handfuls of lice off their own bodies and throwing them
at their (Soviet) guards. Such protests provoked summary execution."