Book Review: The Fall of Berlin 1945

In January I wrapped-up Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege. Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945 picks-up pretty much right after Stalingrad.

Here are the details:
# Title: The Fall of Berlin 1945
# Author: Antony Beevor
# Hardcover: 512 pages
# Publisher: Viking Adult; illustrated edition edition (May 9, 2002)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0670030414

Hitler said his Third Reich would last for 1000 years, turned out to be around 15. So he was off by maybe a couple orders of magnitude. Thank God. The horrors and crimes of the Nazi regime are well-known, so I won’t get into them too much here, not much new ground. (perhaps not as well known is the number of boys under 16 and old men the Nazis forced into battle when they knew the war was lost and should have capitulated) I will however make mention of the horrors of the Soviet Union in general and Stalin in particular. The way they treated humans on both sides, solders and civilians alike, is chilling to read.

There is one overall consistent theme throughout the book, that is the systematic mass rape of German civilian woman by Soviet troops. It apparently occurred at length and on a mass scale that is almost too disturbing to even consider. The Soviet leadership went back and forth between turning a blind eye and tacit approval as revenge for what the Nazis did to and in Russia. The inhumanity and cruelty are deeply disturbing. Only slightly less sadistic is the fact that Red Army troops burned or destroyed just about anything that they were unable to send back home to the U.S.S.R. The looting and pillaging were also on a grand scale and all but part of official Red Army policy.

A few items of note from the book:
1. The descriptions of rape are throughout the book. pp. 28-34, 67, 107-109, 122, 295, 326, 345, 409-410, 419
2. The political organizations of the Communist party ran much of the war, even from the front lines, and continued their reign of terror both during the war and siege of Berlin, and after.
3. Red Army troops were the first to discover the horrors of Auschwitz. pg. 45

4. As the Red Army moved forward, the German Navy was working feverishly to rescue civilians on the Baltic from the advancing Red Army. The world saw the greatest maritime disaster in history as a Soviet submarine torpedoed and sank a rescue ship with between 5,300 and 7,400 civilians on board, all lost. pg. 51
5. One of the plotters in the plan to assassinate Hitler, and put to death by the SS in the wake of the failure, was Erwin Planck, the son of Nobel winning physicist Max Planck. pg. 57
6. If it wasn’t for the Lend-Lease program and massive number of vehicles and Studebakers given by the U.S. to the U.S.S.R., the Red Army advance would have been much slower and the U.S. would likely have beaten the Soviets to Berlin.

7. Feb. 13th 1945 … the British and U.S. bombed Dresden, killed tens of thousands of civilians. If the other side had won the war, this would have (imho, rightly) been called a war crime.
8. Some of the German treatment of Red Army prisoners was no less sadistic. p. 86
9. Abakumov. pp. 96-97

10. Preparing for the final assault on Berlin the Soviets amassed the largest concentration of firepower in history: 2.5mm men, 41,600 guns and mortars, and 6,250 tanks. p. 206
11. At one point to the East of Berlin, General Kazakov had 8,983 artillery pieces, a field gun every four meters,. In the battle for Seelow Heights they fired over 7 million shells, 1,236,000 on just the first day. p. 217
12. As Berlin was falling the SS was hanging and shooting anyone accused of cowardice or surrender, including civilians. p. 247

Stalin was truly evil. And during meetings with FDR and Churchill, he played them like a drum, getting them to believe what he wanted and consistently misleading them. It’s still hard to believe that all of this happened less than 75 years ago.

Bottom line, if you are interested in this part of history, and you liked the Stalingrad book, pick up The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor.

Additional links:
The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor
Bombing of Dresden in World War II – Wikipedia
Beevor’s site with additional info re: the book
I was the man who broke into Auschwitz – Telegraph