The Fall of Berlin 1945

( 40 )


Acclaimed for his vivid re-creations of some of the twentieth century's most significant battles, Antony Beevor is one of the best known and respected military historians writing today. He now offers readers a gripping, street-level portrait of the harrowing days of January 1945 in Berlin when the vengeful Red Army and beleaguered Nazi forces clashed for a final time. The result was the most gruesome display of brutality in the war, with tanks crushing refugee columns, mass rapes, pillage, and destruction. ...

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The Fall of Berlin 1945

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Acclaimed for his vivid re-creations of some of the twentieth century's most significant battles, Antony Beevor is one of the best known and respected military historians writing today. He now offers readers a gripping, street-level portrait of the harrowing days of January 1945 in Berlin when the vengeful Red Army and beleaguered Nazi forces clashed for a final time. The result was the most gruesome display of brutality in the war, with tanks crushing refugee columns, mass rapes, pillage, and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of German civilians froze to death or were massacred because Nazi officials had forbidden their evacuation. Hitler, half crazed in his bunker, issued wild orders while Stalin was prepared to risk any number of his men to seize the city before the other Allies could get there.

Making full use of newly disclosed material from former Soviet files as well as from German, American, British, French, and Swedish archives, Beevor has reconstructed the different experiences of those millions caught up in the death throes of the Third Reich. The Fall of Berlin 1945 depicts not only the brutality and desperation of a city under siege but also rare moments of extreme humanity and heroism. This account also contains new revelations about the motives behind Stalin's hurried assault. Sure to appeal to all readers interested in military history and the Second World War, The Fall of Berlin 1945 promises to be the definitive treatment of the subject for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Antony Brevor's Stalingrad became a surprise bestseller because the author gracefully transformed his exhaustive research into a fluid and striking narrative. The Fall of Berlin 1945 captures the final siege against the German capital city with comparable force. Utilizing the WWII archives of six nations, the British historian presents Berliners as they experienced almost constant bombing raids. Veering between hysteria and fatalism, these hapless burghers and fugitives fell prey to any passing rumor. Beevor alternates reports of German High Command decisions with news of ration shortages and suicides in latrines.
Kirkus Reviews
Richly detailed, gracefully written: a wrenching reminder that evil wears a human face.
Publishers Weekly
Covering the months from January to May in 1945, as Soviet and other Allied troops advanced to Berlin, freelance British historian Beevor (Stalingrad) opts for direct narrative with overheard quotes from the main players, making the reader an eavesdropper to Hitler and Stalin's obiter dicta. Brisk and judgmental, the narrative is studded with short sentences and summary judgments: about Nazi minister Hermann Goring, we are told that his "vanity was as ludicrous as his irresponsibility" and he looked more like " `a cheerful market woman' than a Marshal of the Reich." During the rubble-strewn city's Christmas of 1944, "the quip of that festive season was: `be practical: give a coffin.' " The book is based on material from former Soviet files as well as from German, American, British, French and Swedish archives, but the somewhat limited bibliography is disappointing, and many of the usual sources are quoted, such as Hitler's personal secretary, who took dictation in the bunker to the end. Her expectation that Hitler would suddenly produce "a profound explanation" of the war's "great purpose" says as much about German self-delusion of the time as about Hitler, but here and elsewhere, Beevor simply quotes her flatly and fails to connect the dots. However, given the scope of this book the 1945 advance on Berlin is thought to be the largest battle in history, with two and a half million Soviet troops attacking one million Germans the summary approach is inevitable. (May) Forecast: Beevor visited the set of the blockbuster film Enemy at the Gates, which is set during the siege of Stalingrad, and summed it up for the BBC as "fiction, based on a grain of truth." Whether such straight-shooting remarks speed up or slow down adaptation rights for this book remains to be seen, but the Hitler bunker and the city that surrounded it remain objects of morbid fascination. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"Few things reveal more about political leaders and their systems than the manner of their downfall," states military historian Beevor (Stalingrad, not reviewed, etc.), a sturdy thesis abundantly supported in his chronicle of the Third Reich's last days. Beevor musters a powerful array of evidence: documents, diaries, interviews, books in English, German, and Russian. He begins this riveting account during Christmas 1944. Berlin, experiencing round-the-clock bombing from American and RAF crews, was a city in ruin. Its leaders were hunkered down in bunkers, its people reduced to the most severe austerity. Beevor focuses much of his attention on the Soviets advancing from the east-after all, they were the first to enter the city-but moves easily from their forces to the Allied camps in the west to the Nazis. Along the way, he displays a dazzling command of fact and facility with detail, describing in one incredible sentence the motley Soviet forces advancing in tanks, on horseback, and in Lend-Lease Studebakers and Dodges. Beevor notes that the Soviets were interested not just in defeating but in harshly punishing the Nazis for their ferocious invasion of Russia four years earlier; they wanted, as well, to capture and whisk back to Moscow those German nuclear scientists and rocket experts who might help the USSR close the atomic-bomb gap. Terror was perpetrated by all the war's participants, the author reminds us. He describes the Danzig Anatomical Medical Institute at which Nazi technicians made soap and leather from human beings, the liberation of Auschwitz, widespread looting and destruction by the advancing Americans, and-in compelling and excruciating detail-the brutal rape of tens ofthousands of German women and girls by the Soviets. Nor does he neglect a thoughtful examination of the author of it all, Adolf Hitler, whose mad refusal to surrender cost countless lives on all sides. Richly detailed, gracefully written: a wrenching reminder that evil wears a human face. (16 maps, 49 b&w illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142002803
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2003
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 189,404
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.39 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Antony Beevor is the author of a number of histories, including The Spanish Civil War and Stalingrad, which has been published in twenty-three languages and was awarded the first Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Wolfson History Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature.
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Read an Excerpt

Berlin in the New Year

Berliners, gaunt from short rations and stress, had little to celebrate at Christmas in 1944. Much of the capital of the Reich had been reduced to rubble by bombing raids. The Berlin talent for black jokes had turned to gallows humour. The quip of that unfestive season was: 'Be practical: give a coffin.'

The mood in Germany had changed exactly two years before. Rumours had begun to circulate just before Christmas 1942 that General Paulus's Sixth Army had been encircled on the Volga by the Red Army. The Nazi regime found it hard to admit that the largest formation in the whole of the Wehrmacht was doomed to annihilation in the ruins of Stalingrad and in the frozen steppe outside. To prepare the country for bad news, Joseph Goebbels, the Reichsminister for Propaganda, had announced a 'German Christmas', which in National Socialist terms meant austerity and ideological determination, not candles and pine wreaths and singing Heilige Nacht. By 1944, the traditional roast goose had become a distant memory.

In streets where the façade of a house had collapsed, pictures could still be seen hanging on the walls of what had been a sitting room or bedroom. The actress Hildegard Knef gazed at a piano left exposed on the remnants of a floor. Nobody could get to it, and she wondered how long it would be before it tumbled down to join the rubble below. Messages from families were scrawled on gutted buildings to tell a son returning from the front that they were all right and staying elsewhere. Nazi Party notices warned: 'Looters will be punished with death!'

Air raids were so frequent, with the British by night and the Americans by day, that Berliners felt that they spent more time in cellars and air raid shelters than in their own beds. The lack of sleep contributed to the strange mixture of suppressed hysteria and fatalism. Far fewer people seemed to worry about being denounced to the Gestapo for defeatism, as the rash of jokes indicated. The ubiquitous initials LSR for Luftschutzraum, or air raid shelter, were said to stand for 'Lernt schnell Russisch': 'Learn Russian quickly'. Most Berliners had entirely dropped the 'Heil Hitler!' greeting. When Lothar Loewe, a Hitler Youth who had been away from the city, used it on entering a shop, everyone turned and stared at him. It was the last time he uttered the words when not on duty. Loewe found that the most common greeting had become 'Bleib übrig!' - 'Survive!'.

The humour also reflected the grotesque, sometimes surreal, images of the time. The largest air raid construction in Berlin was the Zoo bunker, a vast ferro-concrete fortress of the totalitarian age, with flak batteries on the roof and huge shelters below, into which crowds of Berliners packed when the sirens sounded. The diarist Ursula von Kardorff described it as 'like a stage-set for the prison scene in Fidelio'. Meanwhile, loving couples embraced on concrete spiral staircases as if taking part in a 'travesty of a fancy-dress ball'.

There was a pervasive atmosphere of impending downfall in personal lives as much as in the nation's existence. People spent their money recklessly, half-assuming that it would soon be worthless. And there were stories, although hard to confirm, of girls and young women coupling with strangers in dark corners around the Zoo station and in the Tiergarten. The desire to dispense with innocence is said to have become even more desperate later as the Red Army approached Berlin.

The air raid shelters themselves, lit with blue lights, could indeed provide a foretaste of claustrophobic hell, as people pushed in, bundled in their warmest clothes and carrying small cardboard suitcases containing sandwiches and thermos. In theory, all basic needs were catered for in the shelters. There was a Sanitätsraum with a nurse, where women could go into labour. Childbirth seemed to be accelerated by the vibrations from bomb explosions, which felt as if they came as much from the centre of the earth as from ground level. The ceilings were painted with luminous paint for the frequent occasions during the air raids when the lights failed, first dimming then flickering off. Water supplies ceased when mains were hit, and the Aborts, or lavatories, soon became disgusting, a real distress for a nation preoccupied with hygiene. Often the lavatories were sealed off by the authorities because there were so many cases of depressed people who, having locked the door, committed suicide.

For a population of around three million, Berlin did not have enough shelters, so they were usually overcrowded. In the main corridors, seating halls and bunk rooms, the air was foul from overuse and condensation dripped from the ceilings. The complex of shelters under the Gesundbrunner U-Bahn station had been designed to take 1,500 people, yet often more than three times that number packed in. Candles were used to measure the diminishing levels of oxygen. When a candle placed on the floor went out, children were picked up and held at shoulder height. When a candle on a chair went out, then the evacuation of the level began. And if a third candle, positioned at about chin level began to sputter, then the whole bunker was evacuated, however heavy the attack above.

The foreign workers in Berlin, three hundred thousand strong and identifiable by a letter painted on their clothes to denote their country of origin, were simply forbidden entry to underground bunkers and cellars. This was partly an extension of the Nazi policy to stop them mingling intimately with the German race, but the overriding concern of the authorities was to save the lives of Germans. A forced labourer, particularly an 'Ostarbeiter', or eastern worker, most of whom had been rounded up in the Ukraine and Belorussia, was regarded as expendable. Yet many foreign workers, conscripted as well as volunteers, enjoyed a far greater degree of freedom than the unfortunates consigned to camps. Those who worked in armaments factories around the capital, for example, had created their own refuge and Bohemian sub-culture with newssheets and plays in the depths of the Friedrichstrasse station. Their spirits were rising visibly as the Red Army advanced, while those of their exploiters fell. Most Germans looked on foreign workers with trepidation. They saw them as a Trojan Horse garrison ready to attack and revenge themselves as soon as the enemy armies approached the city.

Berliners suffered from an atavistic and visceral fear of the Slav invader from the east, worked up after a dozen years of ideological indoctrination. Fear was easily turned to hate. As the Red Army approached, Goebbels's propaganda harked on again and again about the atrocities at Nemmersdorf, when Red Army troops invaded the south-eastern corner of East Prussia the previous autumn and raped and murdered the inhabitants of this village.

Some people had their own reasons for refusing to take shelter during a bombing raid. A married man who used to visit his mistress regularly in the district of Prenzlauerberg could not go down to the communal cellar because that would have aroused suspicions. One evening, the building received a direct hit, and the luckless adulterer, who had been sitting on a sofa, was buried up to his neck in rubble. After the raid, a boy called Eric Schmidtke and a Czech labourer, whose illegal presence in the cellar had been tolerated, heard his screams of pain, and ran upstairs towards the sound. After he had been dug out and carried off for treatment, the fourteen-year-old Eric then had to go to tell the injured man's wife that her husband had been badly injured in this other woman's flat. She started screaming in anger. The fact that he had been with this woman agitated her far more than his fate. Children in those times received a harsh introduction to the realities of the adult world.

General Günther Blumentritt, like most of those in authority, was convinced that the bombing raids on Germany produced a real 'Volksgenossenschaft', or 'patriotic comradeship'. This may well have been true in 1942 and 1943, but by late 1944 the effect tended to polarise opinion between the hard-liners and the war-weary. Berlin had been the city with the highest proportion of opponents to the Nazi regime, as its voting records before 1933 indicate. But with the exception of a very small and courageous minority, opposition to the Nazis had generally been limited to jibes and grumbles. The majority had been genuinely horrified by the assassination attempt against Hitler on 20 July 1944. And as the Reich's frontiers became threatened both in the east and in the west, they drank in Goebbels's stream of lies that the Fiihrer would unleash new 'wonder weapons' against their enemies, as if he were about to assume the role of a wrathful Jupiter flinging thunderbolts at the ungodly.

A letter written by a wife to her husband in a French prison camp reveals the embattled mentality and the readiness to believe the regime's propaganda. 'I have such faith in our destiny,' she wrote, 'that nothing can shake a confidence which is born from our long history, from our glorious past, as Dr Goebbels says. It's impossible that things turn out differently. We may have reached a very low point at this moment, but we have men who are decisive. The whole country is ready to march, weapons in hand. We have secret weapons which will be used at the chosen moment, and we have above all a Führer whom we can follow with our eyes closed. Don't allow yourself to be beaten down, you must not at any price.'

The Ardennes offensive, launched on 16 December 1944, intoxicated Hitler loyalists with revived morale. The tables had at last turned. Belief in the Führer and in the Wunderwaffen, the miracle weapons such as the V-2, blinded them to reality. Rumours spread that the US First Army had been completely surrounded and taken prisoner due to an anaesthetic gas. They thought that they could hold the world to ransom and take revenge for all that Germany had suffered. Veteran NCOs appear to have been among the most embittered. Paris was about to be recaptured, they told each other with fierce glee. Many regretted that Paris should have been spared from destruction the year before while Berlin was bombed to ruins. They exulted at the idea that history might now be corrected.

The German Army's high command did not share this enthusiasm for the offensive in the west. General staff officers feared that Hitler's strategic coup against the Americans in the Ardennes would weaken the eastern front at a decisive moment. The plan was in any case vastly over-ambitious. The operation was spearheaded by the Sixth SS Panzer Army of Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich and the Fifth Panzer Army of General Hasso von Manteuffel. Yet the lack of fuel made it extremely unlikely that they would ever reach their objective of Antwerp, the western allies' main supply base.

Hitler was fixated by dreams of dramatically reversing the fortunes of war and forcing Roosevelt and Churchill to come to terms. He had decisively rejected any suggestion of overtures to the Soviet Union, partly for the sound reason that Stalin was interested only in the destruction of Nazi Germany, but there was also a fundamental impediment. Hitler suffered from an atrocious personal vanity. He could not be seen to sue for peace when Germany was losing. A victory in the Ardennes was therefore vital for every reason. But American doggedness in defence, especially at Bastogne, and the massive deployment of allied air power once the weather cleared, broke the momentum of attack within a week.

On Christmas Eve, General Heinz Guderian, the chief of the Army supreme command, OKH, drove west in his large Mercedes staff-car to Führer headquarters in the west. After abandoning the Wolfsschanze, or 'Wolf's Lair', in East Prussia on 20 November 1944, Hitler had moved to Berlin for a minor operation to his throat. He had then left the capital on the evening of 10 December in his personal armoured train. His destination was another secret and camouflaged complex in woods near Ziegenberg, less than forty kilometres from Frankfurt-am-Main. Designated the Adlerhorst, or 'Eagle's Eyrie', it was the last of his field headquarters designated by codenames which reeked of puerile fantasy.

Guderian, the great theorist of tank warfare, had known the dangers of such an operation from the start, but he had little say in the matter. Guderian's OKH was responsible for the Eastern Front, even though it was never allowed a free hand. The OKW, the high command of the Wehrmacht (all the armed forces), was responsible for operations outside the Eastern Front. Both organizations were based just south of Berlin in neighbouring underground complexes at Zossen.

Guderian, despite having as quick a temper as Hitler, was very different in outlook. He had little time for an entirely speculative international strategy when the country was under attack from both sides. Instead, he relied on a soldier's instinct for the point of maximum danger. There was no doubt where that lay. His briefcase contained the intelligence analysis of General Reinhard Gehlen, the head of Fremde Heere Ost, the military intelligence department for the Eastern Front. Gehlen calculated that around 12 January the Red Army would launch a massive attack from the line of the river Vistula. His department estimated that the enemy had a superiority of eleven to one in infantry, seven to one in tanks and twenty to one in artillery and also in aviation.

Guderian entered the conference room at the Adlerhorst to find himself facing Hitler and his military staff, and also Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer SS who, after the July plot, had also been made commander of the Replacement Army. Every member of Hitler's military staff had been selected for his unquestioning loyalty. Field Marshal Keitel, the chief of staff of the OKW, was famous for his pompous servility to Hitler. Exasperated army officers referred to him either as the 'Reich's garage attendant' or the 'nodding donkey'. Colonel General Jodl, who had a cold, hard face, was far more competent than Keitel, yet he hardly ever opposed the Führer's disastrous attempts to control every battalion. He had very nearly been dismissed in the autumn of 1942 for having dared to contradict his master. General Burgdorf, Hitler's chief military adjutant and chief of the Army personnel department controlling all appointments, had replaced the devoted General Schmundt, mortally wounded by Stauffenberg's bomb at the Wolfsschanze. Burgdorf was the man who had delivered the poison to Field Marshal Rommel, with the ultimatum to commit suicide.

Guderian, using the findings of Gehlen's intelligence department, outlined the Red Army's build-up for a huge offensive in the east. He warned that the attack would take place within three weeks and requested that, since the Ardennes offensive had now ground to a halt, as many divisions as possible should be withdrawn for redeployment on the Vistula front. Hitler stopped him. He declared that such estimates of enemy strength were preposterous. Soviet rifle divisions never had more than 7,000 men each. Their tank corps had hardly any tanks. 'It's the greatest imposture since Ghengis Khan,' he shouted, working himself up. 'Who is responsible for producing all this rubbish?'

Guderian resisted the temptation to reply that it was Hitler himself who talked of German 'armies' when they were the size of a single corps, and of 'infantry divisions' reduced to battalion strength. Instead, he defended Gehlen's figures. To his horror, General Jodl argued that the offensive in the west should continue with further attacks. Since this was exactly what Hitler wanted, Guderian was thwarted. It was even more provoking for him to have to listen at dinner to the verdict of Himmler, who revelled in his new role of military leader. He had recently been made Army Group commander on the upper Rhine in addition to his other appointments. 'You know, my dear Colonel General,' he said to Guderian, 'I don't really believe that the Russians will attack at all. It's all an enormous bluff.’

Guderian had no alternative but to return to OKH headquarters at Zossen. In the meantime, the losses in the west mounted. The Ardennes offensive and its ancillary operations cost 80,000 German casualties. In addition, it had used up a large proportion of Germany's rapidly dwindling fuel reserves. Hitler refused to accept that the Ardennes battle was his equivalent of the Kaiserschlacht, the last great German attack of World War I. He obsessively rejected any parallels with 1918. For him, 1918 symbolised only the revolutionary 'stab-in-the back' which brought down the Kaiser and reduced Germany to a humiliating defeat. Yet Hitler had moments of clarity during those days. 'I know the war is lost,' he said late one evening to Colonel Nicolaus von Below, his Luftwaffe aide. 'The enemy's superiority is too great.' But he continued to lay all the blame on others for the sequence of disasters. They were all 'traitors', especially army officers. He suspected that many more had sympathised with the failed assassins, yet they had been pleased enough to accept medals and decorations from him. 'We will never surrender,' he said. 'We may go down, but we will take a world with us.'

General Guderian, horrified by the new disaster looming on the Vistula, returned to the Adlerhorst at Ziegenberg twice more in rapid succession. To make matters worse, he heard that Hitler, without warning him, was transferring SS panzer troops from the Vistula front to Hungary. Hitler, convinced as usual that only he could see the strategic issues, had suddenly decided to launch a counter-attack there on the grounds that the oilfields must be retaken. In fact he wanted to break through to Budapest, which had been surrounded by the Red Army on Christmas Eve.

Guderian's visit on New Year's Day coincided with the annual procession of the regime's grandees and the chiefs of staff, to transmit in person to the Führer their 'wishes for a successful New Year'. That same morning Operation North Wind, the main subsidiary action to prolong the Ardennes offensive, was launched in Alsace. The day turned out to be a catastrophe for the Luftwaffe. Goering, in a grand gesture of characteristic irresponsibility, committed almost a thousand planes to attack ground targets on the western front. This attempt to impress Hitler led to the final destruction of the Luftwaffe as an effective force. It ensured the allies' total air supremacy.

The Grossdeutsche Rundfunk broadcast Hitler's New Year speech that day. No mention was made of the fighting in the west, which suggested failure there, and surprisingly little was said of the Wunderwaffen. A number of people believed that the speech had been pre-recorded or even faked. Hitler had not been seen in public for so long that wild rumours were circulating. Some asserted that he had gone completely mad and that Goering was in a secret prison because he had tried to escape to Sweden.

Some Berliners, fearful of what the year would bring, had not quite dared to clink glasses when it came to the toast 'prosit Neujahr!' The Goebbels family entertained Colonel Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the Stuka ace and the most decorated officer in the Luftwaffe. They sat down to a dinner of potato soup as a symbol of austerity.

The New Year holiday ended on the morning of 3 January. The German devotion to work and duty remained unquestioned, however improbable the circumstances. Many had little to do in their offices and factories, owing to shortages of raw materials and parts, but they still set out on foot through the rubble or on public transport. Once again, miracles had been achieved repairing the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn tracks, even though few of the carriages had unbroken windows. Factories and offices were also freezing due to smashed windows and so little fuel for heating. Those with colds or flu had to struggle on. There was no point attempting to see a doctor unless you were seriously ill. Almost all the German doctors had been sent to the army. Local surgeries and hospitals depended almost entirely on foreigners. Even Berlin's main teaching hospital, the Charité, included doctors from over half a dozen countries on its staff, including Dutch, Peruvians, Romanians, Ukrainians and Hungarians.

The only industry which appeared to be flourishing was armaments production, directed by Hitler's personal architect and Wunderkind, Albert Speer. On 13 January, Speer gave a presentation to army corps commanders in the camp at Krampnitz just outside Berlin. He emphasised the importance of contact between front commanders and the war industries. Speer, unlike other Nazi ministers, did not insult his audience's intelligence. He disdained euphemisms about the situation and did not shrink from mentioning the 'catastrophic losses' sustained by the Wehrmacht over the last eight months.

The Allied bombing campaign was not the problem, he argued. German industry had produced 218,000 rifles in December alone. This was nearly double the average monthly output achieved in 1941, the year the Wehrmacht had invaded the Soviet Union. The manufacture of automatic weapons had risen by nearly four times and tank production nearly fivefold. In December 1944, they had produced 1,840 armoured vehicles in a single month, over half what they had made in the whole of 1941. This also included far heavier tanks. 'The trickiest problem', he warned them, was the shortage of fuel. Surprisingly, he said little of ammunition reserves. There was little point producing all these weapons if munitions production failed to keep pace.

Speer spoke for over forty minutes, reeling off his statistics with quiet professionalism. He did not rub in the fact that it was the massive defeats on the eastern and western fronts over the last eight months which had reduced the Wehrmacht to such shortages in all types of weapons. He voiced the hope that German factories might reach a production level of 100,000 machine pistols a month by the spring of 1946. The fact that these enterprises relied largely on slave labourers dragooned by the SS was not, of course, mentioned. Speer also failed to remark upon their wastage - thousands of deaths a day. And the territories from which they came were about to diminish further. At that very moment, Soviet armies numbering over four million men were massed in Poland along the river Vistula and just south of the East Prussian border. They were starting the offensive which Hitler had dismissed as an imposture.

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Table of Contents

The Fall Of Berlin 1945 List of Illustrations

1. Berlin in the New Year
2. The 'House of Cards' on the Vistula
3. Fire and Sword and 'Noble Fury'
4. The Great Winter Offensive
5. The Charge to the Oder
6. East and West
7. Clearing the Rear Areas
8. Pomerania and the Older Bridgeheads
9. Objective Berlin
10. The Kamarilla and the General Staff
11. Preparing the Coup de Grâce
12. Waiting for the Onslaught
13. Americans on the Elbe
14. Eve of Battle
15. Zhukov on the Reitwein Spur
16. Seelow and the Spree
17. The Führer's Last Birthday
18. The Flight of the Golden Pheasants
19. The Bombarded City
20. False Hopes
21. Fighting in the City
22. Figthing in the Forest
23. The Betrayal of the Will
24. Führerdämmerung
25. Reich Chancellery and Reichstag
26. The End of the Battle
27. Vae Victis!
28. The Man on the White Horse

Source Notes
Select Bibliography

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2002

    An excellent account of the fall of Berlin.

    This is a well researched and written account of the fall of Berlin. It fills a void somewhere between Cornelius Ryan's 'The Last Battle' (excellent for the casual historian) and Read and Fisher's 'The Fall of Berlin' (a more detailed and lengthy account). It's good mesh of historical background and personal experiences from the battle. Most of the criticisms I have read about the book seem more motivated by a 'Politically Correct' approach to history than by the truth. German atrocities throughout the war are well documented and are not the focus of this book. The Red Army DID (by all accounts save their own) engage in widespread rape and looting in eastern Germany and Berlin. Beevor gives a balanced account - he does not glorify German resistance, Nazism, or the Soviet advance. He simply tells what happened. Rape is a predominant theme in the book, but it was a predominant concern of the German women, and a fact of the war. This is a solid piece of work on one of the greatest human dramas in history. Don't let those with a hidden agenda steer away from this book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2011


    Good read with new and interesting information especially relating to Russian Forces engaged in this final battle ....... Rp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Fall of Berlin 1945-A Good Read About the Final Days of WWII

    The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Antony Beevor follows the End of World War II From Christmas 1944 until May of 1945, mainly on the Eastern Front. Well documented, it covers the armies of both Russia and Nazi Germany, its leaders and soldiers and how the civilians caught in the middle awaited the Soviet onslaught of millions of men and thousands of tanks and artillery. At this stage of the game, it was just a matter of time before the Soviet war machine made its final crushing blow. With Stalin at the helm, he knew that he wanted more than the defeat of the Nazis. There were many other prizes: gold, nuclear scientist, new countries to rule and exploit with an endless supply of slave labor. But, the biggest prize of all was the body of Adolf Hitler.

    Beevor takes the reader through the last days of the war and the ultimate capture of Berlin.
    Like many other times during the war there was politics involved. And this time was no different. Stalin feared that the Americans and the British would arrive in Berlin first so extra manpower was diverted to capture the city. Hence, Russian units that could have been more valuable at other locations were diverted to the Berlin corridor. At times units were firing at each other. Russian generals, Zukov in particular, was in competition with other Russian generals to claim the Berlin bragging rights. Soviet NKVD and SMERSH units had their hands full with POWs, deserters, and Stalin's orders to hide any activity at Hitler's bunker.

    Much is written on the atrocities of the Soviets as they advanced forward. Rape and pillaging were the rule rather than the exception. This is covered quite extensively in the book with graphic descriptions-so those with sensitive stomachs are pre-warned. Kind of comical is how Hitler was pulling at straws in the later days and even appointed the incompetent Heinrich Himmler to command Army Group Vistula. Also, many of his generals already had a defeatist attitude and Hitler thought that Wenck's 12th Army would come to the rescue. It never did. Little is mentioned about the fight in the West, as the focus in the book is about the East.

    The Fall of Berlin 1945 is an interesting book and is typical Beevor. This book is a good read as it covers both military and civilian perspectives. One thing that I like about his writing is that he covers the human aspects of the war and gives many personal accounts. This gives the reader more insight than the usual order of battle strategies found in many other books. Blending it in with the actual battles and day to day operations leads to an interesting read. This is where this book shines, as the tragedy and triumph of the war comes to a close. But, I would recommend reading his other books first as they all lead up to this climatic closure of the war.

    Robert Glasker

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2014

    This book is in my view one of the best books ever written about

    This book is in my view one of the best books ever written about World War II. The book reads great and covers all angles related
    to the fall of Berlin to the Russians. More than just talking about the battles it creates a picture in your mind of what it must have been
    like to be a Russian or German soldier or civilian in East Prussia, Prussia and Germany; especially a woman knowing the Russians were
    seeking revenge and out of control for the German atrocities in the Ukraine and Russia...I could not put it down. Buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Provides realistic impression overall I would recommend this boo

    Provides realistic impression overall
    I would recommend this book to anyone. Of all books I read so far about the last year of WWII, this one I think is the closest to reality. It is basically in line with what I have heard from the veterans. If you want to get a good general understanding or feel about WWII in West Europe, please read this book.
    One caveat: it seems the author loathes the Soviets so much; it makes him to somewhat unconsciously favor the defendants over the attackers.
    For example, on one hand, the report of the Soviet ‘530-th Artillery Regiment leaving in front of their position 1800 German soldiers, nine burnt-out tanks, and seven half-tracks’ is called ‘an exaggerated claim’. On the other hand, the German report of just one soldier ‘untersharffuhrer SS Eugene Vanlot destroyed ten T-34 tanks in one(!) day’ is taken for granted.
    Also it’s hard to believe in that SS volunteers from Norway, France, Denmark, Holland, Flanders were in any way ‘motivated by their visceral hatred of Bolshevism’. This can’t be true, because they had never experienced any of the horrors of Soviet communism in their countries

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012


    good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2012

    gets dense and dull but pretty good

    gets dense and dull but pretty good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012


    Good detail. High in military facts. Lacking compassionate writing. Doesn't compare to Jon Toland's "The Last 10 Days of World War II."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2011

    Good Read

    New interesting take of Berlin battle well written, new facts and details.

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    The End of a Long, Hard Road

    What I found to be highly enlightening about this text was the reasoning for Stalin's speed to reach Berlin before the Allies. For years, I could not find a satisfactory explanation for this beyond vengeance for Nazi atrocities against soviet civilians. While this would seem reasonable enough at first glance, it was Stalin's knowledge of key Nazi atomic scientists that made the battle worthwhile in his mind. After reading Beevor's sensational text on the Battle of Stalingrad, this work was a worthwhile read and an intellectually stimulating way to conclude the action of the Eastern Front.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2007


    As others have noted, only a rather small portion of the book deals with the battle of Berlin. In addition, the author spends an exorbitant amount of time pondering the topic of Soviet rape. This is certainly not to say that the atrocities committed by the Soviets (and, most assuredly, others) during WWII do not merit extensive study, but the attention paid to the subject in this book is both amateurish (coming across as personal thoughts of the author rather than scientifically- or historically-based study) and somewhat disingenuous to the reader hoping for subject matter related to the title.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006


    There are relatively few historians around who can write in such an engaging style. Count Beevor up there with Mosier and Keegan and possibly Weinberg. The bare truth about the atrocities of the Red Army are refreshing, since most of the reviewers tend to participate in the boring and lame moral equivalent/wimp league argument that the German civilians 'deserved' to be raped, looted and crucified, how dare we have sympathy for those wretched 'Germans.' When there are a whole slew of historians whose books are sure cures for insomnia, Mr. Beevor's talent is something to be singled out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2006

    Good Narrative History

    If you are a fan of Beevor's writing style then you should be pleased with this book. By no means is it his crowning achievement, but a solid easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005


    I am a WW2 history buff I guess you could call it, and this is the wurst book on the war that I have ever read. First of all, the title, 'The Fall of Berlin 1945' is a misleading title. The author didn't talk much about the actuall fighting in Berlin, except for a few chapters. A better title for the book wouldv'e been something like 'The Road to Berlin'. I had read one of his other books, 'Stalingrad', and it was much better. 'The Fall of Berlin' basicly took over where Stalingrad left off. There are also other things that disappointed me about this book was like the author really emphasized that Russian soldiers raped thousands of German women, which is bad, don't get me wrong, but the Germans did much wurse things. The author also had a soft spot for the Nazis. Throughout his book, he is sometimes sympathetic towards the Germans. The author also spelled many, many words wrong, and that is unnexeptable for an author of his esteem. I finished this book, pretty much only because I started it. I also wouldv'e liked to see the author not focus on rape so much. In the beginning chapters, on almost every pg. there was something about a German girl being raped. This was disapointing and kind of depressing. I expected this book to be about the actuall fighting in the city of Berlin. But it wasn't. It was about the Russians beating the Germans back to Berlin, and then he focused a bit about the actuall battle. I don't recommend this book to anyone. If you want to read more about the Russain Front, then you should read 'Stalingrad', and watch the movie, 'Enemy at the Gates'. But please don't waste your money on this shameful book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2004

    Fascinating. Not the same old story

    Having a great interest in history, and not being a scholar on this particular subject, I found the book very informative, and thought provoking. I was first drawn in by the authors approach. So many books have been written, about the war in general, from the perspective of the Western Allies. I found it refreshing to get a detailed account of this battle from the eastern front. I know this subject is a lightening rod for some when it pertains to how each side has been portrayed. And I'm certain there may be some dicrepencies regarding details that people may have a great problem with. However, the authors explanations of the battles fought, the idiosyncrasies of major participants, soldiers, and common citizens, and the impending doom of The 3rd Reich, and its aftermath, are riveting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2004

    An attempt in three directions

    It seems to me this book really should be entitled 'The Russian Advance and the Fall of Berlin' since its primary focus is the Red Army advance into Germany; very little mention is made of US and British or French action in the West. There are three major concept areas covered in the book: 1.) The movement of the Red Army into Germany and Berlin; 2.) Anecdotal stories of civilians and soldiers caught up in the maelstom of those final days of war; and 3.) Josef Stalin and his influence on his army and events. As for the movement of the Red Army, the map detail is sadly lacking, making it difficult to follow the narrative at times with respect to troop movements; the personal stories told are almost used as filler for the troop movements and never become a major part of the story; and Stalin's influence in the whole affair especially in dealing with repatriated Russian prisoners and troops is touched on only lightly. But then, that might be the subject for another entire book. Otherwise, this is an easy read and takes you though what is really about the Russian effort to reach Berlin almost as though the other allies did not even exist. Finally, while passing mention is made of the starving monkeys in the Berlin zoo, the actual symbolic climax of the story, the raising of the Russian flag over the Reichstag, is not even detailed, after which the story simply sputters and runs out of gas.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    Deceitful and patronizing

    The entire book is based on memoirs, interviews and other such folklore, which for a serious historian is about just as valuable as yesteryear¿s snow. Time and time again the reader is subjected to a barrage of curious but uninformative personal recollections expertly served under the author¿s own sauce. Ilya Ehrenburg ¿ a Jewish Soviet journalist and a writer is mentioned on numerous occasions by Beevor as the principal instigator of the alleged atrocities committed by the Soviet troops in Germany. Being a journalist himself, Anthony Beevor seriously believes that a freelance journalist was responsible for the Red Army attitude toward the Germans. On top of that Beevor is quoting what he believes to be Ehrenburg¿s articles from wartime Soviet newspapers. Anthony Beevor incorrectly attributes the following quote to Ilya Ehrenburg: ¿Do not count days; do not count miles. Count only the number of Germans you have killed. Kill the German - this is your mother's prayer. Kill the German - this is the cry of your Russian earth. Do not waver. Do not let up. Kill.¿ [p. 169] Without giving specific sources (a common problem with his book), Beevor insists that this is a quote from an article published by Ehrenburg in 1942. This is an apparent reference to the article by Ehrenburg entitled ¿About Hatred¿ and published in the ¿Red Star¿ newspaper in 1942. (Without providing a source, it seems that Mr. Beevor expects his reader to deduce this information on his own. This is the same so-called quote Beevor used in his ¿Stalingrad¿.) However, if one would to look at the original article (and not just one of many ¿imitation¿ Ehrenburg articles prepared by Goebbels and his propaganda ministry), one would be hard pressed to find anything even remotely similar to the text quoted by Beevor. In fact, Ehrenburg¿s article is completely opposite in word and spirit to what Mr. Beevor would like his readers to believe: ¿We do not dream of revenge: can revenge really quench our indignation? Soviet people will never fall to the level of fascists, they will never torture children and wounded. We are looking for something different: only justice can lessen our pain. Nobody can bring back to life the children of Kerch. Nobody can erase from our memory things we lived through. We decided to destroy the fascists: justice demands this. Our understanding of kindness, brotherhood and humanity demands this.¿ In the same article Ehrenburg writes: ¿If the German soldier puts down his weapon and surrenders we won¿t lay a finger on him ¿ he will live. Perhaps the future Germany will reeducate him, turn a mindless killer into a worker and a human being. Let German teachers think about this. We are thinking about other things: our land, our work, our families. We have learned to hate because we know how to love.¿ Understandably, these passages knock the wind out of Beevor¿s neat little theory about hordes of unwashed Ivans rampaging through countryside Rhineland in search of things to steal, rape and burn. Beevor did not bother to check his sources because he liked them just as they came to him. This is just one of many examples. The quotes offered by Anthony Beevor in his book are of questionable origins. Sometimes, as we can see, these quotes are not just grossly inaccurate but are completely bogus. The author did not go through the trouble to verify his sources because the information he thought he had nicely supported his distorted view of the Soviet people and the Red Army. In his book Beevor presented this biased view to his readers to be swallowed whole without any questions. Not this time, thank you very much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2002

    Interesting, but still........

    While i had high hopes for this book and was impressed at first, i'm sad to say it is not what i thought it would be. The Author seems obsessed for several chapters of how Red Army soldiers raped and pilliaged their way all the way to the Reich, but in all honestly who can blame them? And like others i also agree that the Author is very much guilty of having alot of German sympathy. He pictures the Germans, with the exception of a few incidents in the book, as the victims and who should be pittied at having to endure the horror of having the war brought to them after all they did. Hell, it even makes Hitler of all persons seem like the victim of the evil Red Army who came and crushed poor Germany.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2002

    Excellent and easy read on the Fall of Berlin

    Anyone who is interested in one of the most important (and vicious) battles in World War II should give this book a try. Beevor's newest piece is definitely on par with some of the other books which have been published on this subject and is a worthy successor to "Stalingrad". The reader doesn't have to be a military history buff to enjoy this work--which is altogether gripping, graphic and at times depressing and infuriating. Most criticisms I've seen posted on this book seem to be lacking and biased towards a certain point of view...don't let a few over-ambitious reviewers stop you from checking out this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2002

    An interesting choice of sources

    ¿As Goebbels has frankly remarked in his memoirs¿¿ ¿ wrote one German historian in the early 1970s in his attempt at yet another revisionist ¿history¿ book. Unfortunately, this seems to be the type of sources used by Anthony Beevor for his latest work. What do we know about the alleged incident at Nemmersdorf, which the author of ¿The Fall of Berlin: 1945¿ uses as the opening clause of his story? We definitely know that there was some film footage of Nemmersdorf produced and directed by Dr. Goebbels and his ¿Ministry of Truth¿ after the Germans have retaken this town in Eastern Prussia following a brief occupation by Chernyakhovsky¿s forces and their subsequent withdrawal in the fall of 1944. The film shows some burning `Lend-Lease¿ Studebakers, ruined buildings and a few bodies of civilians. The commentary behind the screen ¿explains¿ how the hordes of Ivans plundered the town and raped every female in sight regardless of age or species. As an undeniable proof Anthony Beevor mentions a little-known book by an obscure German writer. The book is in German and in Germany, of course. Well, at least Mr. Beevor did not quote the good old Doc. Just for that we all should feel much obliged. Other sources of Mr. Beevor¿s are even more entertaining: some professionally-written recollections by a Soviet playwright form the nucleus of Anthony Beevor¿s list of hard-core historical documents. Any lingering doubts about the true intentions of the Red Army in Germany are sure to be resolved by the quoted personal letters, memoirs and oral reminiscences put to paper fifty years after the war. One cannot argue that such a monolith of documentary evidence is enough to rip the mask of hypocrisy off Marshal Zhukov¿s cheerful face and once and for all show the world the true animal nature of the Soviet aggression against Nazi Germany. And then the book is just old plain boring. With each page, I found it increasingly more difficult to turn to the next one. So, all right, the book is not historically accurate, unbiased or well documented, but at least the author should have tried to make it entertaining, since that¿s what really sells these days! I know Mr. Beevor can write entertaining stuff. He did it before and no doubt will do it again. This book, however, is a loss. The author seems to be unable to drop his journalistic approach to research and writing. Not that there is anything wrong with such an approach, but we are not talking about a column in the local tabloid here and Mr. Beevor seems to be forgetting that `history¿ does not mean `his story¿.

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