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The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat

The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat

by Michael Jones

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The gripping history of the ferocious turning point of World War Two, when Hitler's armies were halted on the Eastern Front

At the moment of crisis in late 1941 on the Eastern Front, with the forces of Hitler massing on the outskirts of Moscow, the miraculous occurred: Moscow was saved. Yet


The gripping history of the ferocious turning point of World War Two, when Hitler's armies were halted on the Eastern Front

At the moment of crisis in late 1941 on the Eastern Front, with the forces of Hitler massing on the outskirts of Moscow, the miraculous occurred: Moscow was saved. Yet this feat of endurance was a prelude to a long and arduous retreat in which Soviet troops, inspired by deep beliefs in the sacred Motherland, pushed back German forces steeled by the vision of the Ubermensch--the iron-willed fighter. Supported by tanks and ski battalions, Soviet troops engaged in this desperate struggle in the harshest Russian weather.

Michael Jones draws upon a wealth of new eyewitness testimonies from both sides of the conflict to vividly chronicle this pivotal chapter in the Second World War as he takes us from the German invasion of the Soviet Union on the morning of June 22 through the counteroffensive that carried into the spring of 1942. From the German soldier finding his comrades frozen into blocks of ice to the Russian lieutenant crying with rage at the senseless destruction of his unit, the author shows us the faces of war when the Wehrmacht was repelled and the titanic and cruel struggle of two world powers forged the fate of Europe.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jones's earlier Leningrad and Stalingrad established this British military historian's skill in conveying the human dimensions of the Russo-German War. His new narrative addresses the German sweep through Russia in the summer of 1941, its defeat at the gates of Moscow by a rejuvenated Red Army, and the massive Soviet counterattack that pushed the Wehrmacht to the edge of destruction. Jones makes a convincing case that the Fuehrer's "stand fast" order in December 1941 entailed unnecessary losses. Retreat, he argues, did not inevitably mean collapse. The point remains debatable. But there is no question of Jones's success presenting, in their own words, the growing conviction of the Germans doing the fighting that Barbarossa had been a compound mistake. "Does no one realize what it is like here?" asked one bewildered corps commander. Across the battle line, six months of atrocities demonstrated to the Russian people that whatever was wrong with the U.S.S.R., the Germans were not the solution. "I vowed to kill as many of them as possible," wrote one Soviet junior officer. His words are an epigram for an apocalyptic war, perceptively evoked here. 8 pages of b&w photos; 3 maps. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
Jones deserves full credit for the remarkable personal testimonies he has amassed.

A mass of first-person material that has been cleverly assembled to paint a striking picture.

A gripping account of the opening stages of Hitler's war of extermination against the Russians. . . . Jones tells the story of the struggle with verve and scholarship.

A vivid, illuminating account.

A tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.

Library Journal
In sight of Moscow, within a few miles of breaking the Soviet lines and dispersing the defenders, the Wehrmacht grounded to a halt in the autumn of 1941. From then until the spring of 1942 the German army made one long, desperate retreat, fighting the Red Army and the Russian winter in equal measure. Things didn't get better until General Walter Model took the reins in the East, and the Soviets ran out of steam. Fluently written with good sourcing, this book covers both sides of a vast conflict that dwarfed any other in Western Europe. This will add texture to collections on the German and Soviet armies of World War II.
Kirkus Reviews

A gripping slog through the first winter on the eastern front of World War II.

In the first of a planned two-volume work, British military historian Jones (Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, 2010, etc.) examines the ten months following Germany's June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. A few chapters cover summer months when Wehrmacht forces raced eastward, inflicting immense losses on a Red Army that seemed on the verge of collapse. However, the collapse didn't occur, temperatures fell and autumn rains devastated Russia's primitive roads, choking off supplies to armies now far inside the Soviet Union. Most of the book describes what happened after October when, within 100 miles of Moscow, three Wehrmacht armies launched a final push. By November, they had surrounded the city on three sides, but stiffening resistance and brutal weather defeated the exhausted, hungry, freezing troops. A Soviet offensive drove them back as much as 200 miles before the front stabilized in February. Quoting liberally from letters, diaries and interviews from both sides, Jones paints a gruesome picture. Frostbite devastated German troops, who received no winter clothing until spring. Notwithstanding their technological prowess, they failed to realize that extreme cold froze ordinary lubricants, and weapons refused to operate. Masses of vehicles and artillery were abandoned during the retreat. Both sides behaved inhumanely, but the Nazis began it; more than one million Soviet POWs received little food or shelter, and most died miserably.

Despite inadequate maps, this is a useful and painful reminder that the Battle of Britain and invasion of Normandy contributed far less to Hitler's defeat than the Russian front, where a viciously dirty war inflicted 75–80 percent of German casualties.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL JONES is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History, and has taught at the University of South West England, Glasgow University, and Winchester College. The author of Stalingrad: How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught and Leningrad: State of Siege, Jones has conducted battlefield tours of the Eastern Front for several years.

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