The Berlin 1945 Battlefield Guide...

... Part 1. - The Battle of the Oder-Neisse, from Fonthill Media

Title: The Berlin 1945 Battlefield Guide, Part 1. - The Battle of the Oder-Neisse
Author: David McCormack

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-607-8


This new paperback is a Battlefield Guide, a type of book I have come to appreciate more and more in recent years.  I believe it is the first Battlefield Guide that Fonthill Media have done.  It is the first of two titles from battlefield guide and author David McCormack due to cover Berlin.  This first one deals with the battles Oder-Neisse while a second volume is planned to cover the city itself.

After WW1 the growth of battlefield visits really started.  Families wanted to go and see where their family members had fought, and in so many cases, died.  The establishment of the War Grave Cemeteries provided a focus for many of those visitors to pay their respects to their relatives.  After WW2 it was not so easy to visit the battlefields behind the Berlin Wall, and since the collapse of the wall and the reunification of Germany new areas have opened up for battlefield visitors, in particular surrounding the final battles around the fall of Berlin in 1945.  As the author explains, it is possible to go on an organised tour of the battlefields these days but for some, the restrictions of a tour schedule may not suit everyone.  Hence what we have here is a guide prepared by an experienced battlefield guide who is familiar with the area, but intended for the solo traveller who would like to take the tours to their own time schedules.

So, the heart of this is in the 6 individual tours that are described,  Each one is formed around a day long excursion, and even includes an idea of when you are likely to get to lunch time and might want to stop for some lunch.  Each tour starts from a particular point and then has View Points given for the various stops along your route.  As well as visiting key points of the battlefield there are a number of particular memorials, cemeteries for both German and Russian dead and museums worth seeing.  One even includes the surviving German HQ bunkers at Zossen and in another, the site of Zhukhov's command HQ.  Tour A covers Kienitz - Kustrin - Frankfurt-an-der-Oder - Lebus.  Tour B is Wunsdorf - Zossen, tour C is Seelow - Manschnow - Reitwein.  Tour D is for Spremburg - Trebendorf - Kahren - Cottbus.  Then for the final stages as the Russians were closing in on Berlin itself,  tour E is Jahnsfelde - Buckow - Strausberg - Altlansberg - Ahrensfelde and finally tour F, Eberswalde - Schwedt - Angermunde - Oranienberg.  Between each chapter that details the tours is another chapter providing the historical background for the various stages of these final Russian offensives.  How the Russian dealt with Stalin and balanced his wishes with military operations, and in the same way how the German commanders had to cope with Hitler's imaginings.  It was a period where the war was coming to an end, the remaining German forces were fighting on both Eastern and Western fronts.  Despite their dire situation and the overwhelming Russian forces they faced, it was still taken at a grim cost for the Russian army, reflected perhaps in the memorials and cemeteries which are visited in the tours described.

Some interesting tours with the added historical background to go with them.  Add 4 appendices covering Principal German Commanders; Hitler's Order of the Day 15 April 1945; Principal Soviet Commanders; and Soviet Operational Art.  Throughout the book there are plenty of photos, including both archive and present day shots, which all help to illustrate the tours and the historical story that goes with them.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.