The Fall of Berlin...

 

...from Pen & Sword

 

Title: The Fall of Berlin

Author: Ian Baxter

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52673-787-8

 

One of the most symbolic finales that can be imagined I think, when after 6 years of war that had engulfed Europe, Russian forces reached the centre of Berlin. Fierce fighting and the destruction of a city is all evident in this new addition to the Images of War series from author Ian Baxter.

The book is split across 4 chapters, with the first three leading into the final chapter which sees the battle for the city of Berlin itself.  It starts outside the city with the Russian Vistula-Oder Offensive. The assault on Berlin saw the different Soviet armies coming together to focus on this final assault on the heart of the Nazi regime. This chapter looks at the pincer movement of Konev's attack through Poland. , with huge artillery support and smashed Germany's Army Group A. As the Russian army had large numbers of troops and equally large numbers of material support (tanks, guns etc) while the Garman army was at the stage of having to spread their resources thinly. The photos in this section show the AFVs that accompanied the Russians while others show the wrecked panzers they left in their wake. That takes us onto the Defence of the Oder, and on across one of the main outer defence lines of Berlin, the Seelowe Heights. The German troops fought hard for their country but could not stem the tide. Many of the photos here show the basic infantry support weapons, such as the MG42, along with the Panzerschreck and mortars. The German 9th army, which Hitler was relying on was pushed back into the small forest of Halbe, which makes for the third chapter, where a large proportion of the German troops were killed or captured, though 25,000 managed to escape and rejoin the defence of Berlin.

The final chapter takes the story to the centre of Berlin, where the level of destruction is huge. The defenders included the remnants of many units, plus young boys and old men, who were pushed into the last ditch defence. The Panzerfaust was used against the Russian tanks, and some of the T-34/85's have extra'bedframe' stand off armour and heavy artillery which blasted the buildings.  Among all this, civilian live went on, and a number of the photos show them walking past the Soviet troops who conquered their city, and wrought vengeance for the destruction they had brought to so many others. The book is rounded off with the Order of Battle for both the German and Russian forces.

A vital part of the story of WW2, particularly if you look at the casualty figures for the difference nations who were involved, where Russian soldiers and civilians suffered almost unimaginable numbers killed. There can be little wonder that the Russians did have their revenge once they took the city. Another fine addition to the series.

 

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

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Robin