The Last Battle

The Last Battle

Paperback - 1967
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Publisher: New York : Pocket Books, c1967.
ISBN: 9780671541163
Characteristics: 571 pages :,illustrations, maps, portraits ;,18 cm.


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Jul 28, 2020

This book about the battle for Berlin was reissued for the 50th anniversary of the end of WW2, so it was first published in the 1960s and therefore has the seriousness and weight lacking in more recent history books. And yet it is thoroughly accessible and gripping. It has a freshness, immediacy and color that comes from the in-person interviews Cornelius Ryan was able to conduct of some of the key players in his story of the race to take Berlin, and its fall - including, astonishingly, two of the key Soviet generals, whom he was permitted to interview at length while their memories were relatively fresh. Another reviewer on this page carps about perceived "revisionism" but I feel he is straining at gnats (important though accuracy is) and critiquing the book with a particular agenda. The broad sweep of this book is majestic and has the ring of truth to me - even in the details. The author made extensive use of primary documents, especially the full text of original cables and other military messages, and sometimes draws different conclusions to the prevailing narratives of the time.

One interesting aspect of the book is the mistrust between the Allies. Truly, political and personality conflicts were in play, not only between Stalin and the Anglo-Americans (hardly surprising) but also between, for example, Eisenhower and the British Field-Marshal Montgomery (the famed "Monty"), whom he detested. Stalin cunningly exploited the rivalry between his two principal generals on the Eastern front. Another interesting portrait is of Hitler, physically degraded by prescribed drugs and descending into uncontrolled rage and denial as he sees events unfolding from his well appointed bunker 30' feet under the Chancellery. Few of his military advisers dared contradict him. It makes for fascinating reading for anyone interested in people.

The book begins with a chapter profiling a wide range of civilians who found themselves in Berlin in the few months before its fall. It is very moving, sobering; it personalizes history without being patronizing or reductionist.

I found this book by researching every audio book by the British actor Simon Vance. Instead of reading it, I listened to it. His interpretation of a wide array of fiction and nonfiction, but most especially of Trollope's novels, is so superb that I'm willing to try almost anything he has narrated! I highly recommend it to you.

Sep 22, 2017

In 1945, German generals led their country to ruin rather than kill Hitler. A sickening spectacle of false honor.
--- States as a fact that Nazis started the Reichstag fire, a doubtful contention.
--- Repeats discredited tale that Nazis made lampshades of human skin.
--- Says Goebbels reissued the film KOLBERG. In fact it appeared for the first time in 1945 as a major production.
--- Omits the 500,000 burned and crushed corpses, almost all civilians, left by US/UK bombing of German towns. Allied generals publicized appalling scenes at liberated camps to offset the appalling scenes of devastation the Allies had caused all over Germany.
--- Uses term "holocaust" once re a Wagner performance, and once re Berlin in flames, but not re Jews. The book came out in 1966. "Holocaust" was not enshrined for Jewish victims till after Israel's 1967 blitzkrieg attacks and seizure of Arab lands. Thereafter it was heavily promoted to justify Zionist aggression.
--- Mentions Heinrici's tactic of pulling men back just before an enemy bombardment, then bombarding the enemy as they rushed in. Omits that Heinrici told Hitler this was a trick Heinrici had learned from the French in WW1. Hitler laughed at the irony.
--- Also omits the fact that Hitler's last defenders were French volunteers of the Charlemagne division. This added to Hitler's depression.

Dec 10, 2014

Possibly the greatest history book I've ever read. Great, fast-paced action, with in-depth details and interviews. Amazing.

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