Berlin: the downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor
How can a city go through so much turmoil and destruction, as Berlin had done during the 20th century, and still emerge as Europe’s leading democratic capital in the 21st century? During our recent visit, we found a modern, vibrant city, a people who had evidently come to terms with their country’s recent past, recognised its full destructive impact, picked up the pieces and had moved on.
As I read Antony Beevor’s detailed analysis of the final downfall of Berlin in 1945, I struggled to understand how a city could rise up once again from such total devastation. What Hitler had meted out to the Soviets during the German invasion of Russia in 1941 was going to be repaid through spectacularly violent retribution by the Soviet Red Army.
The focus of the book is almost entirely on the progress of the Red Army as it marched down from the north. Stalin played a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with his western allies, concealing his real intentions, because he wanted the Soviet Union alone to claim the prize of taking the German capital. And he succeeded. Truman and Churchill were outwitted by their communist ally, and it was the Soviets who successfully fought their way, street by street, to the heart of Berlin, and finally raised the Soviet flag above the crumbling Reichstag.
As a former army officer turned historian, Beevor gives a detailed descriptive and tactical account of the final march on Berlin, but you need a strong stomach to digest the appalling levels of violence exercised by both sides. Not a book for the squeamish…….