The Fall of Berlin

The Fall of Berlin

Ian Baxter
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Review by Goodoldboy

Yet another good book in the Images of War series, this time dealing with the Soviet advance from the east, late in the Second World War, through Poland and into Nazi Germany ending with the taking of Berlin and the cessation of the war in the European theatre. Following an overview of the Author the Introduction has a brief description of what is to come followed immediately by a dozen pages of mostly rare photographs, each with its own highly informative caption. This, therefore, is a great start to a book which turns out to be a jewel for those interested in uniforms, equipment, fighting vehicles, iweapons and the Eastern Front generally.

In common with other books in the series, each chapter has a concise but informative narrative followed by pages of well captioned photographs. Chapter One covers the Vistula – Oder offensive which was started by Soviet forces in January 1945, thus ensuring that the terrain was frozen solid to enable easy movement. The main drive, through the heart of Poland and over the Vistula River was westwards on the Warsaw to Berlin axis, the objective being the Oder River and the border with eastern Germany. (It was at this point that a map would have been useful to the reader).

From the descriptions and subsequent photographs there is no doubt over the sheer numbers of troops, armour and aircraft that were used against a dwindling and retreating Germany army – certainly at least 2.5 million ground forces alone on two fronts. Following the Soviet advance through Poland, Chapter Two describes the defence of the Oder River by the German Ninth Army, which comprised five or six belts of force to a depth of about four miles. Despite this, the Soviets amassed at least 1.7 million troops plus thousands of tanks, rocket launchers, mortars, artillery pieces and aircraft to push the Germans back onto their home soil by mid-April 1945. Once again, a map would have been very helpful at this point in the book.

Chapter Three deals with the Battle of Halbe which, following massive battles in marshy ground and on the Seelow Heights facing Berlin, enabled the Soviets to begin a three-front attack towards the city. By now, Hitler was directing exhausted troops from the confines of his bunker with the orders to his Generals that their positions must be held. Despite this the vastly depleted German Ninth Army withdrew south-westerly to link up with the 12th Army south of Berlin through the Forest of Halbe.

Chapter Four, The Battle for Berlin, opens with a description of the isolated pockets of German troops being subject to a Soviet artillery barrage on 20 April (Hitler’s birthday), so massive that it was greater than the tonnage of bombs dropped by western Allies on Berlin during the entire war. Following this the Soviets fought their way into the suburbs of Berlin with tanks and at least 500,000 troops – against a combined German total of about 45,000, including members of the Hitler Youth, mostly with hand held weapons

Fighters aged 10 and over 60 were expected to defend their positions with a variety of rifles and barely any ammunition. However, there were fierce battles in some areas, notably involving the Norland and Munchenburg Divisions, but these were overwhelmed and the Soviets entered the Reichstag (seat of government) on 30 April, the same day that Hitler took his own life leading to the eventual surrender by Germany on 2 May.

Conclusion. This is a very good book which gives an excellent insight into the ferocious battles that led to the fall of Germany in the Second World War. It is, however, the hundreds of photographs, many of them rare or previously unpublished which make the book so informative. I certainly recommend it wholeheartedly.

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