Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton

ARRSE Rating
4.00 star(s)
The Cold War Showdown that Shaped the Modern World

This book was the result of the author, as a young man, being inspired by his aunt, who had served in Berlin at the end of the Second World War. Although he didn’t believe he listened to her stories of the ruined city and what happened there, some of it must have stuck, as later he spent many months of research, finding that what she had said was true.

The result is an intriguing book which tells the story of the criminals, ex-Nazis, black marketeers, kidnappers and pimps who took over the city as the Allies struggled to catch up with the Russians, who were already occupying the sector allocated to them (plus a little more). It tells how the Allied Administration moved in expecting a continuation of the unity of four powers defeating Germany, to run the city for the benefit of its citizens. They were surprised to find that the Russians already had a Communist ‘German’ Government in place, under Walter Ulbricht, with placemen cleverly disguised as deputies, but actually wielding all the power in the city. It was difficult for the men on the ground to convince the politicians back home that the Russians were not necessarily on the same side any more.

Berlin.jpg
Over a period of four years, the individuals from each nation tasked with rebuilding, worked together a little and against each other a lot, with spies, gangsters, defections, state-sponsored kidnappings (of scientists and engineers together with whole factories!) leading to the endgame of the Russian blockade of the city. This was supposed to bring Berlin and its war-torn, starving people gratefully into the Eastern sector. Luckily the US and UK had some seriously good logisticians, many aircraft and a particularly generous nature, despite the UK being on its knees financially and still rationing food to its own hungry citizens.

The story of how these clever and brave people ferried food, coal, salt and sweeties by air into the besieged city, the small victories with power and water supplies and the broad sweep of the political climate with the strong personalities involved is woven into something that seems like a thriller, but is actually based on years of research in the great archives of the UK and US by the author.

This book is invaluable to anyone trying to understand the present relationships between the UK, the US and Russia, the distrust felt by thousands of Germans for the Russians, some of the reasons why the Russians behaved as they did, and the kleptocracy that underpinned both the Soviet and Nazi Regimes. Sadly it also destroyed Marshal Zhukov in my opinion. The master tactician of Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kursk turns out to have stolen housefuls of furs, jewellery, art and antiquities, to the point that even the Soviet authorities had to take action.

I haven’t ready any of Giles Milton's other books, but this has certainly inspired me to do so.

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Grownup_Rafbrat

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Thanks yes it is gone, so is it any good?
I thought so. It's a bit full of statistics in parts but well worth reading. It's still on my bookshelf, which only happens to the best books I review.
 

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Well that is another two books to add to the wobbling tower of history books next to my bedside table awaiting my attention.
Welcome to my world.

Try also 'Promise me you'll shoot yourself '. I will try to find the review I did of that one.
 

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