As the title implies, this book is divided into two parts, of roughly equal lengths:
1) the first part is the "Memories" of a survivor, Joachim Wieder, a "Staboffizier" in 8 Army corps (not the LI corps under von Seydlitz) who survived that horrific battle;
2) the second part is the "Reassessments", written by Wieder and Heinrich Graf von Einsiedel, where political, military and human responsibilities of the political and military commanders are analyzed and evaluated.
The "Memories" part is easy to read, in terms of words, not in terms of the description of the unconceivable suffering of 6th Army's (and others, such as part of 4th Panzer) troops. A striking statistic (from page 147, "reassessments") is the average flown in food of 6 tonnes/day or 20 grams of food per man per day (translated into English units, that's 0.7 ounce/day) during the first three weeks of the airlift!
The "Reassessments" part is more difficult to read as it evaluates the responsibilities of the commanders not simply from a military point of view, but also, and more importantly so, from an ethical (soldierly ethic and human ethic, intertwined but not identical) and psychological points of view. The Generals subjects of that analysis are:
a) General of Artillery Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach (a name of importance since the German defectors to the Soviets were routinely called the "Seydlitz Truppen") who commanded LI Corps, part of 6th Army;
b) General, Feldmarschall at the end of January 1942, Friedrich Paulus (not "von Paulus" as is regrettably found in many books and movies) commander of 6th Army, part of Army Group Don;
c) Feldmarschall Erich von Manstein, commander of Army Group Don, charged with the relief (and one has to be careful about the definition of that term) of the Volga front, while securing its northern flanks and the northern flanks of Army Group A to the south in the Caucasus;
d) The subordinate officers, especially Chiefs of Staff, of those CICs;
Hitler is of course evaluated but it runs like a thread through or leitmotiv common to the above analyses.
A quick summary would not do justice to the complex conclusions derived in this book. General, and simplistic, impressions are more appropriate and the reader can then go deeper in the book's arguments and decide for himself:
a) von Manstein's culpability in the Stalingrad debacle is much greater than what he wished to convey in his, of course self justifying, at least to an extent, memoirs Verlorene SiegeLost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General;
b) Paulus' culpability is thereby diminished but remains an essential factor in the destruction of his army;
c) von Seydlitz was the, silenced and overruled, voice of reason and soldierly ethic.
Let the reader make up his/her own mind. But in any case, agree or disagree, the arguments of this book have to be considered in any discussion about responsibilities for the Stalingrad debacle.
Two factors reduced my rating from 5* to 4*:
1) the documents in the appendices (part III of the book) have a gap between end of November and mid January, and therefore do not include what I consider to be the critical telex exchanges between Paulus and von Manstein of 19 and 23 December 1942 with respect to "Winterstorm" (opening a relief corridor to 6th Army, resupplying and reinforcing it to enable to continue the hold on the Volga) and "Donnerschlag" (the breakout of 6th Army to the southwest, gradually abandoning Stalingrad in the process), that of 23 December being noteworthy for Manstein's reply to Paulus' request for "Donnerschlag" (Thunderclap in English): "That authority I cannot give today. I am hoping for a decision tomorrow" (see page 489 of Earl Ziemke's Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the east). For those interested in the actual telex messages of those two critical dates, they can be found in Craig's Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad (Movie Tie-In): pages 252-257 for the exchanges of December 19 and pages 277-279 for those of December 23. A short 3 page summary of the Stalingrad battle is found on P 543-545 of Kershaw's HITLER, NEMESIS. A more detailed military (i.e. no responsibilities analysis) analysis is found on P 479-502 of Ziemke's MOSCOW TO STALINGRAD.
2) Stalingrad is considered by the authors as "an exemplary singularity within the framework of this [Hitler's] suicidal madness". Given some of the later major defeats of the Wehrmacht, east and west, termed "second Stalingrads" or "worse than Stalingrad", this was not a singularity, it was, unfortunately, the first example of the application of that suicidal madness, the reasons for which were outside the scope of that book (but which Ian Kershaw examines, at least to some extent, in his Hitler: 1936-1945: Nemesisand his The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945).
A MUST READ FOR ANY WWII AMATEUR HISTORIAN.