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The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat [Hardcover]

Michael Jones
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Price: 17.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 Nov 2009

At the moment of crisis in 1941 on the Eastern front, with the forces of Hitler massing on the outskirts of Moscow, the miraculous occurred: Moscow was saved. Yet this turning point was followed by a long retreat, in which Russian forces, inspired by old beliefs in the sacred motherland, pushed back German forces steeled by the vision of the ubermensch, the iron-willed fighter. Many of Russia's 27 million military and civilian deaths occurred in this desperate struggle.

In THE RETREAT, Michael Jones, acclaimed author of LENINGRAD, draws upon a mass of new eye-witness testimony from both sides of the conflict to tell, with matchless vividness and comprehensiveness, of the crucial turning point of the Second World War - the moment when the armies of Hitler could go no further - and of the titanic and cruel struggle of two mighty empires.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (12 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719569524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719569524
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A gripping account of the opening stages of Hitler's war of extermination against the Russians. Michael Jones shows how the Wehrmacht nearly captured Moscow, which would have won the Second World War for the Nazis, and why they were eventually flung back at the cost of over 900,000 casualties. In many ways this was even more of a fulcrum moment of the war than the battle of Stalingrad, and Jones tells the story of the struggle with verve and scholarship' (Andrew Roberts)

'Jones deserves full credit for the remarkable personal testimonies he has amassed' (Max Hastings, Sunday Times)

'A mass of first-person material that has been cleverly assembled to paint a striking picture' (BBC History Magazine)

Book Description

The thrilling history of the turning point of the Second World War, when Hitler's armies were halted on the Eastern Front

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look at the Moscow-Counteroffensive 19 Dec 2009
When writing on the German advance toward Moscow, too often it appears authors/historians take it for granted that the Germans achieved as much as they did. The campaign of 1941 was far from a walk in the park, even counting all the success the Wehrmacht enjoyed. What has yet to be shown and emphasized is the state of the Wehrmacht in those critical weeks and months leading up to and through operation Typhoon. Further, the ensuing Soviet counter-offensive is known in a general sense to have been a defeat for the Wehrmacht, but the reality of what the Soviets accomplished and, more so, had the ability to accomplish, has long been omitted from the historical record. While this book does not present an operational, or strategic, picture as well as it presents the tactical view of the soldiers and lower level officers, it nonetheless serves as an exceptionally well documented narrative of the lead up to the Moscow counter-offensive and the counter-offensive itself. Reading what soldiers and civilians were thinking, seeing, and doing does much to create a rich contextual portrait, for both sides, of what these men and women were able to overcome, or at times succumbed to, in those winter months of 1941/1942.

Jones makes interesting observations as to how both German soldiers and officers began to believe in their own propaganda. Having been driven into their heads that "Blitzkrieg" was a winnable strategy, and seeing for themselves the achievements of their armed forces during the past two years, the evidence of a false sense of superiority is readily evident in the diaries and documents the author quotes from. Within a matter of months the reader can see the change in the Werhmacht's attitude.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, began probably the most epic and certainly the most destructive conflict in human history. Michael Jones is making something of a name for himself in shedding new insights into the war on the Eastern Front, having previously written on both Stalingrad and Leningrad. The Retreat covers the heady opening days of Barbarossa, through the great encirclement battles in the Ukraine and elsewhere, to Operation Typhoon and then, the climax of the story, the Red Army's counter attack and the virtual destruction of Army Group Centre in the snow before Moscow.
As with his previous books, Jones relies predominatly on veteran testimony, particularly in this case from the German side, to uncover the full horror and reality of the soldiers' experience on the Eastern Front. This is no dry operational history, but a powerful and moving story of the limits of human endurance and the exceptional courage of the average fighting man. Jones stresses the casual racism that underpinned the Germans' views of Russia, the vastness and inhospitability of the environment, the personality of the commanders (especially Model's achievement in preventing complete disaster in February 1941), the fatal interference of Hitler and his `stand-fast' order, and the overwhelming brutality and inhumanity of the war in the East. This is not easy reading: the privatations of fighting in temperatures that dipped below -40 degrees celsius and the suffering of the Soviet prisoners of war is brought home in graphic detail.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Another book on the Battle for Moscow in 1941 you cry? No, not just another book on Moscow. Some focus on the political background, some on the grand strategic picture. Jones takes you to where the battle was won and lost: at the front. Indeed, this is a book not about the city (as many accounts tend to be) but the fighting outside it.

Making use of letters, diaries and first-hand accounts of participants, plus numerous interviews with the dwindling band of veterans, the author paints a very vivid - at times gory - account of the German defeat in front of the Soviet capital, focusing on October 1941-spring 1942: the last spurt of the Wehrmacht's advance and the Russian counter-stroke. As well as some excellent material from soldiers, Jones also shows the effects of the fighting on the Russian civilian population whose towns and villages were fought over during the winter. He leaves the reader in no doubt about the scale of the German defeat before Moscow or about how horrific fighting in such climatic conditions were for both sides.

An excellent addition to the narrative history of WW2 and an excellent companion volume to Robert Kershaw's War Without Garlands.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Dave History Student TOP 1000 REVIEWER
There are two main aspects to this story. The secondary issue is the general operational overview of Operation Typhoon and the subsequent Russian counter offensive. The primary aspect are the hundreds of anecdotal experiences of soldiers, officers and a few civilians who try to overcome their fears and stay alive during a war that was on a scale that hopefully mankind will never have to experience again.

Though rating the book five stars, from my perspective, the book could have been better by building a more coherent or complete picture of the operational aspects of the campaign. (without going into infinitesimal detail) With greater coverage of the operation the reader could not only benefit from the many first hand experiences that were presented but also get a greater appreciation of the true scale of Operation Typhoon. There was so much that was left out but this aspect wasn't the author's main concern. He wanted to portray the human condition and did this very well and hence the five star rating. If more of the operational side of Operation Typhoon is desired, the excellent books by Robert Forczyk, David Glantz, Albert Seaton, or Robert Kershaw are available.
The book's introduction describes Napoleon's failed attempt to capture Moscow and his disastrous retreat from the capital nearly 130 years earlier. The author, throughout the book, will also describe the influence this French defeat will have on Hitler and to a smaller extent on Stalin.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
Well written and researched. The author vividly charts the scale of the catastrophe that befell the German army in the Autumn and Winter of 1941. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Gastronaut
5.0 out of 5 stars An horrific struggle
A fantastic read and the way that personal accounts were used makes this a book I would recommend to both people who follow world war 2 or first time readers of this conflict
Published 9 months ago by Chris Weatherill
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Jones analysis of part of the Russian German conflict between...
A very interesting insight into the German advance and subsequent retreat from Russia. About half way through it seemed to be just a series of statements from a number of those... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Caster
5.0 out of 5 stars a harrowing account of the first winter
this is truly a gripping account of the winter of 41/42 in the russian-german war. the author describes in short but great detail the lead up to operation Typhoon and the... Read more
Published on 7 July 2011 by john
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Soldiers
If your interested in the Wehrmachts first 10 months in Russia then you'll devour this book in no time.
Its an easy to read and a fair attempt to summarise a massive topic. Read more
Published on 1 July 2011 by Feedback68
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and written - Truly captivating
I started reading this book and I could not stop. It is very well written and is simply the best description of the 'Typhoon' offensive against Moscow and aftermath. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2010 by Steve Bolton
3.0 out of 5 stars squadie
This was a reasonably easy book to read, but, in my view, does not offer any new information. There is obviously a limited source. Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2010 by squadie
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book exposing some of the pyschology of the horror in warfere I...
I knew one of these men as a lovely old gentleman, fascinating to read parts of his accounts and photos. Corker of a book, brilliantly written and researched.
Published on 24 April 2010 by Mr. C. J. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and informative account ...
...of a crucial period in WW2 and European history. I was especially impressed by the many first hand eye witness accounts of the campaign in front of Moscow in the autumn/winter... Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2010 by Newbonic
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Narrative Account
This latest book from Michael Jones covers the German offensive in 1941 to take Moscow, Operation Typhoon, and the subsequent Soviet counter-offensive, Hitler's first retreat. Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2009 by Aussie Reader
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