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The Retreat Hardcover – 12 Nov 2009

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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: 16 x 3.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,939 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

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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By T. Kunikov on 19 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By David Grummitt on 17 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dave History Student on 2 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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