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95 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2002
This is by no means "another war book". It brings the harsh realities of totalitarianism to the fore. This is the story of the last battle of the European theatre of World War 2, a battle to the end.
It is the story not so much of the downfall of Berlin in 1945, but the crushing of the city and the brutalisation of the population.
Finishing this book you are left with a disgust of war, a disgust of mans inhumanity to man, and a digust of men's inhumanity to women.
A shocking and enthralling read, brilliantly written by a brilliant author. It is unputdownable and eclipses his earlier "Stalingrad" work.
A masterpiece.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2003
The subject of this book is still tainted by prejudices and fears Europeans still feel towards one another, and I think that is what in part makes the book so interesting.
Beevor justifies his approach in depicting the barbarism of the Red Army, by explaining that they themselves where brutilised and traumatised by Stalin's regime. Among the manifestations of this were rape, mindless violence, or Red Army soldiers drinking any alchoholic substance they could get their hands on, such as fuel, only to die days later from poisoning. Perhaps beevor could have explained this point further, but nevertheless he does manage to contextualise the misconduct of the Red Army by showing how they in turn suffered.
Another drawback of this book is that it favours an adventure- packed journalistic style in place of historical fact. However, considering the sensitivity of the subject, it is not surprising that the author did not go into more historical facts concerning rape. I found myself hoping that he would not. This perhaps leads to an awkwardness in the style and structure, due to the fact that it might be inappropriate to go into more detail about certain brutalities. How much information does one need, from victims, as Beevor explains himself, who still have incredible difficulty in admitting to themselves that such events occured.
Beevor does mangage to enlighten the reader on this period of history, which is still a sensitive area, and for this he should be commended. He does this by stylistically hinting at the violence and crimes which occured. Its the present memory and trauma of the time, which simultaneously disadvantages his account.
'Berlin' is not about the Allies, and does not seek to reiterate a stereotyped portrayal of them as 'saviours', despite the stark reality that Berliners en-masse wanted to escape Soviet controlled areas to Allied controlled areas. But again, it is the recent re-examination of this point that leads to the view Beevor is unfair in his portrayal of the Red Army. Unfortunately, he is not, and it is this bold step, in uncovering the truth, where the value of the book lies.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2002
I could not put this book down. Reading late into the night when my mind began to slur the names of Russian generals, I could not stop. The disaster of a shattered Wehrmacht, the overwhelming Russian forces and a Fuehrer so mad that he refused to countenance surrender in any form, combined with the terrible retribution of the Red Army on any civilians (including Russian women freed from the camps) is a compelling read. Four days (and three nights) after starting the book, I finished it. This is better than 'Stalingrad.' Anyone interested in the shaping of post-war Europe must read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2012
I've got the kindle version & I was expecting some maps to be provided, but there aren't any, which makes it very difficult perhaps impossible to relate to where the German & Russian units were fighting & to understand the pace of the Russian advance.
The author does convey the brutality of the war on the Eastern Front and described how soldiers & civilians were affected.
I wish I'd looked at the hardback version now although someone has posted that this doesn't contain any maps either which is surprising to hear.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I was a resident of Berlin from the time I was born in 1941 until 1948 when I came to England.
My husband John has been writing about the life of my father who was a top entertainer and a fireman in Berlin during the 2nd world war.
The book "Berlin the downfall" was a tremendoues referance in supplying information regarding the background to those troubled times.
We have read many books on the subject but this one has to be the best. Antony made great use of information recently released from the Soviat Union and thus gave a clear veiw from another prospective, as is often said there are 2 sides to every story.
Students studying the subject would not find a more detialed account and equelly important it was easy to read.
We are in the process of reading "Stalingrad" by the same author, also purchased from Amazon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Being a historian I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read this extraordinary book detailing those final terrible months of world war two, culminating amidst the ruins of a once great city which became socially, economically and politically divided until November 1989 when the communist system collapsed and Berlin and Germany was united.

It is not easy reading, it is not meant to be. The rules of war and civilised behaviour on the eastern front had ended long ago, from 1941 onwards. Soviet troops hell bent on vengeance after the terrible slaughter in Russia by German troops swept through eastern Germany inflicting terrible losses on both military and civilian personnel. Stalin, determined to get to Berlin first, had no reservations about Soviet casualties. As it turned out, the Russians lost 300,000 troops taking Berlin itself. The greater tragedy however, befell ordinary civilians, especially women. Thousands were raped, suffering appalling indignities. Such was the horrors of war as it was at that time.

Antony Beevor certainly pulls no punches in his long narrative about the final battle itself. However, his description of the final hours of Hitler and Eva Braun is rather vague. As Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary explained in a TV interview many years ago, she and others did hear the final shot ending Hitler's life. Here, he explains that no one heard the shot. Nevertheless, despite this quibble, it is a must read book. Needs to be read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2005
Having read Stalingrad, I went on to read this book. I cannot say they are enjoyable books, but they are both a very readable account of the horrors of both campaigns and in that respect I would strongly recommend both.
They are both accessible to non-military readers. They mix information about campaign overviews with sympathetic details of the horrors on the ground and the personal interactions of senior officers.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2011
Comparisons have been made between Cornelius Ryan's book "The Last Battle" and Antony Beevors "Berlin the Downfall 1945". Having recently read both I would say Ryan's book published in 1966 is a more scholarly piece of work, Ryan personally interviewed many of the protagonists, including Koniev, and Henrici, his work is a classic history of the battle for Berlin.
Beevors book on the other hand is geared more towards getting an emotional response from his readers rather than aiming for historical accuracy.

An example of the two contrasting styles when describing the same events on 20th April 1945 in the Reich Chancellery illustrates this:

Ryans description:
`Hitler, followed by his entourage, emerged from the bunker. There in the bombed wilderness of the Reichskanzlei gardens he inspected men from two units - the SS "Fundsberg" Division, a recently arrived division from the Courland Army, and a proud little group from Axmann's Hitler Youth. "Everyone," Axmann said long afterward, "was shocked by the Fuhrer's appearance. He walked with a stoop. His hands trembled. But it was surprising how much will power and determination still radiated from this man." Hitler shook hands with the boys and decorated some whom Axmann introduced as having "recently distinguished themselves at the front." '

Beevors description:
`That afternoon in the ruined Reich Chancellery garden, the Fuhrer worked his way slowly down a line of Hitler Youth, some of whom had received the Iron Cross for attacking Soviet tanks. Hitler could not present any medals himself. To prevent his left arm shaking too obviously, he walked gripping it behind his back with his right hand. For brief moments, he could afford to release it. With what looked liked the intensity of the repressed paedophile, he lingered to cup a cheek and tweak and ear, unconscious of his leering smile.'

Beevor also relies heavily on quoting chunks of text from the anonymously authored book "Woman in Berlin" it seems to be his main source of reference for the many rapes that took place in Berlin. Although it may be an excellent diary of some of the events of that time, there have been some questions regarding its authenticity. (that is not to say that thousands of rapes and murders of innocent civilians took place, they certainly did) Another of his main sources comes from Vasily Grossman's novels, all very emotive stuff.

A plus point for Beevor is that he mentions the contribution made by the foreign soldiers of the Waffen SS in the final days of Berlin, in particular the defence of the Reichstag. The role played by the foreign volunteers in the Waffen SS is usually ignored or played down by many popular historians, it was refreshing to have the author highlighting the contribution made by these men. There are some errors, the French Waffen SS soldier and recipient of the Knight's Cross, who was killed was Eugene Vaulot not Eugene Vanlot, this may be simple typo or evidence of a rushed book and poor research.

Someone who may not know anything about the fall of Berlin and the end of the Third Reich, will most probably find this book interesting, gripping even, but for anyone who has already read about this event from a historical viewpoint, this book will be a disappointment.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2005
I have not yet read "Stalingrad", but I assume Beevor's story of "Berlin" picks up from where the previous book leaves off, as in the opening chapters the Red Army is actually just about to enter German territory in East Prussia rather than the capital itself. It concentrates mostly on the drive from the east and skates over the Western allies' attempts to reach the "finish line" before the Soviet army, but Beevor is evidently writing more from one particular angle than attempting to survey the closing months of the war from further back.
Beevor's aptitude at writing history is impressive - unlike Shirer's definitive tome on "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", you could be forgiven for thinking that you are reading a novel. Human victims - German, Soviet, Eastern Europeans, soldiers and civilians - are portrayed vividly through diaries and eyewitness accounts by named individuals, rather than reducing them to so many thousands or millions of victors and victims. You can hear the bombs going off, feel the cold winter, and smell the fear in the bunker as the Red Army moves in. I ended up feeling sorry for Magda Goebbels and her children - the children, all with names beginning in H, were as much innocent victims as anyone else - as the chilling nature of their death is described. Beevor does them justice as much as he does the German women raped by Soviet troops in revenge for the destruction visited upon Russia, and the Polish, Jewish and even Soviet women caught up in this maelstrom of destruction which Soviet leaders and journalists stirred up mercilessly. Beevor's subjects are human, all too human.
The way all history should be written and a gripping epic.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is a thoroughly gripping account of the final few months of the Third Reich. It focuses in particular on the advances of the Red Army, which undoubtedly bore the major burden of bringing about the death throes of the Nazi regime, but many of whose members also committed atrocities against the civilian populations of Poland and Germany as they advanced westwards, including the rape of some 2 million women. In short it shows the horror and bestiality of the fighting on the Eastern Front, including the appalling and often unnecessary loss of life on both sides, even when the eventual outcome was assured. As well as the grand sweep of events, Beevor also mentions many small incidents involving individual German civilians or Russian soldiers, thus adding human colour to the grim military and political events. A tremendously dramatic and tragic piece of writing.
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