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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, judgemental, incisive..
Hastings' 'Armageddon' is one of the best WWII books I've read. Clearly he has undertaken painstaking desk and field research and the results show it. But it is not just the sheer details that make the book shine, it is Hastings' opinions and judgements - however camouflaged - that give the book its deserved plaudits. He does not shirk from telling the unpalatable truths...
Published on 22 Jan. 2010 by Wellread

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not too reliable
The first book by Max Hastings I ever read was "The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes" (1987) and from his further work I get the impression he has remained a little bit stuck at the anecdotal level, that is, he seems to be a bit too ready to repeat as fact whatever people told him or whatever he has read somewhere, without applying his critical faculties or doing...
Published 18 days ago by G. van Geleuken


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67 of 77 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and sometimes preachy overview, 1 July 2008
By 
Geschichtsliebhaber (Oldenburg, Niedersachsen) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
An impressive panoramic narrative of the battle for Germany, "Armageddon" combines a wide range of sources (including many veterans) with Hastings's sharp, often iconoclastic judgement. His criticism of the military folly of Operation Market Garden, the Ardennes offensive, and Zhukov's Oder crossing is hard-hitting, but frequently deserved. Hastings is no apologist for military failings, although he frequently gets moralistic: discussions of the justice of the allied cause or the tyranny of Stalin, which is perceived in downright Manichean terms, should not be part of a work of history. This is not to deny the reality of good and evil, or to say that tales of atrocity should not be included: of course they should, especially in a book that intends to provide a comprehensive narrative. It's just that anti-communist and anti-Nazi polemic should not be part of a work of history; it should be left to philosophers and politicians.

Apart from that criticism, Hastings provides a compellingly readable and frequently heart-wrenching account of the final months of the war, paying almost equal attention to the topics usually ignored in the west, such as the sheer magnitude and ferocity of the war on the eastern front. In "Armageddon", the catastrophic climax of the Second World War comes to life, and although we probably can't imagine accurately that awful time, Hastings comes pretty close.

Two minor criticisms. The first is that Hastings argues that the allied carpet bombing of German civilian homes is justified on the grounds that the workers who got bombed were supporting the German war effort through their labour. This is of course correct, but it's a very slippery slope. Taken to an extreme, this argument completely removes the distinction between civilian and military targets: after all, enemy women are also working and supporting their working husbands, thus contributing to the war effort, and children will grow to become enemy soldiers.

Secondly, the maps Hastings includes (e.g. pp.4-5) are extremely strange, inasmuch as they show Europe in the borders of 1937 (except for Luxemburg, which Hastings for some reason considers a part of Germany). As a consequence, Hastings's maps feature a number of countries which did not in fact exist in 1944-5, such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Estonia, and simply do not show several countries which did exist, such as Slovakia and Croatia. Of course, the borders of 1937 are broadly those accepted by the Western allies, but they have nothing to do with the political realities of 1944-5; Austria, for instance, was not an independent country, as "Armageddon" suggests, but an integral part of Germany. The problem is sometimes compounded in the text. What is the reader to imagine when told that a certain regiment was moved "to the Czech border"? What Czech border? The pre-1938 Czech border did not exist in 1944-5 either politically or ethnographically. Thus Hastings causes considerable confusion, as there is no clear sense where exactly the "frontiers of Germany" are, or anything else for that matter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One damn thing after another!, 23 Jan. 2015
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Having previously read Clive Ponting's account of the beginning of WWII and how we nearly came to lose it, I decided that it might be useful to take a look at the other end of WWII, the bit where we won it (or did we?)! Accordingly, as it was on offer, I downloaded Max Hasting's 'Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-1945'. Now I know, from the title, that I shouldn't have expected this to be particularly cheery reading, but it plunged new depths for me. The story is cleverly told from the perspectives of each of the warring nations but the lurch from one atrocity to another is quite demoralising. The Russian advance was particularly grim - I never thought I would find myself feeling sympathetic toward the Nazi defenders, but I did in these chapters.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, 12 Jun. 2015
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I decided to read this (lengthy) book before returning to the Stations series (David Downing) since it seemed to be a scene setter (it is). It looks in great detail at the final months of World War II. After the success of the 1944 Normandy landings it was expected that the advance to Berlin and final victory could be achieved fairly quickly, possibly by Christmas. It was not, and this book gives a worrying picture of division and even incompetence amongst the Allies, in contrast to skilled, dogged and even fanatical resistance from the Germans. This inevitably leads the book to Arnhem, justly described as "the Debacle". The author gives a description of great gallantry but also of the operation being messy and botched: a "fiasco".

The book then turns to the Eastern Front, including the tragically ill-fated Warsaw uprising. It also addresses Stalin's ambition to spread communism in counties "liberated" by his forces, though it is worth noting that the Americans were keen to spread their (preferable) way of life, and the British had their tradition of colonialism (as enunciated in "Land of Hope and Glory").

Back at the Western Front, the winter of 1944/45 seemed to have touches of a First World War stalemate and I was surprised at the levels of desertions and pilfering by both British and American troops. Meanwhile back in Germany the inhabitants were suffering grievously for their support of Hitler, but had very few feelings of guilt. As for Hitler himself, his grotesque "rejection of rationality" frustrated no end the abilities and strategies of his armed forces. This was particularly evident in the Battle of the Bulge, described in some detail.

Returning to the Eastern Front, the descriptions of the very mixed bunch that made up the Soviet armies are most interesting. As for the East Prussian tragedy, this is illustrated (as are other events) by some harrowing personal accounts. But the author stresses that the massive so-called "German Holocaust" (ie the huge and often bloody displacement of millions of ethnic Germans) was caused to a marked degree by their own (in)actions, which could not be said of the Jews and many others who died in concentration camps. "Wilfully or not, (the Germans) had brought a terrible evil on the world".

The chapter on the war in the air is possibly unduly detailed, though the author looks at the morality and effectiveness of mass bombing. Also the casualty rates among the air crews was frighteningly high, though there was no shortage of volunteers. The section concludes with vivid first hand accounts of the Dresden bombing.

The author goes on to consider the final breakthrough into Germany along with the distressing "animal subjection" of the millions of prisoners in the Third Reich: a terrible evil indeed. This is reinforced not only by harrowing descriptions of the concentration camps but also of the dreadful treatment of the Dutch in the closing months of the War. And to this list you can add many others, not least the Russians and the Poles. As the book says, "Adolf Hitler had led one of the most educated and cultured societies on earth to a moral, political and military abyss".

Finally the book describes the hard fought battle for Berlin, a subject already well documented. Less well documented though are the harrowing stories of survivors, not least in Russia and Hastings records these. Stalin of course seems as bad as Hitler, though the atrocities have not been as greatly researched.

Max Hastings is, of course, an accomplished writer and historian, very interested in the military. Indeed some of this book is possibly unduly detailed in its analysis of military strategy and tactics, not always directly related to the action. I don't think that this added to my appreciation of what is generally a very good book. Added to this, the author is close to becoming a Grand Old Man and we get a fair amount of philosophising. Also, although the reminiscences of people who were there add considerably to the subject matter, I'm not sure why Sir Max decided to write a book on something already well documented, for example by Anthony Beevor, Robert Key and Robin Neillands. It is interesting that he chose to avoid the Italian campaign, about which less has been written, and perhaps this might be the subject of his next book.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for WWII buffs, 29 Mar. 2006
By 
John (Barking, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
This is quite simply one of the best history books available dealing with this subject matter. In terms of the quality of the writing it simply stands head and shoulders above the rest. I often find that books of this type can get bogged down in excessive detail particularly when relating to the movement of armies across Europe. Hastings' writing style ensures that this is a book for anyone: it is well written, nicely balanced and full of interest. It is perfectly interspersed with anecdotes from servicemen of the period, allowing the reader to understand the reality of the conflict. The other agreeable aspect of this book is that the author is not afraid to give his own thoughtful and reasoned opinions - setting it aside from many other books on the Second World War that seek to relate just facts, without meaningful interpretation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars War is Hell and this excellent book proves it., 23 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
I have read several of Hastings' books, all of them uniformly good, but I think that this is one of his very best. In this book Hastings proves beyond all reasonable doubt General Sherman's statement that war is Hell, and indeed it is. Hastings lets you see the absolute horror of war through the eyes of those who fought it on both sides and from all countries as well as of the civilians who got caught up in it. He is unsparing and many parts will sicken the average civilised person. I think that Hastings is extremely perceptive in his analysis of the civilian and military personnel who were the leaders in the war on both sides. I think he is thoroughly honest and forthright and calls a spade a spade and doesn't care whose toes he trods upon. I have read the negative reviews here and I wholly disagree with them. Those reviewers are, of course, entitled to their opinions. This is not a military history of WWII. Hastings' talk of the battles and troop movements are merely the background for his description of the war from the viewpoint of those who fought it, plus what I consider his excellent analysis of what it all meant. A real five-year work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars nagging doubts............, 29 Mar. 2012
By 
D. Darkin (Tokyo Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
This is a great book on many levels and filled with interesting information on many neglected parts of the 1944-45 story. I heartily recommend it to anyone.

One point I must make. I did come away filling slightly uneasy on what I read as Max Hasting's views on the Germans and the Soviets. He does make reference back to the terrible things that the German forces carried out within the Soviet Union, but always follows it with a comment about what Stalin did to his own, as if to somehow reduce the impact. I began to feel that Mr Hastings has a grudging respect for the German forces, and sees the Soviets forces as bringers of destruction and barbarity. I found that disturbing, and feel that he really did not spend enough time explaining the context of the final year of the war in the East. Just taking a simple example of the Ukraine, he could have easily talked about the state of the region pre Barbarossa and after. Once a reader has that in their minds, what horrors happened in Prussia and other parts of Germany can be seen in the context of the horror of the eastern front. What happened in Prussia cannot be viewed in isolation.

In no way am I making excuses for the Soviet actions, the same as the actions of the Germans in 1941-44 cannot be excused. It was a war of annihilation, where rules of war no longer existed.

I really feel that Max Hastings has to now write a book on the German-Soviet War and confront the horrors visited on the USSR by the German forces which were on a scale hardly imaginable for those of us who read about the war in the West. I really look forward to such a project as I find all of his work readable and of great quality.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of the last years of World War Two in Western Europe, 23 Sept. 2009
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
For this outstanding book, military historian Max Hastings researched in the archives of four countries and conducted 170 interviews with survivors of the war. Brilliantly written, it conveys the horror of war, without idealisation. Throughout, he makes realistic judgements.

For example, he writes of the Warsaw uprising, "the Polish commander wanted it both ways: the success of his revolt hinged upon recognising Russian military support, while its explicit objective was to deny the Soviet Union political authority over his country."

Hastings asserts, "the British Joint Intelligence Committee had concluded that, if the Poles carried out their long-planned uprising, it was doomed to failure in the absence of close co-operation with the Russians, which was unlikely to be forthcoming. It seems lamentable that, after making such an appreciation, the British failed to exert all possible pressure upon the Poles to abandon their fantasies."

He points out, "Despite some historian's idealisation of those who were ruthlessly returned to Stalin, the murderous record of Cossacks who served the Wehrmacht in northern Italy and Yugoslavia deserves more attention than it has received."

He observes, "Stalin's people were overwhelmingly responsible for destroying Hitler's armies." He cites American historian Forrest Pogue who wrote that the Soviet forces "broke Germany and made the [D-Day] landing possible." Hastings judges, `the single most impressive ground operation of the war' was Operation Bagration of July-August 1944, and Stalin was `the most successful warlord of the Second World War'.

The key dilemma at the end of the war in Europe was whether the Anglo-American forces should try to take Berlin, which was a hundred miles inside the agreed Soviet occupation zone. Hastings applauds Eisenhower's decision not to try, and shows that no Anglo-American action in spring 1945 could, or should, have undone the agreements reached at the Teheran and Yalta conferences.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 7 May 2011
By 
Matthew Turner "loyalroyal" (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Paperback)
On the whole I enjoyed ths book. Hastings tells the story of the collapse of the Third Reich, from the successful D-Day landings to the fall of Berlin. Hastings is to be commended for the many first-hand accounts and memories he has researched and dug up. As a result, this book is full of accounts from those who were there and witnessed (or took part in) the horrors of the struggle for Germany. We have accounts from the British and American soldiers, Russian trops and those of the Wehrmacht, complete with the bombers. What I found riveting, and completely horrifying, was the testimony of the civilians - from the Jews, the endless raping of German women (by many Allied soldiers, not just the Soviets), countless suicides, and the general misery of the human condition during the death throes of Hitler's empire.

By no means a palatable read (in the sense of the atrocities), I would recomend this as an essential read for those interested in World War Two.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One theater, two wars., 16 Dec. 2008
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
"American and British officers knew that their citizen soldiers were attempting to fulfil tasks which ran profoundly against the grain of their societies' culture. The Germans and Russians in the Second World War showed themselves better warriors, but worse human beings. This is not a cultural conceit, but a moral truth of the utmost importance to understanding what took place on the battlefield ... If American and British soldiers of 1944-45 had matched the military prowess and become imbued with the warrior ethos of Hitler's armies, it is unlikely that we should today hold the veterans of the Second World War in the just regard that we do. They fought as bravely and as well as any democracy could ask, if the values of civilization were to be retained in their ranks." - Author Max Hastings in ARMAGEDDON

"Between 13 January and 25 April, 2nd Belorussian Front lost 159,490 men dead and wounded, and 3rd Belorussian Front 421,763. During three months in East Prussia, therefore, the Red Army suffered almost as many casualties as the Anglo-American armies in the entire north-west Europe campaign." - Author Max Hastings in ARMAGEDDON

The timeframe for ARMAGEDDON: THE BATTLE FOR GERMANY 1944-1945 is the last 9 months of the conflict in Europe, from September 1, 1944 into May 1945. On September 1, the Red Army was poised to invade East Prussia and cross the Vistula River to capture Warsaw. In the West, Eisenhower's armies had advanced across France to liberate Paris. Now, the Anglo-American forces were preparing to cross into Belgium, and Field-Marshal Montgomery's ill-conceived plan to take the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem - a "bridge too far" as it would turn out - was on the planning board. Perhaps the war would be over by Christmas.

Author Max Hastings paints his literary canvas using the recollections and documents from those on both sides who participated in and survived the events of those last apocalyptic months: Operation Market Garden, the Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviet rape of East Prussia, the Allied heavy bombing of Germany, and the Red Army's assault on Berlin. And, most poignantly, those - slave laborers, POWs, concentration camp inmates - who outlived their sojourn in the cruel, massive prison that was, for them, the Third Reich.

ARMAGEDDON includes two sections of black and white photographs of widely varying subjects and several small scale maps of the Western and Eastern Fronts.

Hastings takes great pains to establish two major truths of the European war: that the savagery in the East made the Western Front look like a comparative garden party, and that, based on casualties suffered, casualties inflicted, and extent of territory wrested from the Nazis, the Soviet Union can truly be said to have won the war against Hitler. And, about the cooperation between the American and British allies, he explodes the popular myth with such statements as:

"... it is important to emphasize that affection played no part in the decisions or actions of either ally ... There was a deep resentment among Churchill's people of American wealth and British poverty, matched by American exasperation about Britain's pretensions to influence, and to empire ... It is against this background that Eisenhower's great achievement should be measured. He sustained the military partnership between allies who were weary to death of each other, and led them to share in victory with the facade of unity unbroken."

Serious students of World War Two may find ARMAGEDDON too superficial in its treatment of any of the topics it covers, e.g. the Soviet drive on Berlin or Monty's Market Garden. But the book wasn't meant to be a comprehensive history, but rather an overview based on individual and personal experiences. Further, Western sensibilities, especially of those now aged veterans, may be offended by the view that Ike and his generals didn't shoulder the bulk of combat against Hitler's legions. I, too, might have been taken aback had I not seen, long ago, the 1978 documentary series THE UNKNOWN WAR about the Eastern Front. (Conversely, the Americans and the British Empire won the war against Japan.)

ARMAGEDDON is a balanced, intelligent, well thought out summary. Hastings manages to put a human face on the last convulsions of the Reich. Bravo!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent retelling of the final months of the war in Europe, 27 Jun. 2015
"Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45" by Max Hastings is a superb account of the defeat of Nazi Germany in the final months of the Second World War. Despite retelling a story that has been told numerous times, Hastings has created an utterly mesmerizing account. With the detachment of a great historian, he links the big picture with stories of the day-to-day experiences from individual participants from all armies as well as civilians. In addition, the writer’s “what if”-analyses are thought provoking and conclusions convincing. The only criticism I have is that Hastings has been sloppy and inconsistent with names.

Rather than repeat what has already been written in some of the excellent reviews here, I can simply say that I found the book an excellent read. So, all in all, I highly recommend “Armageddon” to anybody interested in the Second World War.
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Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45
Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 by Max Hastings (Paperback - 15 April 2005)
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