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on 10 June 2012
This book is divided into two sections. The first part which takes up nearly two thirds of the book begins in mid October and lasts until mid November when Marshall Zhukov launches his Operation Uranus. After a brief first chapter of section two covering the quick entrapment of 6th Army within the Stalingrad sector, the rest of the book describes the conditions the trapped men endured as they desperately wait for the relief column to free them and of course the difficulties that Manstein with his meager resources faces in defending the Chir River line while Hoth fights his way north toward Stalingrad.

The author was able to put together an interesting package though less demanding than hoped for of the tactical summary which is carefully blended with many examples of personal hardships and heroics of German soldiers as well as an abundance of good photos to tie everything together. The photo gallery is a combination of personal photos of the people discussed as well as providing scenes of the death and destruction within the city. The gallery which included some aerials was well done but some of the photos have lost their clarity.

The broad strokes deliver the tactical history to provide the reader an overall image and scale to the battle but the presentation of all the soldier's experiences within this massive environment of death and destruction is what the authors enjoys delivering and hopes will make the biggest impression on the reader.
The story is driven by the German advance on the northern factories and the German perspective dominates but the author also includes Russian daily action reports to help balance the story of how both sides saw the progress of the battle. Mr Wijers weaves this story together from primary documents like war diaries of different divisions, personal diaries and personal interviews.

I believe this story will appeal to the causal or new reader of the Stalingrad conflict or those who are looking to read the human side of war while more experienced readers who have already read David Glantz's "Armageddon in Stalingrad" will immediately see the sparseness and lack of depth of the battle history for control of the three main factories. On the other hand, "Winter Storm" with its human interest side will supplement the bigger tome in that department.

Mr Wijers also supplies a few maps, a bibliography and an index but an appendix of facts or notes are absent.

Though expecting a probable wide divergence of ratings, I gave this story four stars for the author did a good job of covering the battle within the limits he imposed on himself and if you're not expecting an exhaustive tactical rendition then you'll probably will like it as well.

Let me suggest further reading if you enjoyed this book. Dana Sadarananda has written a nice summary of the events after the pocketing of 6th Army that covers Manstein's attempts to save Army Group Don from complete destruction. This book has more tactical information and less human interest.
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on 13 October 2013
This book is really misnamed, and one can easily see why. The title, "Winter Storm" (German "Wintergewitter") was the codename given by Field Marshal von Manstein to the operation he devised to punch through the Russian lines to Stalingrad, puncture the "Kessel" (cauldron) and release the surrounded Sixth Army. When given the signal "Thunderclap" ("Donnerschlag"), Sixth Army was to break out and join up with the relieving forces. However this plan was doomed to failure for two reasons: Hitler refused permission to abandon Stalingrad, and the Soviet high command - like experienced chess players - used their massive resources to create threats in other sectors, just in time to force the diversion of vital divisions.

The book runs to 260-odd pages in 13 chapters, only four of which are strictly concerned with Wintergewitter. Book One (160 pages) consists of a series of first-person reports by survivors of the German forces in Stalingrad. Set in scenes that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the film "Enemy at the Gates" (for instance), it's a story of desperate attempts by ever-dwindling German forces to capture vast Soviet factories and finally expel the Soviets from the northern part of Stalingrad. Remarkably, this proved to be impossible: no matter how many artillery bombardments, Stuka attacks, tank forays, or infantry penetrations were launched, the wily and resourceful Soviets remained in their tunnels and cellars, and thousands more came across the Volga every night. Reading these pages, you get a very vivid idea of how suicidal it was for Hitler and the OKW to plunge their superb mobile units into a meat-grinder where the side with the most resources was bound to win.

Book Two (104 pages) devotes 24 pages to describing the Soviet offensive (Operation Uranus) that led to the encirclement of Stalingrad, the desperate situation of the Germans in the city now that the tables had been turned, and the final surrender of 90,000 survivors - only a handful of whom survived their captivity. That leaves about 80 pages that strictly describe Wintergewitter itself. In these a variety of eye-witnesses are quoted, giving strikingly vivid impressions of the arrival at the jumping-off point of Kotelnikovo - where the Germans were immediately met by a ferocious attack - the fast and energetic advance, shrugging off the impact of whole Soviet tank corps, and the final disappointment when, having reached the objective, the soldiers heard that Donnerschlag had been called off.

So I heartily recommend this book to anyone really interested in learning as much as possible about the siege of Stalingrad and Wintergewitter from primary sources. If you aren't yet thoroughly familiar with the story, it would be a good idea first to read a well-told narrative account. Personally, my favourite is that given in chapter 5 ("High Water Mark on the Volga") of Panzerkrieg: The Rise and Fall of Hitler's Tank Divisions: A History of the German Tank Division in World War II. In just 28 crisp pages, McCarthy and Syron give a complete, lucid, easily-read explanation of Fall Blau - the Germans' 1942 campaign in the South-East of which Stalingrad was originally just a minor feature.
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on 15 July 2013
Such valour but all in such an abominable cause. Jarring (or jah-ing?) references to the Russians as 'primitives' etc betraying the underlying ethical basis of Nazi social Darwinism that shaped their views. Lots of detail. Kindle version needs better maps. All in all worth a read of personal accounts of some little-known titanic battles. The cusp of the turning of the War with the encroachment of despair for the Germans.
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on 14 November 2013
It was interesting to get a on the ground view of the german soldiers at Stalingrad. The only criticism I would have is that it doesn't flow easily.
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on 15 January 2013
A book filled with rare first hand German accounts of the battle along with excellent photographs.

Gives a glimpse of what it was like to be there on the ground with a different perspective compared to the endless unit numbers, movements and outcomes type of military history.

Would also recommend:

Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight's Cross
Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front
Twilight of the Gods: A Swedish Waffen-SS Volunteer's Experiences
and above all - Hitler's war on Russia by Paul Carell - (if you can find one!)
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