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Military Modelcraft International review of The Retreat: Hitler's First Defeat,
This review is from: The Retreat (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. Throughout the author manages to combine a swift moving narrative of the major military events with personal testimony that presents the events on the grounds as seen through the eyes of the political and military leadership as well as the ordinary soldier. This is an excellent book, combining first-rate scholarship and writing with an extraordinary story of human suffering and survival. If you buy one book on World War II to read over the Christmas period it should be this one, very highly recommended.