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To the Bitter End: The Final Battles of Army Groups A, North Ukraine, Centre-Eastern Front, 1944-45 Kindle Edition
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|Length: 208 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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The weaknesses though, are many. The maps are critical to understanding the flow of the campaigns. In this book, they are limited, whilst the text retains some of the stilted language so often found in translations from German. Also, if the author mentions the paucity of German resources at this late stage in the war, he mentions it a thousand times. Perhaps this is just me being churlish given it was such a critical factor. There is little commentary on German command decisions, although again the room for maneouvre was, quite literally, severely limited. Indeed the sense of utter hopelessness is conveyed well.
Where the auther takes a very interesting slant for British readers is in his discussion of the guilt of the protagonists in terms of war crimes. He(rightly) deplores the behaviour of the Red Army against German civilians and POWs. He berates the British for the bombing of Dresden (with perhaps some justification here too). He accuses Polish and Czech partisans of attacking poorly-armed retreating German soldiers, which I am sure they did. His reference to any war crimes by German troops is conspicuous by its absence. Even Germany's attack on the USSR is excused by reference to recent disclosures about Stalin's intent to attack Germany. The Holocaust is mentioned once and is hastily swept away as the remote act of a few wayward radicals. German atrocities in the USSR and Poland are not mentioned at all (why are the Polish and Czech partisans so keen on hastening German retreat?).
If the author had not set out his stall on the issue of war crimes so aggressively, this might not be such an omission. Given its importance to him, it is fascinating to see the lack of reflectiveness on these issues and the absence of any admission that Red Army actions might have been provoked by the loss of 20 million of their people. Instead, the German army's desperate defence of its civilian population is prompted by unprovoked Soviet atrocity, with no hint of reaping a whilrlwind sown by themselves.
All in all, a usefully detailed narrative, but which left this reader, at least, wondering still about the true motivations of the Feldgrau in the last desperate days of the Wehrmacht.
The author makes frequent reference to the bombing campaign and in particular Dresden, of which he is highly critical. He does not though make any mention of Auschwitz or other camps which were in the operational area being detailed - thus one can consider the comments very selective.
This is a hard book to read and only really for those with a deep interest in the topic.
Generally speaking, the book covers the Vistula River Offensive that starts in late 1944 and works its way to the end of the war. The Soviets which had a commanding advantage in men, tanks, guns, equipment swept through Poland and Slovakia to reach Germany by April 1945. Coverage includes the Soviet advance through the Beskides, Carpathian Ranges, Solvakia especially the important Silesian industrial district and all of Poland. The fall of Berlin is not included. This book starts where "East Front Drama 1944" ends.
If you have just a casual interest in this campaign then my next comments will probably not be an issue but if your tactical concerns are high then parts of this book will be disappointing. First off, the number of tactical engagements covered is far from complete; the author provides only a sampling in each combat sector. To make it more disappointing, the examples that are given are fragmentary. Dates of the event are missing in more than half of the cases, the descriptions of the battlefields are brief as well as the locations of these battles. The author will say: "In the 17th Army area, the Soviets penetrated the front line and drove 6 km to the rear..." I would like to know which dates, cities were involved or hills and rivers; which Soviet units were involved and many other things of interest. The troop designations for the Axis side is usually given at division or Corps but sometimes only Army level but on the Soviet side the number of times unit designations are given and at the Army level only could be counted on both hands. Some of the German commanders are presented but you'll have to look elsewhere to find out who commanded the Soviet divisions.
Hitler, Guderian and the OKH is mention somewhat but not a great deal. The author discusses Hitler's unrealistic ways and how it effected the German forces on the line. Guderian tries to enlighten his boss on how to prosecute the war in the east but fails to be convincing.
While the tactical coverage is disappointing, the other aspects of the book are better. The author provides strategic insight and analysis as well as background information that is helpful and raises this volume to acceptable levels.
There are 30 maps heavily populated with cities, rivers, other landmarks. The maps will usually have German Corps or Division designations but the Soviet dispositions are not always given and only arrows are shown to depict the Soviet advance. With the generic descriptions of the tactical battles in the narrative, these maps, even with their shortcomings will help you greatly in following the action. There are also pictures which are good and add to the value of the book. There is also a Bibliography and assorted Orders of Battle that reflects the campaign progression. There are no Notes.
There is only one other book I know of that covers this campaign and that's Duffy's "Red Storm on the Reich". Hinze covers some things that Duffy misses but there were times Duffy's book was able to clarify events that weren't clear in Hinze's book. I'd like to suggest that if you have a real interest in this campaign that you read both books to get a more complete picture. The two complement each other nicely. Even with rating this book three stars, I'm still glad to have it in my collection for it adds to my knowledge base of an underrated campaign of the war.
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